As part of the activities for Elvis’ 80th birthday celebration, EPE promoted a large auction of his memorabilia. You have to give them credit for coming up with another reason for folks to brave the harsh winter weather in Memphis that week.
There were 67 items up for auction, and eight were pieces of jewelry, including the necklace above. I’ve followed auctions of Elvis memorabilia for years, and this one has to be called the big daddy winner. Many items sold for much more than the pre-event estimates. Let’s look at the most expensive items in descending order.
Elvis’ First Recording Acetate:
According to the description on the auction website, this is likely the most important 78 mm record ever offered. It had a pre-auction estimate of $75-100,000, but twenty-one serious record-collector bids ran it up to $300,000. One note, the winning bid was $240,000, but a 25% “Buyer’s Premium” was added to cover the cut for the auctioneer (and probably EPE, too).
The auction website had a very complete description of this item and its history.
“Elvis walked into Sam Phillips’ Memphis Recording Service, home of Sun Records, [in August 1953] and paid the sum of $4 to record a belated birthday gift for his mother — his first ever recording. Elvis sang two songs: “My Happiness” (Side A), which is the only Elvis recording that exists of this song, and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” (Side B). Legend has it that Elvis’ friend Ed Leek convinced and accompanied Elvis to the recording studio that fateful day. Elvis was greeted by Marion Keisker, assistant to Sam Philips, who asked Elvis who he sounded like and Elvis responded, “I don’t sound like nobody.” Little did she know at the time that he was absolutely right. In these two songs that Elvis chose to sing, Marion heard something different, enough to note Elvis’ name and telephone number [on a 3×5 card] and add that he was a good ballad singer. When Elvis left the studio that day, he and Ed stopped at Ed’s parents’ house to listen to the fresh recording, as they had a modern phonograph and Elvis wanted to hear how it sounded. Elvis left his friend’s house that day without the record and this acetate is being offered directly from a descendant of Ed Leek.”
I can add two more things about the legend of this record. Supposedly, Elvis had no money with him this day, so Ed Leek paid the $4, and this is why the record stayed at Ed’s house. He also made some money from this record back in 1992, when RCA purchased the rights to include it in their compilation titled ELVIS The King of Rock ’N’ Roll – The Complete 50’s Masters.
Treble Clef Gold and Diamond Ring:
Elvis’ rings are always popular at the auctions, and this one is certainly fabulous. The pre-auction estimate was $20-25,000, and it hit the high end of that range. With the 25% buyer’s premium added, the total tab was $32,500. Let’s look at what the item description said about this ring:
“Elvis’ close friends were without a doubt very important to him, and one of those friends was Sammy Davis, Jr. This ring was treasured by “The Candyman” as it was one of several gifts given to him by Elvis that he kept in his possession for the remainder of his life. The offered 14-karat gold and diamond ring is designed as a bar of music with a diamond-encrusted treble clef on one side and a stacked but offset “EP” at the other end. The size 10 ring contains 11 diamonds weighing approximately 2.5 carats, with the gold weighing approximately 12.8 g. The design is reminiscent of the gates at Graceland.”
Elvis Presley’s First Sun Record, Signed:
The heirs of Ed Leek did well on another Elvis record. A year after the “My Happiness” acetate, Leek ended up with what is probably the first autographed Elvis Sun Records single. The estimate was woefully low at $10-15,000. It cost somebody $32,500 to take this prize home. Again, here is the auction description.
“This 78 RPM record of “That’s All Right” (#209) is the first Elvis song recorded at Sun Records. Elvis’ friend Ed Leek was with Elvis to witness the initial production of Elvis’ first Sun Studio record and grabbed one of the records, which Elvis signed to Ed, writing “To a good pal, Elvis Presley” on the label. Likely the first record signed by Elvis, this record has been in the same private collection as the 1953 acetate Elvis recorded for his mother. Considered by some to be the rock and roll equivalent of the “Shot Heard Round the World,” this record jump-started the unprecedented craze over this young star. The Sun label is signed in blue ink.”
1914 Indian Head Gold 2½-Dollar Coin and Diamond Ring:
Records and rings dominate the list of top Elvis items at this auction. This beauty didn’t quite meet the estimate, but it still brought a winning bid of $18,750.
“Elvis had a great appreciation for jewelry and a particular like for jewelry that contained gold coins. He is known to have owned several rings with 2½ and 5 dollar gold pieces. The offered ring, with a U.S. 1914 2½ dollar Indian Head gold coin, was given to Tom Hulett, co-founder of Concerts West, in the 1969/1970 era. Tom was very instrumental in managing Elvis’ live performances in the last eight years of his concerts. Tom had great attention to detail and a knack for working well with Colonel Parker and as a result managed all of the Elvis concerts during this period. This fine example is surrounded by 26 round diamonds weighing approximately 1 carat total. The gold ring weighs approximately 18.6 g and measures a size 8 1/2.”
RCA Award to Colonel Parker for “In The Ghetto”:
I’m afraid some of the bidders didn’t read the fine print on this one. Note the title above. It says “RCA Award to Colonel Parker,” not “RCA Gold Record Award to Elvis.” Here’s what the gold records at Graceland look like:
I thought the estimate of $6-8,000 sounded high, so I was blown away when it went for $16,250.
“This framed RCA Victor 45 award for “In The Ghetto” is dedicated “To Col. Tom Parker In appreciation of his contribution toward making IN THE GHETTO 47-9741 A Million Seller 1969.” The song, about a boy born and raised in the ghetto of Chicago, was written by Mac Davis and originally titled “The Vicious Circle.” The song describes the rough life of the boy and how, just as he is killed, another child is born, implying that the vicious cycle of poverty and violence will continue. Elvis made the song famous in 1969 and the song hit number 3 in the U.S. charts and number 2 in the U.K. This framed display features a 45 single above a silver colored plaque, both mounted on a black velvet background. The framed display measures 14 1/8 by 12 1/8 inches.”
Neo Nautic Prescription Sunglasses Made for Elvis:
This is the second time I’ve seen so-called “Neo-Nautic” style Elvis sunglasses at auction. The other one was less ornate and sold for $6,853 in 2011. Here is a photo of Elvis wearing the other pair.
You don’t see many photos of Elvis wearing his shades in concert. Anyway, this better pair went for $15,000.
“These Neo Nautic style sunglasses with TCB custom embellishments on both arms were made for Elvis to wear for his concerts at Madison Square Garden by Dennis Roberts of Optique Boutique. Elvis often sent his sunglasses to Dennis for repairs and these glasses were sent in and never collected. The prescription sunglasses have three holes on each arm underneath the TCB embellishment. The arms show evidence of having been replaced, likely the reason they were sent to Optique Boutique for repair.”
Red Velour Shirt Worn by Elvis in “Girl Happy”:
This shirt sold previously at a Gotta’ Have It auction in 2011, and it brought in $8.216. This year it went for $12,500. However, here is a shot from the Girl Happy DVD. Seems like maybe blue should be the color to pull in this kind of money.
“The offered red velour pullover shirt with zippered collar opening has an orange MGM tag and an interior tag that reads “Sy Devore of Palm Springs Hollywood Las Vegas.” “E. Presley” has been written at the top of the tag. It comes from the MGM wardrobe collection and was worn by Elvis in the movie Girl Happy. Elvis can also be seen in various publicity photos wearing this red velour shirt. In his role, Elvis plays a band member hired by a Chicago mobster and club owner to watch over his daughter on spring break in Florida. This well documented shirt, worn by the man that has made many a girl happy.”
Elvis Necklace from 1957:
We will look at two necklaces in a row. This one is not made of a precious metal, and it has no diamonds or other jewels. However, it had 22 bids and went for $12,500.
“JD Sumner was Elvis’ bass singer in the 1970s. During performances at that time, fans would often throw tokens of their admiration for Elvis on stage at the end of each concert. Elvis would often give many of these items to JD Sumner. The offered religious pendant necklace was one such token that a fan gave Elvis. Before gifting it to JD Sumner, Elvis wore this necklace. It can be seen in images of Elvis from March 28, 1957 in Chicago meeting the press before a show [see second photo above]. The pendant with Catholic symbols on a clover-shaped design is suspended from a white metal chain and reads on the reverse ‘I am Catholic please call a priest.’”
Gold “TLC” Necklace:
“Elvis was known for gifting TCB (“Taking Care of Business”) necklaces to the men of his entourage and TLC (“Tender Loving Care”) to the women in his life. The offered necklace was one of only two of these necklaces made by a Beverly Hills jeweler for Elvis and this example was gifted by Elvis to Barbara Klein, wife of George, who was a member of Elvis’ entourage. The lightning bolt affixed to the TLC is marked “14k” on the reverse and the pendant is connected to a gold rope chain. The necklace measures approximately 18 inches long and the TLC pendant measures approximately 1 3/4 inches long.”
16MM Film of Elvis Presley in Chicago, 1957:
The pre-auction estimate sounded like a bargain at $1,500-2,000, but it turned out to be embarrassingly low. This film had 36 bids, more than any other item, and it topped out at $11,875. I hope the buyer puts it on a DVD and markets it, because that means someday it will be on YouTube. I would love to see footage of Elvis performing in 1957. And all those screaming fans.
“Offered is a 16MM reel of Elvis Presley in Chicago in 1957. The film contains black-and-white footage of the end of Elvis’ concert in Chicago and is 5 minutes 15 seconds in length. Elvis, wearing a gold lamé suit, is singing to a packed house in the first 15 seconds of the film and then again for an additional 23 seconds around minute 1. The remainder of the film documents the phenomena of the physical reactions of fans to the King of Rock and Roll. The film pans to the first aid area of the arena and features a girl who fainted being whisked to first aid and revived by police. The film continues to feature female fans overcome with emotion, some crying, some waving, and many smiling and joyful. Several seconds of the film show the Colonel smoking a cigar and signing autographs. Many of the fans can be seen wearing large “I Like Elvis” buttons on their lapels. A fantastic peek into the raw emotions of fans after an Elvis concert. The film has no sound track and is contained in a period round metal container with a fabric tape label.”
Elvis’ First Driver’s License, 1952
I knew this would bring big bucks, but it came in lower than I expected, and less than the $15-20,000 estimate. Still, $11,875 is nothing to sneeze at. I’ll bet the new owner puts it in a proper display frame. Wonder why the previous owner didn’t. He could have gotten more money for it.
“This significant document is the Tennessee operator’s (driver’s) license that Elvis obtained on March 24, 1952. It is accompanied by a completed form listing the same information. Both documents are signed by Elvis Presley. The license number is 1688827, with No 0197445 on the reverse, which lists no violations. The paper license (with no photo) was issued by the State of Tennessee and expired July 1, 1953. Both documents list his date of birth as 1-8-35, eye color as blue, weight as 153, occupation as student, hair color as “Bro” and height as 5’11 1/2”. The name is printed on the form and typed on the license as “Elvis Aron Presley.” The original typed address on the driver’s license is 185 Winchester, at the Lauderdale Courts public housing development in Memphis where the Presley family once lived. Penciled in next to that is an updated address of 698 Saffarans Avenue in downtown Memphis. The operator’s license measures approximately 3 1/2 by 2 1/4 inches.
“Condition: The operator’s license is in fair condition with several tears expected from a paper document likely carried in a teenager’s wallet. The license also exhibits paper loss at edges, most notably under the “Presley” portion of the signature (leaving approximately 60% of the signature intact). The license has been covered in tape, which has caused the document to discolor severely.”
Next week we will look at the few losers that didn’t receive the minimum bid.
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