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Bruce Lee's shrunken yellow jumpsuit goes under the hammer

Tuesday, 3 Dec 2013 | 2:52 AM ET
Buy Bruce Lee's original yellow jumpsuit
Tuesday, 3 Dec 2013 | 12:00 PM ET
A collection of 14 Bruce Lee items, including the original yellow jumpsuit from his movie, "Game of Death," is scheduled to go up for auction Thursday in Hong Kong. Experts estimate the jumpsuit alone could draw between $32,000 and $39,000.

Late kung fu star Bruce Lee's iconic yellow jumpsuit and matching nunchucks that were immortalized in his final fight scenes will go under the hammer at an auction in Hong Kong on Thursday, 40 years after his death.

Fans will also get the chance to bid for 12 other personal items at the auction, which is expected to fetch a total of HK$1 million to HK$1.5 million (US$129,000 to US$193,000).

(Read more: Lord of the Rings memorabilia set for $1 million auction)

The jumpsuit, which features black stripes down the sides, is one of the two Lee wore in "The Game of Death", a movie released in 1978, five years after his death at 32, using earlier fight footage.

Mark Metcalfe | Getty Images Entertainment

Lee designed the one-piece suit himself. The flexible, handmade costume was meant to reflect the malleable nature of his own hybrid martial art, Jeet Kune Do, which is not fixed to any traditional martial arts philosophy.

A total of four such jumpsuits are believed to exist, including two that were worn only by stuntmen.

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Despite a broken zipper dangling at the back and some shrinkage over the years from the wash, the auction house Spink China expects it to fetch anything from HK$250,000 to HK$300,000 (US$32,000 to US$39,000) due to its rarity.

"I do believe this is the least worn (of the two jumpsuits) because of the condition - it's still pretty good," said Anna Lee, vice chairperson of Spink China.

She is not related to Bruce Lee.

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A few other items featured in the auction showed the late kung fu master's artistic flair.

One is a pendant that Lee designed just months before his death. It features a dragon in white gold and another in yellow gold perched above a piece of jade, facing each other.

Another is a drawing of a Chinese master monk that is believed to be a conceptual character for "The Green Bamboo Warrior", a movie that was never made because of his premature death. These items helped shedlight on the actor's personality, said Anna Lee.

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"He enjoys painting, he enjoys writing letters or whatever, so basically he's just a person who is very emotional in a way. He is just a good man at heart, I think," Lee said.

A Bruce Lee collector, Stanley Zau, came to take a look at the items for sale on Monday.

Zau already owns a claw prop used by Lee's nemesis in the movie "Enter the Dragon" and nunchucks that Lee used for regular practice. He said the items at this auction reflected Lee's philosophy.

"I think it tells you that the man is capable of turning something rather simple into something very elegant. The bell really rings with a lot of people."

(Read more: Shotgun owned by Annie Oakley sells for $293,000)

Several Bruce Lee-themed events took place in Hong Kong this year to coincide with the 40th anniversary of his death.

In July, Hong Kong opened a five-year exhibition that displays over 600 items, many of which are on loan from the Bruce Lee Foundation run by his daughter, Shannon.

Fans also marked the anniversary with art exhibitions, gallery shows and a memorial trail that marked six spots relevant to Lee's life across the former British colony.

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  • A reporter and editor, Robert Frank is a leading authority on the American wealthy for CNBC.