Sadly, only one of the last four Graceland Auctions offered more than a minimal selection of Elvis’ wardrobe. Here are the two items offered on Jan 6, 2018 during the Elvis Birthday Week celebration.
1970s Leather Jacket:
The auction website says, “Leather jackets have always been synonymous with the kind of cool of which Elvis Presley certainly had no shortage.”
This light brown leather coat with three-button front closure and two side pockets was one of several that Elvis owned in various colors. A manufacturer’s tag at the back collar states, “Genuine Leather / by Grais / Made in U.S.A.” Rubin Grais was an immigrant shoe maker from Russia who came to the U.S. and adapted his skills to create one of the iconic leather manufacturers of the ’40s and ’50s.
Elvis gave this coat to his bodyguard, Dave Hebler, who worked for him from 1972 to 1976. A Letter of Authenticity from Hebler states,
“One day Elvis invited me upstairs to his bedroom at Graceland and offered me all of his jumpsuits. He complained that they no longer fit him and that he wanted them out of his closet. I told him I had no use for his jumpsuits nor did I have the ability to store them at my apartment. I then moved a majority of the jumpsuits to the shed at the back of Graceland. I did receive several jackets including this brown leather jacket. Elvis had several of these.”
Perhaps because there was no accompanying photo of Elvis wearing the coat, the auction had an estimate of $3 – 4,000, which seemed pretty cheap to me. Somebody picked up a good deal at $2,875 including the auction surcharge.
Signed Shirt from Elvis’ Personal Wardrobe:
Besides being a typically cool Elvis shirt, this one has an interesting history. The green shirt has gold buttons down the front and gold stars across the chest and on the collar and cuffs.
Elvis was well-known for his generosity and philanthropy, which became a long-standing tradition. A good example is Elvis donating this shirt to Memphis Boy Scout Troop #225 to raise money for their Jamboree Trip Fund. Tickets were printed for the raffle and each sold for a donation of 50 cents.
Harold A. Smith purchased this ticket in 1973 and was the lucky winner. Harold’s wife Shirley, who was a part-time nurse at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, took the shirt to work when Elvis was there as a patient and was able to get his autograph on the lower left front side.
Smith had the shirt framed, and it hung in his KOA campground office as a big attraction until he sold the campground in 1984.
Although there is no picture of Elvis wearing the shirt, it is stamped “Elvis” in the collar, and the lot includes the winning ticket and a Memphis Press-Semiter newspaper article about Elvis’ donation to the Boy Scout troop. However, it is the autograph that made it a highly prized Elvis double collectible. The minimum starting price was $8,000, and the winning bid was $11,250.
Now, I would like to take a look at Elvis’ clothing items from the Gotta Have Rock and Roll auction held earlier this month.
Elvis purchased a lot of clothing from IC Costume Co. including this orange and blue paisley long sleeved, button down shirt. Elvis gave the shirt to his Aunt Delta in the 1970’s. There is no accompanying photo of Elvis wearing the shirt, but it does come with a letter of provenance from Aunt Delta. The estimate was $4 – 6,000, and it went for $3,993.
Green Suede Pullover Top:
Elvis’ personally owned and worn custom green suede pullover top with the Anton, Beverly Hills label and his initials “EP” sewn on as labels. Elvis gifted this shirt and many other articles of clothing to his close friend Charlie Hodge. Like the preceding shirt, the estimate was $4 – 6,000, and it went for $3,993.
Black Faux Fur Pants:
These unusual pants also came from the IC Costume Company. Elvis seemingly gave away his clothing to everybody, this time to his uncle Vester Presley (Vernon’s brother) one day when he was cleaning out his closets. For some reason, the minimum bid was only $2,000, but six bids pushed the winning number up to $4,290. Too bad they didn’t come up with a photo of Elvis wearing faux fur pants.
The facts are the same on this red and blue paisley long sleeved shirt as the previous one – made by IC Costume Co, given to his Aunt Delta, and an estimate of $4 – 6,000. However, it sold for $3,300, which is $693 less. I can’t figure out why they weren’t valued the same.
From this point on, we will look at something I’ve never seen before at auctions of Elvis’ wardrobe – six NO BIDS.
Pale Blue Balloon-Sleeved Shirt:
First we have another Elvis owned and worn IC Costume Co. shirt with pale blue balloon-sleeves and large pointed collar. Elvis gave the shirt to his close friend and valet Richard Davis. It seems like stuff Elvis gave to Davis has been showing up at auctions for a decade. I wonder when the supply will run out. The minimum bid was only $2,000, but nobody cared to pony up that much. Maybe the shirt was too plain.
Stay Away Joe Red Wine Denim Jacket:
Elvis wore this red wine colored denim jacket in his film “Stay Away Joe.” It is one of several denim jackets made for Elvis to wear in the film. Elvis gave the jacket to Charlie Hodge who was an extra on the movie. Hodge apparently accumulated a ton of Elvis’ clothing over the years. Also offered were three photographs of Elvis wearing the jacket during filming, such as in the shotgun wedding scene.
I have always maintained that photos of Elvis wearing an article of clothing enhanced its value to collectors. That must have been the thinking when the minimum bid was set at $8,000 and the estimate at $9 – 12,000. Pretty strong, and it must have scared off potential bidders. Also, this is movie wardrobe, not clothing that Elvis purchased and wore in his personal life.
Suzy Cream Cheese Two-Tone Brown Suede Fringed Jacket:
The back of this stunning two-toned brown suede fringed jacket is shown in the first photo of this post. Elvis gave it to his friend Shaun Nielsen, who first met Elvis when he was a back-up singer on his gospel album “How Great Thou Art.” Shaun sang with Elvis until his final show, and one day when they were recording in the Jungle Room at Graceland, Elvis took the members of his band and vocalists upstairs and told them each to pick out something that they liked. This jacket was just one of many items he gave to Nielson. The minimum bid of $7,000 seemed reasonable to me, but not to the bidders.
Suede Shearling Coat:
Elvis’ personally owned and worn tan suede coat that he purchased from one of his favorite stores, Goldsmith’s in Memphis. Goldsmiths would often open late at night for Elvis so that he could shop privately.
These are two of the three supplied photos of Elvis wearing the coat.
Elvis gave this coat to Richard Davis who took care of his wardrobe and eventually became Elvis’ wardrobe manager. With three supporting photos, I thought the minimum bid of $6,000 was reasonable. Shows how much I know. Nobody bid.
Blue Track Suit with Red and White Stripes:
Elvis owned and wore this blue track suit with red and white stripes. He wore it at Graceland and when traveling on his plane. Elvis gave the track suit to Aunt Delta.
It does come with a photo, but the auction website says “Comes with a photo of the same track suit, or one virtually the same (I added the italics).” That might have tampered the enthusiasm of the bidders, and surely the minimum bid of $5,000 did.
Burgundy Patent Leather Boots:
Burgundy patent leather boots that Elvis wore off-stage for his casual every day wear. They ended up with Charlie Hodge who make a surprising statement in his letter of provenance: “Elvis’ shoe size varied from size 10 to 12.5 depending on the make of the shoes or boots.”
Here’s an included photo which the website says shows Elvis wearing the same, or very similar boots. There’s not even much of the boots showing. The estimate was $5 – 7,000, but again no bids.
So, a total of six items of Elvis’ wardrobe drew no bids. I’ve mentioned several possible reasons for this unheard of occurrence. But I think the big problem was that this Gotta Have Rock & Roll auction featured memorabilia from dozens of singers and bands. It probably attracted many bidders with no interest in Elvis.
On the other hand, the Graceland Auctions are 100% Elvis items, and they are scheduled to be part of big events like Elvis Week. My suggestion to the owners of the no-bid items here is to try again at the Graceland Auction in January 2019. With slightly lower minimum bids on the Stay Away Joe jacket and the track suit, I think every one of six items will draw multiple bidders and sell.
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