According to a Heritage Auction catalog from 2011, Elvis had over 400 pairs of custom-designed sunglasses specially made for him. He gave away so many pairs that there has been a steady parade of them showing up in numerous Elvis auctions. Most have been of this familiar design:
Note the three holes of descending size on the temples. There are variations of this one, especially on the arch over the nose.
The early versions did not contain the EP.
But there is another unique and stunning sunglasses style that Elvis loved. There were several design variations on this too, mostly on the temples.
This has been called Nautic or Neo-Nautic design. Here’s an early version of it.
You can see there is no design on the temples.
Then the TCB lightning bolt design was added to the temples. This pair sold at Heritage Auctions for $11,950 in 2011.
Note on this pair that there are the three holes of descending size plus the TCB lightning bolt design. This pair sold at the January 2015 Graceland Auction for $15,000. According to the online catalog:
“These Neo Nautic style prescription 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.”
And here, the lenses on this pair are half-tinted in Elvis’ favorite Dove Blue shade.
As you can see, collectors shelled out some big bucks for Elvis’ Nautic style sunglasses. They even paid $6,853 for a broken pair at a 2011 Gotta Have It auction.
Elvis wore these Nautic 14 KT gold sunglasses during his concert at the Las Vegas Hilton on July 22, 1974. Between songs, he gave a karate demonstration, and somehow he broke the glasses.
When I studied the online catalog for the recent Rockhurst Auction, I blew past a pair of Elvis Nautic sunglasses. I had covered them so much in previous posts that I didn’t think they were that interesting. That changed when Jeff Marren at Rockhurst sent me an email with his choice for the five most noteworthy items, and it included the Nautic sunglasses.
So, I took a second look and realized why they were noteworthy. The top bid was $43,125.
The online catalog had this to say about this pair:
‘The offered Neostlye “Nautic” model sunglasses were customized for Elvis Presley with the addition of his trademark 14k gold “TCB” logos to each arm, creating one of the most iconic items he ever wore. The glasses were eventually gifted to his close friend and Memphis Mafia member Sonny West.”
“Elvis discovered the Nautics in the early 1970s at Optique Boutique in Beverly Hills, and had them customized by the shop’s owner Dennis Roberts. Based on an interview with the creator of the Nautic glasses, He liked them so much he ordered 5 there and then a further 3 solid gold frames ornately embellished on temples.”
“The offered sunglasses were one of those pairs. The gold-tone frames (not solid gold) are embellished with the “TCB” logo and a lightning bolt near each temple applied to the arms. On the interior of the right arm is stamped “NEOSTYLE MADE IN GERMANY 140,” and on the interior of the left arm is stamped “140 NEOSTYLE 822 60 18.”
On the back of the bridge the initials of Dennis Roberts “DBR” are engraved.”
I guess this extra detailing and engraving has something to do with why these glasses went for $43,125 in 2020, and the very similar-looking pair pictured earlier went for only $11,950 in 2011. Maybe the first one had just gold-tone TCB accents, not 14K gold.
Maybe some folks got caught up in a bidding war. There were 17 bids.
Maybe it was partly due to the general upward trend in values for premium Elvis collectibles.
Maybe it’s because this is one super-cool pair of sunglasses.
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