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The going rate for a piece of Hollywood history? Seven-plus figures and counting.
The Wizard of Oz‘s ruby slippers, The Beatles’ drum kit, the Batmobile from, you know, Batman … Some iconic pieces of pop culture have such long-lasting appeal that a crush of collectors will pay almost anything to own them. Take a look back at some of the most valuable props, costumes, instruments and other pieces of memorabilia to sell at auction over the years — and prepare yourself for some eye-popping figures.
The person who paid $336,000 for a racing suit and helmet worn by Steven McQueen presumably agrees with his racing driver character’s most famous line: “Racing is life. Everything that happens before or after is just waiting.” The lot at the 2017 Sotheby’s auction even included flame-resistant Nomex underwear worn by the actor.
Okay, so it doesn’t actually fly, but the movie-famous car still drove as of the 2011 auction. Director Peter Jackson purchased the Brass Era-inspired car for $805,000 — a bargain considering the estimated $1 million to $2 million sale price, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
This white Lotus Esprit transported James Bond both over land and under sea in the 1977 spy flick starring Roger Moore. Described as “fully operational,” the amphibious car went for £550,000 pounds (approximately $864,600) in a 2013 auction, Reuters reported.
Estimated to go for as little as £50,000, the iconic Givenchy look smashed expectations at a 2006 Christie’s auction. The sleeveless black satin gown worn by Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly (and later Natalie Portman on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar) officially sold for £467,200, or around $920,000.
Muhammad Ali (named Cassius Clay at the time) and Sonny Liston’s 1965 meet-up made boxing history for its “phantom punch.” And the gloves worn by both athletes in the controversial fight also went down in history as some of the most expensive, costing one sports fan $956,000 in a 2015 auction.
Covered in her signature turquoise ink, Audrey Hepburn’s personal script for one of her most memorable roles set a record in 2017 for the most expensive screenplay ever sold at auction. The winning bidder? None other than Tiffany & Co., which bought the piece for £632,750 (nearly $1 million) for its archive.
The force was with one anonymous buyer when he won a piece of Star Wars history. Darth Vader’s helmet worn by actor David Prowse in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back sold for $898,420 in 2019 and ultimately cost more than $1 million after fees, according to Complex.
You don’t have to have John Travolta’s moves to light up the dance floor … as long as you have $1.2 million to buy the famous lighted dance floor seen in Saturday Night Fever. Installed in a real Bay Ridge nightclub for filming, the set piece also appeared in a tribute episode of Glee, according to the Brooklyn Reporter.
From curtains to cash: A collection of costumes — including Julie Andrews’ ‘Do-Re-Mi’ dress from the 1965 movie musical fetched $1.3 million at a 2013 auction, according to Playbill.
Academy Award statuettes rarely came up for auction because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requires winners to sell them back for $1 before offering them anywhere else. But in 1999, Michael Jackson managed to buy Gone With the Wind‘s Best Picture Oscar for $1.5 million. The statue previously belonged to producer David O.Selznick (pictured on left next to Vivien Leigh), according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Judy Garland’s bright blue gingham has entered the hallows of Hollywood — and memorabilia lovers have paid accordingly. One of two dresses reportedly worn in the film sold for a whopping $1.56 million in 2015, Reuters reported. There’s no place like … Bonhams auction house?
The iconic red leather look seen in the music video (not pictured here) is almost as famous as the eponymous dance. A version autographed by the King of Pop went for a cool $1.8 million at 2011 auction, Rolling Stone reported.
Only four pairs of of Dorothy Gale’s signature sequined shoes survived filming in Oz. In 2012, a group of buyers paid $2 million for a set to go in the new Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum. It was the most ever paid for Judy Garland’s most iconic footwear, according to Smithsonian.
How does it feel to own Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics? Pretty expensive, considering his scrawled rhymes went for $2 million at a 2014 Sotheby’s auction. The four pages of hotel stationary included several lines that didn’t make the recording, including “Dry vermouth, you’ll tell the truth,” according to TIME.
Imagine this: Pop icon George Michael, English singer Robbie Williams and Oasis bandmates Liam and Noel Gallagher all in a bidding war for a John Lennon piano that was instrumental in the writing of his most famous ballad. The “Faith” singer won out in the end, paying £1.67 million (about $2.1 million at the time) for the Steinway at a 2000 auction, the BBC reported.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay had some cash to spare when he attended a Beatles auction in 2015. The final sticker price for Ringo Starr’s Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl three-piece drum kit — heard in hits like “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” — totalled $2.2 million, Reuters reported.
Not content with classic black, John Lennon had his luxury car painted with a rollicking new color scheme in 1967, just weeks before the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Romany-inspired Rolls-Royce later made its way to auction in 1985, selling for $2,299,000 — approximately $5.9 million today.
While he may not have the same processing power in real life, this Star Wars robot has plenty of deep-pocketed fans. The 43-inch tall model — made from parts in used during filming — sold for $2.76 million in 2017, the Associated Press reported.
St. Louis Cardinal slugger Mark McGwire smashed 70 balls past the outfield in 1998, setting the single-season homerun record in the process. Comic book artist Todd McFarlane later paid just over $3 million for the privilege of owning lucky number 70 — although it’s possibly worth just a fraction of that now, CBS Sports reports.
One collector certainly had courage to spend $3,077,000 on movie memorabilia. The costume worn by actor Bert Lahr is made from real lion’s fur, and an “extensive analysis of unique fur swirls” indicated that this particular version appeared on screen, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Well-to-do Deadheads have sought out instruments belonging to the Grateful Dead founder for years — and his guitars have gone down in history as some of the most expensive ones out there. At a 2002 auction, two custom Doug Irwin pieces dubbed “Tiger” (pictured) and “Wolf” sold for $1.2 million. At a 2017 charity auction, “Wolf” sold for $3.2 million all on its own, BBC reported.
“Play it, Sam” says Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 classic. The piano central to this iconic line — and the film’s plot — hit the market in 2014, costing $3.4 million at a Bonhams auction. According to The New York Times, the instrument only has 58 keys, 30 fewer than usual.
As Humphrey Bogart’s character says in the film, the Maltese Falcon statue is what “dreams are made of” — and a collector paid accordingly. The final price for the 12-inch statue came to $4,085,000 in 2013, according to NPR.
If you want to drive the same car as Batman, you better have the same riches as Bruce Wayne. The original Batmobile car seen in the 1960s television series — a customized Lincoln Futura — sold for $4.2 million in 2013, according to Jalopnik.
Part of Debbie Reynolds’ estate, Audrey Hepburn’s glorious “Ascot dress” went up on the auction block in 2017 and sold for $4,551,000, ABC News reported. Costume designer Sir Cecil Beaton had won a Academy Award for his work on the 1964 film.
A dress that can make subway grates seem sexy certainly has a lot going for it — so much so that Marilyn Monroe’s famous Seven Year Itch costume cost seven figures at a 2011 auction, BBC reported. The $4.6 million dress isn’t even the most valuable outfit associated with the actress.
Covered with some 2,500 crystals, the sheer dress worn by Marilyn Monroe at a fundraiser for President John F. Kennedy sold for $4.8 million in 2016, BBC reported. Ripley’s Believe It or Not purchased the Jean Louis gown and puts it on display at its various locations.
The award for most expensive movie prop goes to … Robby the Robot! The 7-foot-tall cyborg and his Jeep sold for $5.375 million at a 2017 Bonhams auction. As made famous in the 1956 science fiction classic Forbidden Planet, Robby’s aesthetic went down in movie history as groundbreaking.
One of the Great Bambino’s game-worn uniforms was a grand slam at a 2019 auction. The Yankees jersey sold for a whopping $5.6 million, breaking the record at the time for the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia, per the BBC.
Nirvana’s iconic acoustic performance led to the grunge band’s best-selling album — and a new superlative nearly three decades later when the frontman’s 1959 Martin D-18E became the most expensive guitar ever sold at auction. The final price? A whopping $6,010,000, Entertainment Weekly reported.