Treasure Detectives

Movie memorabilia that cleaned up at auctions

Movie Memorabilia That Cleaned Up at Auctions

Bilgehan Yilmaz | E+ | Getty Images

Sometimes a movie makes such an impression that a viewer will pay a little extra to take the experience home. For most, this means buying the DVD. But for serious collectors, nothing less than a tangible piece of the film's history will do.

Such collectors have spent sums of money normally associated with new car purchases for their piece of film history. For them, a prop or some clothing is must-have memorabilia, and to secure a place above the mantel, money is no object.

Here are some items from the movies that commanded huge bids at auctions. In most cases, memorabilia from older movies fetched the highest prices, but treasures from newer ones didn't fare too badly either.

Read ahead to see's list of movie keepsakes that fetched top dollar at auctions.

By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 19 March 2013

'Saturday Night Fever' – White Polyester Suit

Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images

Sold for: $145,500

"Saturday Night Fever" was the movie that made disco a mainstream phenomenon in 1977. The movie was also responsible for a preponderance of polyester suits, such as the white one worn by John Travolta.

His suit sold at a 1995 Christie's auction for $145,500. The winning bidder was the late Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel. Inside the suit, Travolta wrote: "To Gene, So here's to a classic, your friend, John Travolta."

'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' – T-800 Endoskeleton

Eduardo Parra | Getty Images

Sold for: $488,750

In "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a cyborg from the future sent back in time to contemporary Los Angeles. Audiences lapped up the 1991 movie's nonstop mayhem, and it became the highest-grossing film of that year.

Though it appears only briefly, the cyborg's metal skeleton made enough of an impression on filmgoers to fetch $488,750 at Profiles in History, a movie memorabilia auction house. This 2012 sale was more than twice the $240,000 paid for Luke Skywalker's lightsaber at the auction.

'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' – Red and Yellow Car

Silver Screen Collection | Getty Images

Sold for: $505,000

"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was a 1968 children's musical based on the Ian Fleming novel of the same name. Fleming was the author of the James Bond novels, and while the movie had nothing to do with that franchise, it featured a red and yellow car that could fly and float like a Bond car.

According to an Associated Press report, one of the cars used in the movie was sold for $505,000 in 2007 to Ralph Spencer of Jacksonville, Fla. The buyer was already the proud owner of a 1966 Batmobile.

'Casablanca' – Upright Piano

Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | Getty Images

Sold for: $602,500

An upright piano from the 1942 Humphrey Bogart film "Casablanca" sold for $154,000 to a buyer from Japan at a 1988 Sotheby's auction. At the time, this was one of the largest amounts ever paid by a bidder who was hoping to own a piece of movie history.

In 2012, the piano returned to Sotheby's, where it sold for $602,500. According to the website of high-end dealer Paul Fraser Collectibles, the buyer was "Titanic" actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

'Star Wars' – Panavision PSR 35mm Camera

20th Century Fox | Getty Images

Sold for: $625,000

Collectors of "Star Wars" memorabilia normally limit themselves to items that have appeared in front of the camera. That changed in 2011, when a Panavision PSR 35mm camera used to film the 1977 movie was auctioned for $625,000.

The camera was one of many items sold by actress Debbie Reynolds, and it was far, far and away the most lucrative camera sale of the day. According to The Guardian, a camera used to film "2001: A Space Odyssey" sold at the auction for $70,000, and one used by Charlie Chaplin never even found a buyer.

'The Wizard of Oz' – Ruby Slippers

Astrid Stawlarz | Getty Images

Sold for: $666,000

When a film is being made, important props and pieces of wardrobe are often made in duplicate or triplicate, or even more. This includes the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz," several pairs of which have made the auction rounds over the years.

One of the pairs used in the 1939 film sold at a 2000 Christie's auction for $666,000. The soles had the word "double" written on them by hand, and the inner sole of the right shoe bore the label of the Innes Shoe Company of Los Angeles.

'The Wizard of Oz' - Cowardly Lion Costume

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer | Getty Images

Sold for: $826,000

The Cowardly Lion costume worn by actor Bert Lahr in "The Wizard of Oz" was lost for over three decades before it was found in a California barn in 1970. Fifteen years later, it became the property of Bill Mack an artist from Minnesota for several thousand dollars, according to The Associated Press.

After 21 years of ownership, Mack sold the costume at a 2006 Beverly Hills auction for $826,000. Despite the huge payday, he said he had mixed feelings about the sale. "I'm going through seller's remorse now," he said. "But it's a big number, so it's good."

'Breakfast at Tiffany's' – Black Givenchy Dress

Source: Christie's

Sold for: $923,187

Audrey Hepburn had already starred in over a dozen movies when she appeared in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." But her portrayal of Holly Golightly cemented her reputation as a legend and turned her into a style icon, a status she still holds despite passing away 20 years ago.

She wears numerous memorable outfits in the 1961 film, but the black Givenchy dress she wears in its opening scene is the most famous. It's considered responsible for the status of the "little black dress" as a must-have item in any woman's closet. It was sold to an anonymous bidder at Christie's auction house for $923,187 in December 2006.

'The Seven Year Itch' – Pleated Ivory Dress

Fran Worth | Emage International | Getty Images

Sold for: $4.6 million

Not everyone has seen "The Seven Year Itch," but everyone knows the scene in the 1955 film in which Marilyn Monroe's character stands above a subway grating, and the breeze from a passing train blows up into her dress. That particular garment was designed by Billy Travilla, who had dressed her in seven other films.

Monroe's clothes have always commanded high auction prices, such as the red-sequined dress from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," which sold for $1.2 million in 2011. But at the same auction, the "Seven Year Itch" dress outpaced it by selling for $4.6 million to an unidentified buyer, more than twice the $2 million it was expected to get.

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