The concept of memorabilia is often quite confusing to understand. First we will clarify some basic concepts before we get into the subject of auctions.
By memorabilia, from the Latin memorabilis, i.e. to remember or keep in one’s memory, we mean objects belonging to a historical event, a known fact, a film or a sporting event that happened in a relatively recent past. These objects are almost always linked to important personalities who are mainly protagonists of the entertainment world (cinema, television, music and sport), politics, art and any other sector where these personalities have had prominent roles and who have become famous nationally and internationally, thanks mainly to the media.
They are therefore objects of all kinds but among the most sought-after there are trophies, clothing, jewelry, costume jewelry, watches, autographed tickets and photos, props, knick-knacks, records and musical instruments but also motorcycles and cars. Many of these objects, those mainly used and / or belonged to famous people and now disappeared are sold at public auctions and can reach very high prices, although sometimes they have little real economic value, others are reproduced in series and sold more easily cheap.
In several cases they are put up for sale by characters still alive, generally for charity and/or to support social and environmental causes, but often also to obtain a profit at a time of economic difficulty.
Many objects and memorabilia are part of private and public collections and are exhibited in museums and exhibitions. therefore to a historical event, a well-known fact, a film, a sports event and almost always to important people and protagonists of the entertainment world.
Among the most sought-after items are those related to Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and currently the recently deceased singer Michael Jackson, whose glove studded with glitter was auctioned and sold for $350,000.
Very sought-after are also the sports memorabilia, so trophies, pennants, tools, balls, baseball and boxing gloves, t-shirts, shoes, etc., especially if signed by the protagonists who have used or worn them. In this case the value increases considerably if such equipment has been used during a match for a victory in an event of international level, such as a world championship or a significant trophy.
A certain space in this market also have objects used or created in a given historical moment such as a dictatorship, a war, a revolution, then symbols, flags, uniforms, weapons, badges and medals. For example, in Italy and Germany there is still space for objects related to Fascism and Nazism, while in Russia the memorabilia market of the Communist period is flourishing.
Psychologically memorabilia is mainly a social and emotional phenomenon. In fact, they differ from antiques because this normally refers to furniture and art objects of a period of the distant or unknown past, and therefore not experienced in first person and therefore you do not have direct evidence and / or have not experienced and shared emotions in periods of their lives, such as youth. The fact of owning an item of clothing worn or an object used and touched by the person admired, or even more idolized, gives a certain satisfaction and satisfaction to the new owner who can feel close to him or her and even proudly show to other people such objects.
Around this phenomenon there are considerable commercial interests and speculators of various kinds exploit this trend, leveraging on the feelings and passions of a large percentage of people. A recent example is the impressive result related to the death of the aforementioned Michael Jackson, in fact as soon as the news of his death was spread a real hunt for the objects of this character and especially the old vinyl records and CDs no longer distributed.
A travel souvenir, also known as suvenir,1 an adaptation of the French voice souvenir,2 is an object that treasures the memories that are related to it. This is analogous to the psychological exploitation of classical conditioning. For example, if a traveler buys a souvenir on a memorable vacation, he will most likely associate that souvenir with the vacation and remember that special moment every time he looks at the object. Even sometimes such items are marked or engraved to indicate that their value is of a sentimental rather than practical nature.
Travelers often buy souvenirs as gifts for their loved ones when they return from a tourist attraction. This is common in many cultures. In Cameroon, for example, the idea is that someone who can afford to travel can also afford to bring something (cadeau) for those who cannot. French bread is a particularly popular cadeau. In Japan, these souvenirs are known as omiyage and are purchased to be shared with co-workers and family members. Omiyage sales have become a big business in Japan’s tourist sites. Many train stations and airports sell these gifts so that travelers can buy a last minute omiyage before returning home.
Souvenirs can include homemade items such as T-shirts, ashtrays, reproductions of buildings, notebooks, postcards, hats or mugs, among many others.
They can also include souvenirs of important events, such as a wedding or birth. This type of gift is usually a creative detail, which makes visitors remember forever the event they went to.
Souvenir is a French word whose literal meaning is “souvenir”, but the term is also often used to indicate the “object of remembrance” of various types that is usually bought or given away when, when visiting places of particular tourist interest, you want to preserve your memory and remember the event to yourself or to others.
The use of buying “souvenirs” has always existed, but it was in the 18th century, when travel in the then known world had a significant increase, that the propensity of travelers to buy small objects began to be commercially exploited.
This happened in particular for significant places of religion, such as shrines, famous churches, and from there, by analogy, the use also passed to known tourist sites.
Today in all the places visited by tourists you can find stalls, small or even large stores where souvenirs of all kinds are displayed, which can be ceramic objects on which images of the place visited are painted, whose name is printed under the landscape. reproduced, postcards, painted silk scarves, painted or engraved wooden boxes.
If the souvenir store is more important and sells goods of higher value, it is also possible to find ivory objects, such as small agorai (ivory cases for needles and pins), thimbles, magnifying glasses with silver handles, rings with semi-precious stones, necklaces, engraved glass vases and a countless number of other more or less precious items that bear, however, the name of the place where they come from.
Plaques are also sold as souvenirs of a trip to tourist stores. As with personalized plates, they are often printed with people’s names, phrases or ironic writings; however, these plates are not designed for official use.
In the United States, almost all states also sell so-called sample plates, plates that are identical in every way to regular plates but cannot be used in a vehicle; they usually carry the abbreviation “SAMPLE” or contain the letters SAM or the numbers from three to six zeros in the abbreviation.
Not seldom also, engraved or painted on souvenirs, popular dedication phrases, verses taken from poems of famous authors or from well-known songs.
A used gum for half a million euros and other of the rarest auctions in the world
The eagerness to collect unique objects or those that have belonged to a certain pop icon has become a bit strange bids. Let’s go over some of them.
Sometimes, auctions are a somewhat crazy universe. Crazy prices for objects whose real value is infinitely lower or very close to zero.
That painting by Banksy auctioned at Sotheby’s in October is worth a hanger: after being bought for 1.2 million euros, ‘The Girl with the Balloon’ -the work you have on the left- destroyed itself with a shredder that was integrated into the frame.
Far from losing its value, the piece has doubled its price because it was part of a performance. What was intended to be a denunciation by the artist against the commercialization of art has become a lucrative business.
This is by no means the first madness to occur within the walls of an auction house. And although everyone is free to spend their money on whatever they want, here are some other sales that are difficult to explain.
In the past, auctions were generally reserved for collection items in important houses such as Sotheby’s or Christie’s, but one day the Internet came into our lives. This revolutionized, among many other things, the world of auctions. This is not an article about how the Internet has modified the world of bidding -we all know that- but we show you some really strange objects, bizarre, freaks, or whatever you call them, that have been sold at auctions, which, if it had not been online, would have been complicated to make them available to the bidders.
November 22nd, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald shoots Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository. The President dies shortly thereafter. February 16, 2007.
A Dutch guy spends more than two and a half million euros through the window – frame and glass – from which the magnicide pulled the trigger. eBay mediated the operation, which it called “an opportunity to own a piece of history.
We’re still on the clock with Kennedy. In November 2016, Julien’s Auctions sold the dress worn by Marilyn Monroe during the celebration of the president’s 45th birthday for 4.3 million euros (yes, the day the actress sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. Preeeesident…”).
Made by Jean Louis, the dress was hand-embroidered with more than 2,500 crystals. But 4.3 million is a lot of money…
In 2004, eBay placed in the window a melted -and bitten- cheese sandwich prepared a decade before. According to the owner of the snack, the image of the Virgin Mary was on it.
“I was staring at it and I could see how special it was. I put it in a box among cotton balls and kept it with respect,” said the vendor at the time. 25,000 euros by, the sandwich changed hands: the GoldenPalace.com casino paid the sum with the idea of using the morsel to raise funds for charity.
The t-shirt that Pelé wore during the 1970 World Cup final (and with which he became champion with Brazil, of course) reached almost 100,000 euros in an auction organized by Christie’s in London in 2007.
An anonymous buyer got hold of the garment that O Rei gave to his coach, Mário Zagallo, that day. It was, in fact, his son who put it on the market and pocketed the bidding money.
The t-shirt worn by Pelé during the 1970 World Cup final (and with which he became champion with Brazil, of course) reached almost 100,000 euros in an auction organized by Christie’s in London in 2007.
An anonymous buyer got hold of the garment that O Rei gave to his coach, Mário Zagallo, that day. It was, in fact, his son who put it on the market and pocketed the bidding money.
Even Michael Jackson’s used underwear has been auctioned off (no, it’s not a joke) but we find it even more incredible that someone paid a lot of money – more than 100,000 euros; it never got beyond the final figure – for the mask worn by the King of Pop at the time of his death.
How macabre some people are, God. And how they have money to spare.
If Jackson has left you perplexed, we close this tour by raising the bar even higher: just a couple of years ago, a guy was willing to pay half a million pounds for the gum Sir Alex Ferguson chewed during his last game as manager of Manchester United (against West Bromwich Albion).
More than 500,000 euros, with eBay as manager, for a piece of chewed and tasteless gum collected from the muddy lawn of Old Trafford.
Among other things, this is what we call bizarre. The actor William Shatner (Captain Kirk from Star Trek) auctioned off a kidney stone that had been removed from his kidney. The piece of ore came up for auction in 2006 and was sold for $25,000 which was donated to the NGO Habitat for Humanity – if it’s to help them sell what they want!
The best breakfast of your life. That’s what they must have thought when two sisters from Virginia (USA) found among their breakfast cereals a corn flake in the exact shape of the state of Illinois. Anyone would have eaten it after the corn flake, wouldn’t they? Well, they decided to save it and put it up for auction on eBay. At first they were disappointed, as it violated some of the rules about selling food from the auction site and was removed. After the disappointment, they decided to exchange the auction for a coupon that would be exchanged for the state of Illinois (the corn). Happily for them, the owner of a website called triviamania.com, bid $1,350 and took the flake in order to complete his new collection of pop culture and American objects. The website does not currently exist. We don’t know if he would have done better with a good purchasing manager…
This is the case of the town called Albert in Texas (USA). Its owner had taken over this historic town in Texas a few years ago, and after investing half a million dollars in recovering it, he decided to take advantage of it and resell it. He announced it on eBay for 2.5 million, and included a tavern, a warehouse, a dance hall, a tractor garage, and a three-bedroom house. It was finally sold in 2009 for $889,000 to one family.
One of the most difficult decisions about becoming a parent is what to call your unborn child. If you are a single mother, like Melissa Heuschkel, and you can’t quite decide on a name, you can always auction off the right to name your unborn child. This is what this girl decided, and when in doubt, she auctioned it off. The online casino goldenpalace.com bid and won. For $15,500 she bought the right and decided to name the girl Golden Palace Benedetto Heuschkel. “It could have been worse…” the girl must think to console herself…
This company is well known for bidding large amounts of money for foreign objects. Known are their purchases of items such as a piece of toast in the shape of a virgin or a Dorito in the shape of a papal miter.
This question probably has no single answer, because the price of selling one’s virginity is an extremely personal question. There have been several cases in which a woman has auctioned off her own virginity, but few in which the details have transcended. A model whose origin and name are unknown – though known as Gisella – put her virginity up for sale in a website called Cinderella Escorts. There have been rumors that several of the bids were made by a Hollywood actor or even a Russian politician. Eventually it was an Arab businessman who is believed to have won, and paid $3 million for Giselle’s virginity. The meeting supposedly took place in a hotel in Germany and was assisted by the security of the website itself.
According to Giselle “if I want to spend the first time with someone who is not my first love, that is my decision”.
Here in Spain, curious objects have also been auctioned, such as the first mop. Its inventor named it “lavasuelos” but it was the name of the mop, given by its marketer, that was successful. This invention dating from 1956 radically changed the way floors were washed and today more than 2 million homes use it. In 2015, the first mop was put up for auction and launched on the market under the Rodex brand. Its starting price was 300 euros, and the final price was 500 euros. Anonymously.
This auction company deserved a television series. And so we have done in BLAZE. This is the world’s largest heavy industrial machinery auction company. We don’t know if their products are curious, but they are heavy for a while. They have achieved milestones such as reaching 54 million dollars in sales in a single auction, or reaching sales of four billion dollars in online auctions.
The lucrative business of auctioning off even the underwear of celebrities
Easily emotionally connected, star objects are becoming a regular part of auctions.
A “slip”, a phone or a cartoon. Everyday objects that, however, have come to be auctioned off for astronomical figures. The reason? To have belonged or to have been in contact with a famous person. A few days ago, a simple white cloth underwear, just like the one you can wear yourself, your husband, your boyfriend or your father, was sold for almost ten thousand dollars. The difference: the auctioned copy had covered the intimate parts of Walter White, the already mythical main character of the Breaking Bad series. Before that, a caricature of John Lennon and Yoko Ono painted by the musician himself or an Elvis Presley phone had passed through the auction houses reaching 90,000 and 20,480 dollars respectively. And the list goes on: in November it will be Marilyn Monroe’s medical history from 1950 to 1962, plus six X-rays. It is expected to reach a price of between $15,000 and $30,000. No matter what is auctioned, if it’s from a celebrity: Sold!
The truth is that these auctions have taken place in the United States, most of them by the hand of Julien’s Auctions, a house specialized in objects of famous people. In the same session, the auction house has managed to add up to four million dollars in bids. “What keeps this industry alive are the fans who love these things,” director Darren Julien told the Associated Press in 2010.
Precisely the same thing that the director of Fresh Gallery, in Madrid, Topacio Fresh, points out. “It works more because the fan phenomenon is so big. The fan converts into art everything you acquire from the person you like or are interested in,” explains the owner of one of the few galleries based in Spain that has introduced the element of “celebrity” into its offerings.
“For me it’s a market that has just begun. We have a reference, which is the American and handles some astronomical figures for an autograph or a kiss from Audrey Hepburn on a napkin. Here, although with a lower purchasing power, is proving that it can also be feasible,” explains the gallery owner.
But not just any celebrity is worth it. In order for it to work, certain qualities must be present, and with strength, in the collective imagination, besides being a mythical character, who has left a legacy and has something special that interests people. In addition, these are pieces with which there is an immediate emotional connection. “You don’t need to have a great knowledge of history to have a visceral reaction to Dorothy’s ruby red shoes -from the film Wizard of Oz-, nor does anyone say why they are important. These pieces simply have an immediate connection to people,” said Laura Woolley, an American appraiser. These shoes, by the way, were acquired in 2011 at auction by Leonardo DiCaprio along with Steven Spielberg to be donated later to the Hollywood Academy Film Museum. It did not transcend how much they paid, but previous estimates spoke of two million dollars.
The fact is that, as time goes by, these objects are becoming more and more valuable. Dorothy’s shoes had been acquired in 1998 by the textile entrepreneur Philip Samuels for only 120,000 euros. Aware of the prices at which the fan phenomenon pushes these objects, the former Beatle Paul McCartney himself has stopped signing autographs to prevent them from being sold on the Internet. Without going any further, the musician Jimi Hendrix was the protagonist of another case: the first contract he signed in 1965 for one dollar was auctioned in 2011 for $250,000. The examples are endless.
But why pay these astronomical figures? “By acquiring it you feel that you have part of a story that, in some way, has touched you or has been part of your life,” explains Fresh. “If I had to bid, I would do it for a Sara Montiel necklace. I’d like that because we’ve grown up with her films, she’s been one of the women who wore those jewels the best, and having them yourself, it’s like you have a part of her. You acquire that person’s DNA, even if it is not real,” the gallery owner assures.
That idea of getting a part of an idol’s life is also what Guillermo Fouces, doctor in social psychology and honorary professor at Carlos III University, highlights about this phenomenon. According to him, when acquiring this type of objects, the fan is looking to “steal” a part of that life or have a part of it. Thus, he experiences the power of possessing that piece of his life and enjoying that small part of the other person.
“In spite of everything, it would not be an audience born from nothing. In spite of everything, it wouldn’t be an audience born from nothing. “Fans have been around all their lives, it’s a traditional, normal phenomenon, but very characteristic in the first moment of adolescence, even if later on it stays in time”, explains Fouces. “Now the novelty is that it is universal, better known and without borders. The social networks make fans can connect with each other, make events … but it is just as frequent as before,” says the expert.
In the United States, this idea of “memorable objects” became popular thanks to the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood, as explained by Joseph Maddalena, president of “Profiles in History” to AP. “It’s exactly the same as what you would do with a Van Gogh: you buy it, hang it on the wall and look at it. It’s the pride of ownership, the right to brag and the fact that you want to own it.
In the end, the success of the auction will depend on where the object has appeared, where it has been, what it means and, above all, whether the person with whom it is linked arouses passions. “The fanaticism that someone has will condition what they are willing to pay,” explains Fresh. “For example, a postcard by Juan Gatti -an Argentine designer, photographer and plastic artist- made for a wedding gift, I sold it for two thousand euros. There are people who are willing to pay that and more”.
The most widespread practice when it comes to auctioning famous objects in Spain is that which revolves around a charitable cause. This is recognized by the gallery owner, but it is true that it happens all over the world. This month, and in favor of a Children’s Hospital, Disney and Harrods have joined forces to auction ten dresses inspired by Disney Princesses with a starting price of three thousand pounds.
The “boom” has gone so far that an internet auction giant like eBay couldn’t let it go. In 2011 he created “eBay Celebrity”, focusing on auctions of celebrity items and even celebrities themselves. The well-known website opened its activity by offering a movie night with dinner and hotel stay in the company of Brad Pitt. A bidding process that started at $10,000. But the novelty introduced by the company was that it was the celebrities themselves who managed their profiles and offered their products, although a quick look at the website shows that in many cases it has been reduced to merchandising signed by the person in question.
The truth is that eBay had already proven what it means to sell celebrity products for a good cause, although not always with the expected results. In 2006, the actress Keira Knightley auctioned off the dress she wore at that year’s Oscar gala in favor of Oxfam. And, despite being a Vera Wang design and having accompanied the actress on that special occasion, the auction closed for less than half the price of the original. The shoes of David Bowie, Pamela Anderson, Ringo Starr, Susan Sarandon, Heather Mills or Ricky Gervais were also auctioned. And, incredible or not, the winner was Bowie, who sold his shoes for $1,262.
Maybe that proves that it is necessary, besides being famous and having a legion of admirers, to have a special aura or something that goes “beyond”, that is projected. As Fresh pointed out, “an object, if it doesn’t have a history or a transcendence behind it, I don’t think it can be part of the market”.