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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Celeb Seconds: When Used Stuff is Valuable

Want to know when the odds turn even with used seconds? When they belong to celebrities and the goodies are being auctioned off at twice or thrice their value, especially if the celebrity is dead. Recently, some old photographs of Marilyn Monroe surfaced and people (who can afford to buy it) went crazy bidding for it. This has been the case for every dead celebrity – and pretty soon you’ll see something belonging to Michael Jackson being sold at Christie’s or Sotheby – may be his mask or his trademark glove.

An Indian connection is that Mahatma Gandhi’s belongings were auctioned recently in New York - 248 art items, 2,947 letters, 1,583 pictures, 31 cartoons, 407 documents and 513 publications - and some of it was acquired by Vijay Mallya.

He also recently acquired Tipu Sultan’s sword, which was a very patriotic gesture on his part to keep some of India’s artifacts within the country itself, instead of it all being bought for some private collection abroad.

Abroad celebrity auctions are much more common and a huge industry. Some of the people are so celeb obsessed and who constantly monitor them via their blogs and the various social networking websites, are now hawking their discarded clothes, shoes, jewellery and other assorted items like autographed bottles of wine etc on websites.

Sometimes, movie stars and sports stars hawk off stuff to benefit their favourite charities or when there is a crisis of some sort on a national or international scale like hurricane relief or war relief work. Then they volunteer to give their time at shelters and man the helplines but this kind of stuff rarely brings the recipients of their charity anything more substantial than their good cheer and goodwill. They certainly won’t be auctioning of their used stuff at a time like this.

But stars have auctioned off more than old things that they have used. They have auctioned off kisses – George Clooney did this and Charlize Theron kissed a woman who bid the highest, for this privilege. Actor Will Ferrell auctioned off a role in a movie! In India, Sachin Tendulkar auctioned off a cricket bat for a charity called Apnalaya. When Michael Jackson came to India during his ‘Dangerous’ tour and stayed at the Oberoi Towers in Mumbai, he left behind a pillowcase on which he had scribbled a few lines and a lot of people were eager to get their hands on it.

Sometimes, things that are up for sale are just bizarre items, such as Scarlett Johansson’s used tissue! Why would even a wealthy lunatic be interested in something like this is beyond reasoning.

On the other hand, there are some celebrities whose worldly goods were auctioned off when they were alive and the proceeds were given to charity. Princess Diana gave away some of her gorgeous clothes at her elder son Prince William’s suggestion, when she was alive. I’ve read her butler Paul Burrell’s memoir ‘A Royal Duty’, where he claims that she wanted to sell her wedding dress as well but after her death, her brother Earl Charles Spencer has not honoured this wish. Instead, that famous gown is in a museum (dedicated to her) on their ancestral estate, Althorp. Since she’s buried there, the place gets a lot of tourist traffic who drop by to pay their homage to her, so Burrell alleged that the Earl has made money out of displaying it there. Anyway, such is the power of celebrity seconds!

In fact, her clothes (the ones that were not sold) have even travelled about as a moving exhibit around the US, where people have viewed them. A portion of the proceeds of the exhibit went directly to her foundation, which services the individual charities she worked for.

Other well known celebrities whose belongings were auctioned after their death were Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her first husband President John F. Kennedy. This couple's belongings have been put on sale by their daughter, Caroline, and even the most mundane things are grabbed by souvenir hunters for surreal prices. Read more details on the sale here - The Kennedy Tag Sale

In fact, anyone who watched ‘Seinfeld’, must have seen that episode where Elaine Benice goes to the auction and bids for Kennedy’s golf clubs on behalf of her boss…and pays twice the amount he actually suggests he wants to pay. What’s more, she leaves it in Jerry Seinfeld’s car, which in turn gets ‘stolen’ by his irate garage mechanic! You’ve got to see this episode if you haven’t but mainly because such an expensive old and used merchandise is taken around for a joyride – in this case literally.

Actress and diva Elizabeth Taylor is famous for her violet eyes, eight marriages and her fabulous jewellery collection, which she got from her husbands, especially Richard Burton. One pear shaped 68.09 carat Cartier diamond called the Burton-Taylor diamond was auctioned off by her, to help build a hospital in Botswana. After her death, she wants her remaining jewellery to be sold off to people, who will love it and care for it as much as she did.

Yet another category of celebrity is the one who may be facing a temporary financial crunch and wants to tide over it by selling jewellery. In this case, actress Ellen Barkin may have just been getting rid of some heavyweight baggage from a failed marriage to billionaire Ronald Perelman – he owns Revlon and Marvel Comics among other things. She sold over 100 pieces of jewellery he had gifted her when she was going through a messy divorce. She has been considered astute for doing this because she netted a nice sum of money (over and above her alimony or prenup) for all that blinky stuff, that she was probably anyway tired of flaunting, in the first place. Besides she can always buy herself new stuff.

Here is an excerpt about her jewellery from the prospectus put out by Christie’s:

Among the highlights are four “thread” rings set with magnificent diamonds. Leading this group is a ring set with an elegant elongated D color (the best), oval-cut diamond of 22.76 carats, within a pavĂ©-set diamond two-tiered threadwork gallery (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000) and a thread ring set with a cushion-shaped fancy deep orangey-brown “apricot” diamond of 31.85 carats (estimate: $600,000-800,000).

A pair of oriental pearl and diamond ear pendants each suspending a drop-shaped natural pearl, capped with an antique Indian bead cluster, is an example of the jeweler’s taste for lavish and subtle detail (image left, estimate: $350,000-500,000).

Other highlights include a spectacular diamond “Gardenia” ring sculpted as a natural flower blossom, made of diamonds (estimate: $100,000-150,000), a pair of charming cushion-cut faint pink and D color Golconda diamond bangles of 5.15 and 4.46 carats, respectively (estimate: $350,000-500,000), and a colored diamond “bonnet” ring centering upon a pear-shaped brownish pink diamond of 2.94 carats (estimate: $70,000-100,000). Read more here: Celeb seconds: Ellen Barkin's bling & baubles.
Just judging from the ‘estimated’ price, one can imagine what the value of this collection must have been. So, who said seconds were boring? If you’ve got the money, then you can actually buy a piece of history and glamour. What’s more, such second hand items make for great deals for your descendants. They will be just sitting on a goldmine of sorts. Ofcourse, not everyone can buy such second hand products, but those who can afford it, should go out and find such deals.

Move over art and gold. Here is another great form of investment.

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