An old poster, a dress, a glove, a fedora… these are all examples of seemingly regular items that, imbued with the significance of a musician, actor, band, or film, can prove to be worth a vast sum.
Film and music memorabilia are enormously varied. The phrase encompasses everything from film or album posters to vehicles used on set, drumkits used on tour and even articles of clothing worn by an actor or musician.
Owing to this variety, it’s difficult to speak definitively about memorabilia. Since each item is so unique, it’s easy to fall into a trap of comparing apples and pears. What we do know is that certain ‘big ticket’ items have fetched remarkable sums at auction. Below, we’ll give some pointers on what might make an item of memorabilia more -or less- valuable.
The more iconic an item, the more likely it is to fetch a high sum at auction. This may sound simplistic, however some of the highest selling items are those which are forever associated with an individual artist, film, or group.
Notable dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe, for instance, have sold for millions of dollars. The dress worn by the actor when she sang “Happy Birthday Mr President” to President John F Kennedy is especially noteworthy, having sold for $4.8 million in 2016. The iconic white dress from The Seven Year Itch fetched a similarly large sum, reaching $4.6 million in 2011.
Few celebrities have inspired the reverence and obsession among so wide a fanbase as Marilyn Monroe, thus these sales figures are the exception rather than the rule. Nevertheless, an iconic item can still be very valuable. Take the fedora worn by Harrison Ford in the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, which sold for $500,000 in 2015, or Michael Jackson’s white glove, which sold for more than $104,000 in 2020.
As with every type of item, the less copies of it there are, the higher its value. This is certainly true of vinyl, where the most expensive items ever sold on the Discogs marketplace are rare misprints or part of an extremely limited run. The most expensive record ever sold on Discogs for over $40,000 is one of only 20 copies ever pressed.
Then there’s the matter of Wu Tang Clan’s Once Upon A Time in Shaolin. This was a one-of-a-kind pressing. The tracks were previously unreleased and indeed will not be released on any other format for a period of 88 years. This copy was bought for $2 million.
The same rule applies to film posters. Posters from films made in the 1920s and 30s have historically fetched enormous sums at auction. At the top of this pile sits the international poster for 1927’s Metropolis. There are only four copies remaining, one of which sold for $690,000 in 2005, and subsequently for $1.2 million in 2012, although this was as part of a larger collection, making it hard to definitively state the value of the poster.
The inherent value
The notoriety and scarcity of a particular item notwithstanding, an item of memorabilia can be inherently valuable. The previously mentioned Marilyn Monroe ‘JFK’ dress is a good example of this, containing as it does 2,500 individual crystals, raising its value.
Similarly, an Aston Martin DB5 used in the James Bond films Goldfinger and Thunderball fetched $6.3 million in 2019. Recently Aston Martin began production on recreations of the original DB5. To buy what is effectively a brand new 1965 Aston Martin DB5 (albeit produced in 2021) direct from Aston Martin will cost $3.5 million, thus contributing to the high sum paid for the unique model used in the two James Bond films.
Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting out in the world of film and music memorabilia, it’s vital that your collection is adequately insured. Enquire today about Chubb’s valuables insurance, which provides worldwide cover and will pay out up to 50% more than the specified amount if underinsurance is discovered at the time of loss and the item(s) have been professionally valued within the last 3 years.