As we wind up the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Marilyn Monroe, we thought you might enjoy to see just how much money a few of her things recently sold for at auction. Let us just warn you, these are just ‘things’ that’s all. And yet, people were willing to pay huge sums to possess something that Marilyn had worn or touched. Even today, 50 years after her passing, she still ranks as one of the biggest draws monetarily at auctions.
The Seven Year Itch Dress: $5.6 Million
There are few images more iconic than that of Marilyn Monroe standing over a New York City subway grate as a gust of wind blows up her dress in The Seven Year Itch. With this being the most famous photo shoot of Monroe’s life, it’s no surprise that auction attendees were willing to spend big bucks to get their hands on the legendary white pleated dress. Actress Debbie Reynolds sold Monroe’s costume for $5.6 million, just one piece of her personal Hollywood memorabilia collection.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President Gown: $1,267,500
One of the most memorable Marilyn moments was when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in Madison Square Garden in 1962 for his 45th birthday. Marilyn Monroe wore a jewel-encrusted, nude dress that she was rumored to have been sewn into. In 1999, the widow of Monroe’s former acting coach, Lee Strasberg, put the dress up for auction. A Manhattan-based collectible company Gotta Have It! paid $1,267,500 for the one-of-a-kind gown. The president of Gotta Have It! Robert Schargen, told reporters at the time that he would have paid twice that amount.
Wedding Band from Joe DiMaggio: $772,500
Two years after Monroe started dating famous Yankee Joe DiMaggio, the two married in San Francisco on January 14, 1954. After their wedding, he gave her a platinum eternity band with thirty-five baguette-cut diamonds, which sold at a Christie’s in 1999 for $772,500. Though their notoriously tumultuous marriage didn’t last, like the song Marilyn sang, the diamonds certainly are forever.
Baby Grand Piano: $662,500
It took years of searching for Monroe to track down the white piano belonging to her mother, Gladys. After her mother, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, was institutionalized, most of the family’s belongings were sold, including the sentimental piano. “My happiest hours as a little girl were around that piano,” the actress once said, according to The New York Times. “Even when I didn’t have enough money to eat, I borrowed money to keep that piano in storage.” In 1999, Mariah Carey purchased this piano from Christie’s. “I had to fight for it,” Carey told Playboy of the piano in 2007. “I know it was expensive, but it was important to me. It’s in my will that if anything should happen to me, the piano goes to a museum, which is where I think it should have gone in the first place.” Carey even recently named her ‘Baby Monroe’ after the late actress.
Rolex Gift to JFK: $120,000
After crooning “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to JFK, Monroe reportedly gave him a gold Rolex with the inscription: “Jack, with love as always Marilyn May 29th 1962.” The scandalous birthday gift—which, rumor has it, JFK instructed his aide, Kenneth O’Donnell to get rid of—sold for $120,000 back in 2005. There has since been a lot of speculation about the watch’s place in history. Bill Panagopulos, founder of Alexander Autographs, the Greenwich, CT auction house where the Rolex sold, opened up about the discrepancy: “It’s the hardest thing I have ever had to estimate, historic relics, especially when there is a hint of scandal attached, defy any attempt by an auctioneer to estimate their selling price.”
Makeup Case: $266,500
No one looks as good as Marilyn Monroe without the help of at least a little makeup. Monroe’s 5-drawer travel makeup case, filled with cosmetics—some of which were still in their original boxes—was auctioned off at Christies in 1999 for $266,500. The case included lipsticks, eyeliner, nail polish, paper fans and a small collection of matchbooks from restaurants like long-running NYC theater district hotspot Sardi’s.
It’s crazy. The amount of money spent on her ‘things’ just baffles us. We think that Marilyn would agree and that she would encourage these people to help the needy, our troups, or an animal shelter instead.
So, as August comes to an end, we wanted to remind you that the Celebration of Marilyn’s Life is still on for a few more days. You can still win some fabulous prizes. For further details about our competition this month, please see our other blog titled “A Celebration of Marilyn.”
K.R. and T.L.