So far, we’ve looked at the big winners and the items with excessive minimum bids that nobody would pay. This post will be about the items that did way better than expected.
Viva Las Vegas Movie Poster:
If you have any high-end Elvis memorabilia that you want to sell, the Auction at Graceland has quickly become the place where you want to sell it. There is no doubt in my mind that you can get more money for your stuff there than at any other auction. Maybe it’s the whole vibe associated with Elvis’ birthday celebration and Elvis Week that energizes the bidders and gets them to loosen the purse strings. Here’s an example.
This 27” by 41” poster in Very Fine condition had a minimum bid of $250, and an estimate of $4-500. This is in line with a sale of the same item in a June 2014 Heritage Auction which went for $418.25. However, twenty-two bids at the Auction at Graceland pushed the price up to $1,750, four times as much.
Tickle Me Movie Poster:
This one is even harder to believe. Again, same size, condition, minimum bid and estimate as the Viva poster. However, thirty-two bids resulted in a final price of $2,500. On the Heritage Auctions website, a search for Elvis Tickle Me resulted in dozens of these posters selling since 2009, at a top price of $155 for one rated Very Fine. Come on, people. Do your research before blowing away thousands on something.
Special Shelby County Deputy Sheriff Badge:
Although EPE sponsored this auction, they made it clear that all items came from private owners, not the Graceland archives. They did, however, state that they would be bidding on some items to add to their display of Elvis memorabilia.
When I saw that the badge up for auction had a minimum bid of $1,500 and an estimate of $2,500-3,500, I thought Graceland might go after it to add to their display of Elvis’ collection of law enforcement badges. Well, it went for $8,750, so I’m guessing they dropped out of the bidding.
Elvis Presley’s Personal Checkbook Register:
This checkbook register from 1975-76 was offered at the first Auction at Graceland last August during Elvis Week. However, nobody thought it was worth the minimum bid price of $6,000. So, what did the owner do? He brought it back this year with the minimum bid dropped down to just $1,000. After eighteen bids, it topped out at $3,750. I think this is a bargain. There are 43 pages with Elvis’ writing (not his signature) on them. The auction says, “This checkbook is a treasure trove of examples of Elvis’ generosity.” The checks totaled $89,000, and many of them went to charities and his friends.
Elvis Tour Jacket, 1975:
This size 46 red wool and black-leather-sleeve, varsity-style jacket had a minimum bid of $2,500, which I thought was a little high because it was not part of Elvis’ personal wardrobe. These jackets were made for his security guys so Elvis could see them from the stage. Even the Letter of Authenticity from his personal nurse, Tish Henley, states that Elvis never wore the jacket. However, it was inside Graceland one night when it was pouring rain outside as she was leaving, and he handed it to her to wear and keep dry getting to her car.
Again, it seems the bidders didn’t read the fine print in the item description, because this jacket’s winning bid was $8,125. Pretty steep price for something that Elvis merely touched.
Used Guitar Pick:
I can’t believe what this guitar pick went for. Even though it was accompanied by a Letter of Authenticity from Graceland Authenticated, there is no way it would be worth $3,125 to me. I have seen many dozens of Elvis items at auction over the years priced less than this, that I would much prefer to have.
“That’s All Right” 45 Record:
This record is characterized as a File Copy. I’m not sure what that means, but the item description says it has never been played and is in pristine condition. The reason is because Cecil Scaife, who worked for Sam Phillips at Sun Records, took it home and stored it safely away.
The top bid is actually not a surprise. The estimate was $7,500-8,500, and the bids stopped at $7,500. Of course, the 25% buyer’s premium meant he had to write a check for $9,375.
Flashing Blue Police Light:
Did you know that Elvis was an accredited Captain on Memphis’ police force? All his other badges were honorary, but the one from Memphis PD was official. Elvis took it seriously and bought these flashing blue lights to keep ready in his cars in case a situation arose where his action was needed.
This item is not a surprise with a high bid compared to the estimates. It’s just a surprise to me that it went for as much as it did without a photo of Elvis sitting in one of his cars with this light sitting on top. It went for $2,000, but if that photo had existed and been offered with it, no telling what the bidders would have forked out.
Red and White 7-Button Shirt:
Of all the Elvis shirts I have seen sold at auction during the past seven years, this one epitomizes him the absolute least. It rates about a 2 on the Elvisishness scale. And no photo was offered of Elvis ever wearing it. In spite of this, someone shelled out $7,500 for it. I would hate for him to know about all the other cool Elvis shirts (with photos) have sold for less than that.
One other note. The item description listed the longest chain of ownership I have ever seen on an Elvis collectible. It went from Elvis to Homer Gilleland (his personal hairdresser) to Thomas B. Morgan, Jr. to the LeBonheur Children’s Hospital to the seller (unnamed before the auction), and of course, it now has the new owner.
Four of Elvis’ Personal Telephone/Address Books:
This is another item that failed to generate its minimum bid ($7,000) at the first Auction at Graceland, but staged a comeback at the recent one. This time they showed samples of the open pages rather than the closed books, and it paid off. Somebody got all four of these books for $7,500. If they had been sold individually, I am sure the total would have been higher.
The item description said, “These books are an encyclopedia of his friends, family and acquaintances — today’s equivalent of having Elvis’ iPhone contacts.” I believe showing the books open to sample listings helped make that point and juiced up the bidding. On the pages above you can see Priscilla, Col. Parker, and Vernon Presley. Priscilla must have moved a lot. Note she had five different phone numbers in Elvis’ book
Army First Aid Kit:
I think this is one of the coolest Elvis collectibles to show up at auction. If you owned it and were showing it off to other folks, you could point to the hand-printed “EP” in blue ink at the top. Then you could turn it upside down and show the stamp with Elvis’ Army service serial number “53310761.” Then you could open it up and see the red stamp on the interior stating “SP1 ELVIS PRESLEY – US53310761, 1st Med Tank Bat. 32nd Armor 3rd Div. APO 33.” If all that wasn’t enough, Elvis also signed near the stamp, “E. A. Presley” in blue ink. The supplied Letter of Authenticity from Graceland Authenticated almost seems superfluous.
Elvis’ Army First Aid Kit had a minimum bid of $3,000, but spirited bidding ran it up to $7,500. Well worth it in my opinion.
I had a few more items to present, but something came in the email yesterday that deserves to be noted. It came from firstname.lastname@example.org, one of four EPE related mailing lists I seem to be on.
Just three weeks after their successful second Auction at Graceland, they are out soliciting collectibles for the next one. They are trying to prevail against the auction houses that frequently offer Elvis memorabilia, and I believe they will be very successful.
Here is an ad in the current issue of the record collector magazine Goldmine showing Heritage Auctions soliciting consignments for their next entertainment memorabilia auction. It shows items from past auctions, including an Elvis standee.
From the same magazine, here is a solicitation for consignments by Gotta Have Rock and Roll for their next pop culture auction. Notice Elvis’ Peacock jumpsuit at the bottom. Like I said at the top of this post, it seems like people with Elvis collectibles can realize a higher return at the Auction at Graceland. I think EPE made a brilliant move coming up with the idea of auctioning Elvis memorabilia during Elvis Week and the birthday celebrations. They will put a hurtin’ on the competition.
I see this as similar to Graceland’s move into the Elvis Tribute Artist business. For the first two decades after his death, Graceland distanced itself from the hordes of men who performed as Elvis impersonators. Actually, they went farther than that. Ever protective of his ‘image,’ EPE filed a lawsuit against the Legends In Concert in 1983 to prevent the show’s “Elvis” from looking like, dressing like, or moving like the real Elvis.
But over the years, it became obvious that the fans liked the ETAs. So, in 2009, Graceland changed its tune and started the Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis during Elvis Week. It is now an extremely popular, so I’m not complaining. But it and the auction prove if somebody is making a profit off Elvis, EPE will move in and get their share.
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