It has been a lot of fun following the most recent batch of Elvis goodies that were offered at auction. Bidding closed last Wednesday night on 278 Elvis items at the Gotta Have Rock and Roll Auction, and as usual there were several interesting developments. Let’s take a look at the hits and misses, as well as my choice for the biggest bargain.
Highest Bids: Although there was no jumpsuit headlining the offerings at this auction, Elvis’ clothing still attracted the highest prices, as usual. Winning bidders were able to purchase two items for the same price of $41,434. One was the denim jacket, pants and yellow shirt from the 1968 MGM movie Stay Away Joe. It had an expected price of $15-20,000, so it did considerably better than estimated.
Denim Jacket, Blue Jeans and Yellow Shirt from Stay Away Joe
The other top item at $41,434 was the red suede jacket Elvis wore on the picture sleeves of two hit records: “Jailhouse Rock” and “I Got stung.” The jacket was expected to bring between $20-30,000, but beat that range handily. When auctions include pictures showing Elvis wearing the articles of clothing, it always seems to punch up the bidding.
Red Jacket on the Picture Sleeves of Two Hit 45s
Other Clothing: The next highest bid on Elvis clothing was for pair of black pants featuring brass stud work down the flared legs and a white silk shirt with pointed collar, circa early 70s. The auction site included a fuzzy photo of Elvis wearing these items which brought in a high bid of $18,681. This was followed by a kaftan trimmed with gold embroidery and beading. The bidding closed at $9,124, which was four times the estimate.
Black Studded Pants/White Silk Shirt Gold Embroidered Kaftan
So, we have two items of Elvis’ personal clothing, and one brought twice the price as the other. Why? I believe it was because the kaftan did not come with an accompanying photo showing Elvis wearing it. The item description says Elvis loved wearing kaftans and owned a number of beautiful ones. This may be so, but none of my thousands of Elvis pictures show him wearing one.
Jewelry: What would an auction of Elvis memorabilia be without rings and watches? He must have gone through many dozens of both in his lifetime. This time, a lucky bidder now owns Elvis’ 14KT gold ring featuring a beautiful huge crystal opal surrounded by diamonds. The auction site has a very fuzzy photo supposedly showing Elvis wearing this ring, but I couldn’t make it out. However, there is also a letter of provenance from Elvis’ wardrobe manager Richard Davis, so the ring brought in $20,060, more than double the estimate. It also had the most bids of any Elvis item in the auction.
Crystal Opal Ring 50s Elgin Watch
There were two Elvis watches in this auction, but the vintage Elgin watch above is the more spectacular looking. It went for just $10,560, well below the estimate of $15-20,000. Perhaps this is because Elvis was so taken with this watch that he purchased several of them to give away to friends. In fact, because of his fascination with this model, it became known by the name “Elvis” in the trade.
Biggest Busts: There were a number of no-bid items, indicating that Elvis collectors just weren’t willing to pay the minimum bids stipulated. Here is one that had a minimum of $35,000 and an estimate of $45-50,000. It is a set of never-before-seen 3D color slides accompanied by a 3D viewer. The item description says they were taken with a special camera at a February 1971 Elvis concert at the International Hotel in Las Vegas: “You literally feel that you can reach out and touch Elvis, an incredible experience. It is the closest you’ll ever get to seeing Elvis live. The 3D images truly capture his electrifying, high energy performance.”
3D Slides of 1971 Elvis Concert
Frankly, I am surprised EPE didn’t buy these slides. With their intent to provide more inter-active exhibits at Graceland, this would seem like a natural. Remember those old arcade machines where you looked in the viewer and saw 3D pictures? What fan would go to Graceland and not pay a few bucks to look at incredible, electrifying color images of Elvis in concert?
The next biggest no-bid item was Elvis’ 1956 contract with the William Morris Agency, which he signed in two different places. Nobody thought it was worth the $11,000 minimum, and that’s not a surprise considering the other auction item with two Elvis autographs on it. That is an insert from an American Airlines ticket envelope that Elvis signed on both sides for two young girl fans. It had a minimum bid of $800 and went for $3,019. I think this is a bargain because this came from the December 19, 1970 flight Elvis took to Washington, DC, to see President Richard Nixon.
I found one other no-bid item to be quite interesting. It is an 8×10 black and white wire service photo showing Elvis, Priscilla, and Lisa. Like many other Elvis photographs from news sources in this auction, this had a minimum bid of $100 and an estimate of $150-200, but there were no bids. The reason had to be that the photo is made up of three separate images that were cut out and pasted together. Look closely and you can see that the head sizes are not quite in proportion. Even decades before Photoshop, some newsmen were creating false photos.
Biggest Bargain of the Auction: I wish I weren’t so dedicated to not buying any more Elvis stuff, because I would love to have bought this lot. I’ve blown up the picture as large as it would go and counted the contents: 23 magazines, 4 tabloids, 8 TV Guides, 5 newspapers, 4 postcards, and 5 paperback books. In addition, there is a CD, a branch from a tree at Graceland (wrapped in cellophane), and a copy of Elvis’ will. Plus, there is a surprise in the mailing tube at the bottom, and the unidentified text at the bottom right. Only two people bid on this lot, and one of them got all this cool stuff for $300.
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