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Movie artifacts rake in big bucks at auctions

Marketplace Contributor Jul 27, 2012

Movie artifacts rake in big bucks at auctions

Marketplace Contributor Jul 27, 2012

Tess Vigeland: You had to wonder about Hollywood’s business model a while back, when a few of the major studios started auctioning off some of their most famous props and costumes. On eBay! They’ve since pulled back from that idea — and with good reason, it seems. There’s a fortune to be made these days selling movie memorabilia through specialty auction houses. This weekend, there’s a, shall we say, dramatic case in point.

One of the biggest private troves of tinseltown treasures is up for auction. Here’s our senior business correspondent Bob Moon.

Bob Moon: What would Willy Wonka think? The starting bid for his purple-jacket costume will be $60- to $80,000, and the famous top hat worn by Gene Wilder starts at $20- to $30,000. The whole costume could sell for as much as Wilder got paid to make the movie.

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka: I hope you enjoy it. I think you will. And now, would you please show me your Golden Tickets?

You can buy those, too, and some other mouth-watering props from the original movie. Joe Maddalena runs the Southern California auction firm Profiles in History. He says some of these keepsakes were given to the actress who played the movie’s greedy character Veruca Salt, when she celebrated her birthday on the set.

Joe Maddalena: They gave her her Gobstopper, and they gave her her Golden Ticket. You own Veruca’s Golden Ticket — what’s that worth?

Moon: Bidding starts at?

Maddalena: $20- to $30,000, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that sold for 50 grand.

Now it’s not Veruca’s, anymore. It belongs to the construction and real estate mogul behind Ryland Homes. Chad Dreier’s family has amassed a wide-ranging collection — everything from “Austin Powers” to the “X-Men.”

Maddalena: They bought the most iconic, recognizable costumes they could, over 10 years of really aggressive collecting.

Maddalena says the Dreiers set out collecting sports memorabilia, but soon learned movie stuff had a much wider appeal.

Maddalena: Take a baseball player like Mickey Mantle — you go outside of the country, they may or may not have ever heard of him. You can go anywhere in the world, and they know who Harry Potter is.

Actually, there are no Potter prizes on the block. But Maddalena took me out to the showroom floor for a look at what is up for grabs this weekend. The items include treasures from the first Christopher Reeve “Superman” movie.

Maddalena: OK, so this is Marlon Brando’s costume. He was Superman’s father. This is a reflective duct tape. It has ground up glass in it. In the movie, Marlon Brando is white. He looks like a god. He kind of glows. This is $60- to $80,000.

Across the room, Chewbacca’s well-groomed head is on display — also starting at $60- to $80,000, so I figured I’d have to settle for something smaller from “Star Wars.”

Moon: What’s a light saber going to cost me?

Maddalena: I think they’re $15- to $20,000.

They are — and they don’t even really make that sound!

Maddalena says bids come in by mail, phone and Internet from as far away as China and the Middle East. He thinks of it as a new form of art collecting, but he cautions against seeing it as an investment: Your treasure could become the next generation’s trash.

He says the safest bets come from the classics — like maybe this jacket with a tear in the back.

Maddalena: Ferris Bueller is iconic. That jacket is so recognizable. It’s a beloved film.

Edie McClurg in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”: They think he’s a righteous dude.

As Ferris might say, life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around this weekend, you could miss the chance.

In Los Angeles, I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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