In­vest­ing in Movie Me­mora­bilia

It’s easy to see the ap­peal of own­ing a lit­tle piece of movie his­tory that has been touched, driven or worn by the sil­ver screen’s best-loved stars, writes Selina Den­man

The National - News - Luxury - - THE SMART SPEND -

Hav­ing watched James Bond’s The Spy Who Loved Me as a young boy, and mar­velled at the abil­ity of 007’s Lo­tus Esprit to trans­form from an (al­beit odd-look­ing) car into a sub­ma­rine, one can only imag­ine how ex­cited the bil­lion­aire tech en­tre­pre­neur, Elon Musk, was to ac­quire the ve­hi­cle ear­lier this year.

The iconic, wa­ter-friendly Esprit had been lost a er its star turn in the 1977 movie but was re­dis­cov­ered in 1989, wheel­less and look­ing a lit­tle worse-for-wear, in a stor­age con­tainer in Long Is­land. Musk picked it up for nearly US$1 mil­lion (Dh3.67m) at an auc­tion in Lon­don. Musk, who is the CEO of the elec­tric ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer, Tesla Mo­tors, sub­se­quently said, “I was dis­ap­pointed to learn that it can’t ac­tu­ally trans­form. What I’m go­ing to do is up­grade it with a Tesla elec­tric pow­er­train and try to make it trans­form for real.” What will be­come of the Esprit – which is be­lieved to have cost $100,000 (Dh367,300) to build in the 1970s and was dubbed Wet Nel­lie on set – un­der its new own­er­ship re­mains to be seen, but one thing is clear: the nos­tal­gia-in­fused mar­ket for movie- and en­ter­tain­men­tre­lated me­mora­bilia is as strong as ever.

Last month, a fig­urine from the clas­sic 1941 film noir, The Maltese Fal­con, fetched a record $4.1 mil­lion (Dh15m) at auc­tion, mak­ing it one of the most ex­pen­sive pieces of movie me­mora­bilia ever sold – sur­pass­ing the $2 mil­lion (Dh7.3m) paid for Judy Gar­land’s ruby slip­pers from The Wizard of Oz in 2012, and in the same league as the £2.6 mil­lion (Dh15.6m) fetched by the As­ton Martin driven by Sean Con­nery in Goldfin­ger in 2010.

The stat­uette, one of two made for the film, which was based on the 1930 de­tec­tive novel by Dashiell Ham­mett and starred Humphrey Bog­art, was the top lot in a Bon­hams sale called What Dreams Are Made Of: A Cen­tury of Movie Magic At Auc­tion As Cu­rated By Turner Clas­sic Movies, held on Novem­ber 25. At the same auc­tion, a 1940 Buick Phaeton au­to­mo­bile from Casablanca was sold for $461,000 (Dh1.7m); an Au­drey Hep­burn Givenchy hat from Funny Face fetched $87,500 (Dh321,388) – quadru­ple its es­ti­mate – and a Nau­tilus Diver’s Hel­met from 20,000 Leagues un­der the Sea sold for $81,250 (Dh298,431).

“The spec­tac­u­lar price achieved re­flects the stat­uette’s tremen­dous sig­nif­i­cance,” says Cather­ine Wil­liamson, the di­rec­tor of the en­ter­tain­ment me­mora­bilia depart­ment at Bon­hams. “The Maltese Fal­con is ar­guably the most im­por­tant movie prop ever, and is cen­tral to the his­tory of cin­ema.”

Mar­garet Bar­rett, the di­rec­tor of en­ter­tain­ment and mu­sic at the Bev­erly Hills-based Her­itage Auc­tions, links the in­creased in­ter­est in movie me­mora­bilia to a grow­ing sense of nos­tal­gia among buy­ers. “I think the far­ther we get from Hol­ly­wood’s ‘golden era’ – the 1930s to the 1960s – peo­ple are get­ting more sen­ti­men­tal about the past and are happy to have a chance to own some of th­ese spe­cial pieces from film his­tory.”

Her­itage Auc­tions held an En­ter­tain­ment and Mu­sic Me­mora­bilia Sig­na­ture Auc­tion on De­cem­ber 6, which in­cluded items rang­ing from a mo­tor­cy­cle jacket worn by Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger in Ter­mi­na­tor 2: Judg­ment Day to a prop Luger gun used by Elvis Presley in the movie G I Blues. One of the stand­out pieces, how­ever, was a suit worn by Gene Kelly in the 1952 film Sin­gin’ in the Rain (pic­tured). “What’s spe­cial about it is that it was worn by him in the scene where he’s ac­tu­ally singing the ti­tle song and it was bought by the cur­rent owner at the now-fa­mous 1970 MGM auc­tion,” Bar­rett ex­plains.

When it comes to me­mora­bilia, any­thing re­lated to Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, Elvis Presley or The Bea­tles is guar­an­teed to fetch a hand­some price, notes Bar­rett. “Typ­i­cally, items that are from beloved films or that re­late to beloved ac­tors do well. For ex­am­ple, items from The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca and Gone with the Wind are al­ways sought-a er and pop­u­lar at auc­tion.”

But, while the “golden oldies” are ever pop­u­lar, items from more re­cent movies are also emerg­ing as wor­thy in­vest­ments. A sale of cos­tumes from the first Hunger Games in Novem­ber saw Kat­niss’s fa­mous “girl on fire dress” fetch $300,000 (Dh1.1m) and her sig­na­ture hunt­ing jacket fetch $60,000 (Dh220,380), while The Elder Wand used by Harry Pot­ter in the last two in­stal­ments of the block­buster fran­chise re­cently sold for $10,100 (Dh36,730), dou­ble its es­ti­mated price.

Whether your tastes veer to­wards Frodo Bag­gins’s St­ing sword or Luke Sky­walker’s Ta­tooine desert pon­cho, there’s a lit­tle piece of movie his­tory out there for ev­ery­one. “First, col­lect what you love,” ad­vises Bar­rett. “And sec­ond, con­cen­trate on items that are ob­vi­ously real, like movie stars’ pass­ports, driver’s li­cences, an­no­tated scripts or cos­tumes with the right la­bels.”

Movie props are no­to­ri­ous for go­ing miss­ing — the 1964 Chev­elle Malibu driven by John Tra­volta in Pulp Fic­tion went AWOL for 19 years a er be­ing stolen from Quentin Tarantino and only re­cently resur­faced, while the golden gun from the Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, four Spi­der Man suits stolen from the set of the movie in 2001 and over 70 items from Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion have yet to be re­cov­ered. So who knows what new trea­sures will be mak­ing them­selves onto the mar­ket in com­ing years?

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