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The second act in the movie memorabilia market is about to begin

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Welcome to the new-look Alts & Ends, your lively guide to collectible market happenings. In this edition, we examine a massive month in movie props and costumes and a standout weekend for Apple memorabilia.

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Photo: Heritage Auctions

The Beginning of the Second Act

In March, across two major auction events at Propstore and Heritage, bidders paid over $23 million for nearly 3,000 pieces of entertainment memorabilia. 23 items sold for six-figure prices, and a further 473 lots crossed into five-figure territory. 

Lights, camera, high-priced action.

The market for movie props, costumes, and memorabilia has been gaining momentum for years, but to some, this month loudly signaled its arrival to a breadth of demand commensurate with the global adoration for film. While episodic entertainment memorabilia events are a staple of the contemporary auction calendar, it was a special event that commanded observers’ attention last weekend. Over a five-day auction, Heritage sold nearly 1,600 items from the archives of Planet Hollywood, the memorabilia-filled restaurant-museum hybrid. Among those items were blue-chip pieces from all your favorite movies.

The result? $15.7 million in sales. That’s the highest-grossing entertainment memorabilia sale in Heritage’s history by several million dollars. It was rewarding in both dollars and attention: the event attracted 2,830 bidders and 1.27 million page views. 

Prior to this event, Heritage had achieved a total of 240 six-figure sales in entertainment & music memorabilia. The Planet Hollywood sale added a further 16 to that tally. The top two lots - the floating wood panel from Titanic and the signature bullwhip from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - became the house’s 9th and 16th most expensive sales of all time in the category, fetching $718,750 and $525,000 respectively.

Those top lots were showstoppers, but the event was more notable for its showcase of formidable depth. We could spend hours pointing out cool items and reminiscing on the movie magic they produced. Like Apollo Creed’s ring entrance suit from Rocky IV. It sold for $65,625. If only Apollo hadn’t expended so much energy dancing in the lead-up to a fight against a man dubbed “The Siberian Express,” he might have survived Drago’s onslaught. 

Point is, pick any of your favorite movies. You’ll find a related item.

Consider this as a demonstration of the depth: even if you exclude the $718,750 wood panel, Titanic sales still amounted to $1.2 million across 66 lots, all of which sold for more than $1,000. 

Propstore’s Entertainment Memorabilia Live Auction in Los Angeles contributed a further $7.7 million in total sales to the monthly tally. This year’s edition was more subdued than the 2023 event, which grossed a massive $13 million; it’s possible bidders hesitated with the Planet Hollywood event looming. Some statistics:

  • 7 lots sold for six-figure sums, down from 17 last year

  • 132 additional lots crossed $10,000, down from 245

  • 339 lots were listed as unsold in the 2024 event, up from 267 in 2023. 

  • The total number of lots sold in the 2024 edition was up by 119. 

While this year's event didn't live up to expectations set by 2023, the high bar reminds us that movie memorabilia is by no means a new phenomenon in March of 2024. 

Regardless, after the 2023 event saw its top two lots go unsold, 2024's top prize delivered healthy bidding. A light-up C-3PO head screen-matched to scenes from Return of the Jedi sold for $843,500. That’s effectively on par with a November Propstore sale of another C-3PO head, this one from pivotal scenes in A New Hope. After eight bids beginning at $500k, the lot settled near the middle of its $500,000 - $1,000,000 estimate range. The head came from the collection of actor Anthony Daniels, and in total, 132 lots from the Daniels Collection sold for $1.25 million.

You’ll notice we used the term “screen-matched” to describe the C-3PO head. It may surprise you, given the magnitude of results this month and the rising importance of photomatching in sports memorabilia, to learn that “screen-matched” remains a relatively uncommon term in the movie memorabilia world. In fact, none of the top ten movie lots in the Planet Hollywood sale were supported by photomatching evidence, leaning instead on the strength of provenance. 

Propstore has demonstrated an appreciation for the importance of photo-based documentation, and a search of their event for “screen-matched” yields 82 results (a bit lower than last year’s 93). Three of the seven lots that sold for six figures were described as such.

Propstore’s photomatching efforts appear to be done in-house, and fair or not (the C-3PO analysis was detailed), the lack of third-party involvement in the screen-matching process to date will draw skepticism. Many props exist in multitudes on set, and with prices already as high as they are, continued appreciation will require a higher standard of authentication that conclusively places an item in the pivotal moments of a film, or, barring that, on-screen at all. 

Without more consistent and accurate authentication, collectors’ appetites will weaken as very similar versions of the same prop parade to auction. Those parades have been the norm, but the stakes have gotten too high to sustain them at consistently rising prices.

So, the second act of the movie memorabilia category begins. It was a stirring conclusion to the first act, marked by broad participation at dizzying prices. The future will be marked by a relic of the past, as Heritage will sell perhaps the most coveted movie prop in existence in December: Dorothy's ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz. 

Move over, Michael Jordan. Your shoe records are in jeopardy. After all, there's no place like Hollywood.

Photo: RR Auctions

Silicon Souvenirs

Apple, Atari, Google.

Gates, Musk, Jobs.

The companies and visionaries who have been pivotal in propelling innovation over the last thirty years are now the leading figures in an exponentially growing collectibles market.

As tech memorabilia moves from short-term fad to established asset class, the values and volume of everything from business cards and checks to original consoles and floppy disks are hammering for prices that would have seemed far-fetched only a few years prior.

Two houses, LGC and RR Auctions, sit on the frontier of this recent surge in sale prices for memorabilia from Silicon Valley.

In RR’s latest auction, titled Steve Jobs and the Apple Computer Revolution, the late Apple co-founder and the company he helped create stacked six-figure sales as Apple-tech demand continues to outpace supply.

You should be able to remember a time when Apple iPhones, specifically the rare and coveted 4GB model, were selling for around $50,000 - $60,000.

You should remember, because that time would’ve been exactly one year ago to the day.

In March 2023, the auction record for any 4GB iPhone was $63,356.

In March 2024, the record stands at $190,373.

While the market is still waiting on the first $200K+ iPhone, LCG and RR both sold 4GB first-generation models, and both more than doubled the spring 2023 record. At LCG, the current Apple iPhone record-holder, 23 bids pushed their model to a final price of $130,027. Not to be outdone, RR sold their 4GB iPhone for $140,286.

Both auction houses sold 8GB models, relegated to lower prices by the emergence of rarer 4GB supply, with the LCG version selling for $20,713 and the iPhone at RR reaching $25,000. While their prices are well below the valuations realized by the 4GB productions, and bidders may be growing skeptical of their rarity, you only need to flip the calendar back a few years to find 8GB iPhone sales below $10,000.

The event hosted by RR Auction tallied more than $1.6 million in total sales as an Apple-1 Computer signed by Steve Wozniak sold for $323,789 and an Apple business card signed by Steve Jobs dated to the early 1980s, reached $181,183. The business card sale set a new record, and a 'tech check' signed by Steve Jobs, used to purchase parts for early Apple computers, achieved another milestone by fetching $176,850.

All told, the four most expensive lots to come out of the auction were related to Jobs/Apple, and all four sold for six-figures. Jobs wasn’t the only tech founder to secure an impressive sale though. The noteworthy sales included an early letter, typed and signed by Bill Gates in 1978, which sold for $75,821, while a SpaceX business card signed by Elon Musk and a check signed by ‘Googlers’ Larry Page and Sergey Brin realized $39,238 and $36,064 respectively.

The latest round of tech sales extended beyond the realm of software.

In the RR event, collectors chased Atari consoles and prototypes, as various editions hammered in excess of $25,000. For true enthusiasts and gaming historians, there was a fully functional Computer Space console, credited as the first arcade game ever made. The original gaming system, released in 1971, sold for nearly $70,000, while later editions, such as the two-player 1973 version, have sold for $40,000+ in recent months.

It's the collectibles-edition of “Revenge of the Nerds”. Silicon Valley, renowned as the heartland of technological innovation, has emerged as a pivotal source for the expanding market of collectibles and memorabilia. 

The fascination with early computers and gaming consoles is understandable, yet the surge in valuations extends to more contemporary items like first edition Apple Watches from 2015, which are fetching thousands of dollars.

The market is exciting and entertaining, but is it sustainable? We’ve already noted declines across iPhone prices, although their values are still safely above the totals realized prior to 2023. While the ascent of Apple-related technology in the collectibles market has been well-documented, including plenty of coverage by yours truly, a notable trend in 2024 is the increasing investment in tech memorabilia that doesn't bear the iconic fruit logo.

Results Round-Up

  • The T206 Ty Cobb with the “Ty Cobb Smoking Tobacco” back took top billing at Heritage’s Sports Card Catalog Auction, selling for $432,000.

  • Heritage also sold a PSA 6 1952 Topps Mantle for $204,000. That’s the highest price in the last year.

  • PWCC sold a PSA 10 1996 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractor for $168,000. That equals the highest sale of the last two years, which came way back in May of 2022.

  • Also at PWCC, the hotly pursued 2023 Bowman U Bronny James LeBron James Superfractor Auto sold for $114,000.

  • At Christie’s, L.S. Lowry’s Sunday Afternoon, a depiction of life in industrial northern England, sold for £6,290,000 against an estimate range of £4,000,000 - £6,000,000. The painting hadn’t come to auction or been seen publicly in 57 years.

  • The movie magic extended to the sneaker world, as Sotheby’s sold a pair of 2016 Nike Air MAGs, made famous by Marty McFly in Back to the Future, for €76,200 against an estimate of €50,000 - €70,000. That’s approximately $82k USD, which is a record for the 2016 release. However, 23 of 59 lots in the Important Sneakers and Modern Collectibles sale in Paris went unsold.

Photo: PWCC

Opening Day is upon us, and while there’s plenty of talk about LA Dodger Shohei Ohtani, his former teammate and fellow superstar remains obscured in the relative anonymity of playing for the cross-town Angels. Mike Trout was the modern baseball collectible darling of the early-2020s card boom, serving up some of the first card prices that made Hobby insiders and outsiders alike scratch their heads in confusion.

Even when the steam had begun to seep out of the market, in October of 2022, Trout’s 2009 Bowman Chrome Red Refractor, a card numbered to 5 and graded BGS 9.5, sold at PWCC for the staggering sum of $1,080,000. The very same card returned to the block at last week’s PWCC Premier Auction, this time selling for just $216,000. Before accounting for any fees, that’s a loss of 80% in about a year and a half.

With the sport’s top star awash in turmoil, the buyer and MLB alike will be hoping for a return to form for Trout this season.

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Photo: Goldin

3/30 - Goldin March Elite Sports Auction

Featured: 2000 NBA Championship Ring Ordered by Kobe Bryant and Gifted to Joe Bryant

This auction lot has made the rounds in press headlines that somewhat muddy the waters of what the item is. After winning his first title, Kobe Bryant ordered exact copies of the ring he and the Lakers players received to gift to his parents. The ring for sale was the one gifted to his father, Joe. This ring previously sold at Goldin in 2013 for $173,102. The ring gifted to his mother Pamela sold for $201,250 in 2020. Both are accompanied by LOAs from Pamela. Bidding currently stands at $172k with BP.

Photo: Julien’s

3/28 - 3/30 - Julien’s Icons: Playboy, Hugh Hefner, and Marilyn Monroe

We’re pretty confident this is the weirdest lot we’ll feature this month, maybe this year. For sale at Julien’s is a mausoleum crypt one row above and four spaces to the left of Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place. And guess who couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be Marilyn Monroe’s next-door neighbor on her immediate left? Hugh Hefner. For $200,000 - $400,000, the opportunity to spend eternity in that party could be yours. Yikes.

Also on the slate:

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