Some of the most fascinating and downright fun objects in the world of antiques are pieces of entertainment and celebrity memorabilia, and the market for collecting them has exploded in popularity in recent decades. From the glamour of Old Hollywood to the thrill of an iconic sporting event to the gravity of a personal presidential object, memorabilia is a diverse and magnetizing collecting category. Read on to discover the ins and outs of a world-class memorabilia collection, and discover some of M.S. Rau’s most rare and nostalgia-inducing objects that serve as a fitting homage to some of the most popular figures in American history.
There’s No Business Like Show Business
Entertainment and other pop-culture memorabilia as a serious and investment-worthy collecting category really came into its own with the landmark MGM sale in May of 1970. Auctioneer David Weisz bought the contents of seven sound stages from the studio for the enormous price (for the time) of $1.5 million. The sale included thousands and thousands of objects from costumes to automobiles to furniture from studio productions, and Weisz recouped his costs an astonishing eight times. Highlights of the sale included Ben Hur chariots, Tarzan’s loin cloth and Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding dress in Father of the Bride, but the pièce de résistance was Judy Garland’s iconic pair of ruby red slippers worn in the Wizard of Oz. The slippers sold for the astronomical sum of $15,000 (over $100K today), and legendary actress Debbie Reynolds reportedly purchased $180,000 worth of items. It was a watershed moment for the auction business, essentially creating a brand new, multi-million dollar market that expanded beyond a few film enthusiasts.
Memorabilia sales exploded in the following decades after larger auction houses took notice of the MGM sale, and items command top dollar at auction still today. For instance, the 2018 Sotheby’s sale of Frank and Barbara Sinatra’s estate included 26 of the couple’s personal items valued at over $3 million and the sale of the aforementioned Debbie Reynolds collection in 2011 which brought in a total of $26 million at auction.
One of the most important considerations when collecting celebrity memorabilia is provenance. More so than many other collecting categories, memorabilia needs proof of provenance to authenticate it and evaluate its condition and worth. Look for a certificate or letter of authentication to establish a piece as an original and not a reproduction and that it did, indeed, hail from the celebrity, historic event, etc. in question.
Lights, Camera, Action
Jean Harlow is remembered as Hollywood’s original blonde bombshell, and although her career spanned only nine years due to her sudden death in 1937, she has had a lasting impact on classic cinema. As an actress on the silver screen, she became one of the first American sex symbols and was a huge box office draw. Her personal objects represent the glamour of the golden age of cinema and are highly collectible today.
Few figures evoke the essence of Hollywood glamour quite like Marilyn Monroe. Now, over 50 years later, it is the enduring images in these signed, limited-edition photographs taken by famed photographer, director and author, Lawrence Schiller, that thrust this larger-than-life figure back in the spotlight.
Schiller shot Marilyn on the set of Let’s Make Love and her last film, the unfinished Something’s Got To Give. During this “golden age” of Hollywood, studios hired photographers to take pictures on the set of their movies as a means to publicize their films. On August 5, 1962, less than three months after these photographs were taken, Marilyn tragically passed away. Schiller created only 75 sets of these photographs, and each speaks volumes about a woman who was both a cultural phenomenon and, in many ways, a misunderstood, gentle soul ahead of her time.
Prince, the revolutionary and eclectic musical artist, leaves a legacy that will last generations. The artist was mourned world-wide after his untimely passing in 2016. However, left behind is his collection of highly collectable memorabilia, and some of the most exciting pieces include his jewelry. His flamboyant and expressive showmanship and style created an iconic look that he expressed through accessories and fashion. There is no mistaking Prince memorabilia for any other artist’s — it is truly one-of-a-kind!
Though these stars may be gone, their memories live on in these personal effects. Owning and collecting celebrity memorabilia is a great way to preserve the heritage and fame of your favorite household names. Please explore more of the exciting and exclusive treasures currently available on our website. To stay up to date with all incoming, fascinating objects, sign up for our virtual newsletter here.