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Category Archives: Memorabilia

The world’s biggest collection

In some respects Zero Fretas is just like any other obsessive record collector.

He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music.

He has a beard.

But in other ways Fretas is very different.

Largely because he’s one of the richest men in Brazil – and he cannot stop buying records.

Fretas owns the world's biggest record collection

Fretas owns the world’s biggest record collection

He is the owner of the world’s biggest record collection.

In fact it’s the world’s biggest collection, period.

No one is able to put an exact number on it, but cautious estimates place it somewhere in the region of several million.

At present, he employs a host of people to catalogue it – a task that is expected to take around 20 years to complete.

It’s breathtakingly eclectic.

It includes a copy of almost every record ever pressed in Cuba (around 100,000) and a set of 15,000 polka albums.

While many of his records are unique, around 30% are duplicates. He owns 1,793 copies of the first album he ever bought, Roberto Carlos Sings to the Children.

His mission? To own a copy of every record ever produced.

Fretas is certainly not alone.

The Sultan of Brunei, for instance, owns the world’s largest collection of cars – around 7,000 in total.

That’s an astronomical number, particularly when you take into account that we’re talking Ferrari Berlinettas and Lamborghini Diablos rather than Ford Fiestas and Nissan Micras.

At the weirder end of the scale we have Danny Fleming from Grimsby, who owns a collection of 105 pairs of bagpipes.

There is something awe inspiring about a truly vast collection and the same urge, whether or not it takes on this epic scale, is something that drives all collectors.

We can all relate to that heart-pounding moment when you come across the one thing that you’ve been looking for and equally, the satisfaction that a collection brings.

Tom

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Collectors gear up for Elvis auction

A major sale of artefacts from the life of Elvis Presley is due to take place at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee later today. The auction consists of 72 lots and includes everything from his marriage certificate to his front door keys.

Ahead of the event, let’s take a brief look at some of the most interesting lots.

Early signature

The signature is one of the  earliest known examples

The signature is one of the earliest known examples

Elvis signed this library card in 1947 when he was in 7th grade. During that year he was beginning to gain recognition for his singing and performed twice on local personality Mississippi Slim’s radio show.

The piece is one of the earliest known examples of Elvis’ signature, meaning its likely to attract a high degree of interest from collectors.

Shooting target

Elvis was an avid gun collector

Elvis was an avid gun collector

Elvis had an enormous collection of guns. After a number of death threats he carried one on his person at all times, even while he was on stage.

His penchant for firing at the TV whenever singer and longtime rival Robert Goulet appeared onscreen in the stuff of legend.

This target was set up in his smokehouse in the grounds of Graceland, which he used as a shooting range.

Marriage certificate

Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas

Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas

This marriage certificate records Elvis’ wedding to Priscilla in Las Vegas in 1967. The couple spent a total of eight minutes in the chapel before jetting off for their honeymoon.

Ironically it was sent back to the marriage office stamped “return to sender” and was kept by one of the clerks, who sold it at auction in the mid 90s.

Keys

These keys were used in the couple's honeymoon

These keys were used in the couple’s honeymoon

This set of keys for Elvis’ holiday home in Palm Springs, California were taken on his honeymoon with Priscilla. The couple spent a couple of days in the luxury apartment before flying on to Memphis.

A Los Angeles Police Department keyring is a nice touch. Alongside his gun obsession, Elvis was an avid collector of police badges.

by Tom

The world’s most valuable signature

Day in day out we sell some of the world’s rarest autographs.

From James Dean to Henry VIII, if you can imagine it we’ve either got it or can get it.

However, there’s one I can guarantee that we’ll never have in stock.

I’ll give you a clue.

It belongs to the greatest writer in history.

The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare has led some to speculate that the bard may have been Jewish

The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare has led some to speculate that the bard may have been Jewish

There are only six known copies of William Shakespeare’s autograph in existence – all of which feature on legal documents and are housed under lock and key in some of the world’s most prestigious institutions.

If one was to ever sell, it’s estimated that it would go for around $5m.

That figure would increase significantly if it was attached to a manuscript copy of one of his plays, not a single copy of which has ever surfaced.

Shakespeare's will - one of the few manuscripts to feature his signature

Shakespeare’s will – one of the few manuscripts to feature his signature

The extraordinary value placed on his signature is far above that for any other person, a phenomenon that can be explained both by his extraordinary contribution to literature and the air of mystery that surrounds him.

Despite his fame and status, we still known very little about Shakespeare.

The fact that very few records or relics are known to have survived means that there is no market for memorabilia pertaining to him, despite enormous demand.

As a result copies of his folios, printed after his death, regularly break six figures – with one selling for $6.1m in 2001.

Origin story – just who was the world’s first superhero?

Origin story – just who was the world’s first superhero?

If you have a head for comics, you’ll know that the sale of a copy of Action Comics #1 has just been announced.

Without a doubt, Action Comics #1 is the most important comic book of all time, as reflected in its price

Without a doubt, Action Comics #1 is the most important comic book of all time, as reflected in its price

The comic is expected to be the first to make over the $3m mark, with another example – owned by the meme-mogul Nicholas Cage – selling for a staggering $2.1m back in 2011.

That’s the world record price for any comic book. So what’s so special about Action Comics #1?

Quite simply, Action Comics #1 is what started it all. Comic books captured the imaginations of the pre-war population, but until Action Comics arrived on the scene, it was all super sleuths and jungle-dwelling ape-men, not the laser-eyed, lycra-clad crime fighters we know today.

Then Superman appeared with his superhuman strength, invulnerability to harm, ability to fly, superspeed and x-ray vision, changing the game forever. He was the archetype for all others to come, the standard by which all others would be tested.

Yet there is an often overlooked hero that also lays claim to being the world’s first superhero. Devoid of any super powers, he instead gave rise to the classic superhero image – skin-tight suit, masked face and muscle bound.

The super camp superhero look is all down to The Phantom

The super camp superhero look is all down to The Phantom

The Phantom, real name Kit Walker, is the 21st in a line of crime fighters that originated in 1536, with his ancestor swore an oath to fight evil after his father was killed by a pirate.

While many believe he is immortal and his nicknames include, “The Ghost Who Walks” and “The Man Who Cannot Die”, The Phantom relies on his strength, intelligence and reputation to kick butt in the fictional African country of Bangalla.

What’s more, he debuted in 1936 as part of a newspaper syndicate, meaning he arrived two full years before Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster came up with Superman.

The Phantom could be considered the start of the "Golden Age" of comic books

The Phantom could be considered the start of the “Golden Age” of comic books

And for those collectors out there fascinated with the history of comic books, The Phantom couldn’t be a better buy. Currently, works from the early days of the Phantom’s long career sell for around $10,000 – a steal compared to Superman and some of the other early stars.

Even better, as The Phantom made his way through the decades, his looks was penned by some of the industry’s top artists, including Carmine Infantino, Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr.

And The Phantom set for his very own big-screen appearance, with the news announced in May 2014. Hopefully, Billy Zane (who starred in the awful 1996 movie effort) will stay well clear of this one.

The current hype surrounding any superhero blockbuster means prices are rising fast in the collecting market, and The Phantom could be a top-seller before long – you heard it here first!

Amazing grace: Margot Fonteyn’s costumes now selling at PFC Auctions

Amazing grace: Margot Fonteyn’s costumes now selling at PFC Auctions

When Adrian first walked in announcing PFC Auctions’ sale of two costumes worn by Margot Fonteyn, my first response was, “who?”Margot-Fonteyn-410

Call me ignorant, but I had never heard of the dame. The rest of the office were – as I’m sure you are – well aware of Fonteyn and were obviously excited.

A quick Google revealed that Fonteyn was actually one of the greatest ballet dancers ever to have lived, famed for her unrivalled partnership with the world renowned Rudolph Nureyev.

Margot Fonteyn, skirt, ballet, costumes, memorabilia, autograph, collectible, Margot Fonteyn, Nureyev, Romeo & Juliet

Fonteyn’s skirt worn in Romeo & Juliet with Rudolph Nureyev

For years, their immortal performances in Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet among others had passed me by. Admittedly, I’m not the most dedicated lover of ballet, but the way that Fonteyn moves across the stage has had me captivating from the first demi-plié down to the final faille.

But what really piqued my interest was the fascinating character behind one of ballet’s most beautiful dancers.

Prima Ballerina Assoluta of The Royal Ballet, performing for Queen Elizabeth II, Margot Fonteyn had formed one of the most successful ballet partnerships of her day with Robert Helpmann by 1961.

Standing at the top of the ballet world, she was expected to retire aged 42.

The beautiful jewel-encrusted bodice worn by Fonteyn in Swan Lake - one of her defining performances

The beautiful jewel-encrusted bodice worn by Fonteyn in Swan Lake – one of her defining performances

However, one of the most exciting young male dancers, Rudolph Nureyev, decided to defect from the Soviet Union just as she was due to announced her departure.

Fonteyn couldn’t resist one last moment in the spotlight, and immediately formed a partnership with Nureyev, performing Giselle when he was just 24.

Despite rumoured love affairs with the bisexual Nureyev, Fonteyn had married Dr Roberto Arias, a Panamanian diplomat, in 1955 and remained loyal to him. So much so, that she became embroiled in her husband’s failed coup d’etat on the South American state in 1959, forcing her to return to England from her adopted home.

But Dr Arias had made his enemies, and in 1964 one of them shot him, leaving him quadriplegic. It seems Fonteyn’s desire to continue dancing was not only spurred by her love of the art form, but also by the need to pay for her husband’s increasing medical bills.

She continued to dance until 1979, when she was a remarkable 60 years old. Amazingly, she returned to the stage in February 1986 for one final performance as The Queen in The sleeping Beauty – even then her skills surpassed many of the young dancers that night.

Simply put, Fonteyn was an icon, one of inimitable charm and beauty, whose dances are skill widely talked about today among ballet fans.

I only wish that I could have seen her perform in the flesh, yet the stunning costumes currently selling at PFC Auctions have brought me closer to the world’s greatest ballet dancer than I could ever have hoped.

Discover more about Margot Fonteyn and place your bids here: www.pfcauctions.comFonteyn-Swan-Lake-2

How the Soviets won the space race

The news that a Soviet VA space capsule is to auction in Brussels on May 7 is hugely exciting for space memorabilia collectors.

To those with a more casual interest in the subject, it may appear less exciting, yet its story may surprise you.

The Soviets developed the VA in the early 1960s, with the intention of using it to land a human on the Moon.

VA space capsule

The VA space capsule

While today we think of the Americans as the undisputed victors of that particular aspect of the space race, in reality events didn’t really play out exactly as they were portrayed in the Western media.

In fact, the Russians were the first to get an object to land on to the surface of the satellite in 1959 (even if it did crash). In 1966, they made their first unmanned soft landing in January with the Luna 9 probe, a full five months before the Americans managed the same with Surveyor 1.

Sputnik was the first man made object in Space

Sputnik was the first satellite to be launched into Space

Add this to the wealth of other Russian firsts (first man in space, first woman in space, first lunar orbit etc) and you begin to understand why the US was so desperate to land a man on the Moon.

This wasn’t just about proving technological superiority. This was ideological.

The most crucial aspect of this narrative is that the Russians were never really committed to manned missions, mainly due to the enormous expense of such a project. A half hearted attempt, begun in 1964, never left the ground, having been floored by a lack of funding.

Had they levelled the entire apparatus and resources of the state at the project, as happened in the US, it’s entirely possible that the first words transmitted from the Moon may have been in Russian. They’d proven that they had the technical ability, they simply lacked the will.

So the VA capsule, designed to ferry passengers to the Moon, was used instead to transport cosmonauts between the first space station (1971) and earth – a feat of equal importance.

If we think of the space race as a relay rather than a series of events building up to the Moon landing, the Russians come out ahead every time.

Tom

Curse of the Hemingways – a hereditary horror story

Around a month or so ago at PBA Galleries, an archive of Ernest Hemingway’s family photos came up for auction.

The young Ernest Hemingway stands awkwardly at the far right

The young Ernest Hemingway stands awkwardly at the far right

A great set of collectible photographs from a great writer, but little more. They sold for $4,800.

Then, last night, I was channel hopping when I came across a documentary on Hemingway’s life. Having read a few of his books, I decided to give it a watch.

If nothing else, his famous Action Man-style machismo would keep me amused…

Ernest Hemingway family

Hemingway with Pauline and his sons

I was surprised when the show featured a number of Hemingway’s relatives. It’s rare that any great writers’ family want to be interviewed, especially with the famously unhappy childhood that Hemingway’s children shared.

The man was stern and had little time for small children. One of his sons remembered being yelled at for making the smallest noise while his father was writing upstairs.

The model family: Pauline Pfeiffer worked for Vogue and showed little interest in her children

The model family: Pauline Pfeiffer worked for Vogue and showed little interest in her children

Their mother, Hemingway’s second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, was a socialite who worked in Paris for Vanity Fair and Vogue – she had little affection for the children, spurred by difficult pregnancies, and they would be ushered in to kiss her on the cheek before school, their only contact with her each day.

“I hated her guts!” Patrick Hemingway exclaimed in the documentary.

Hemingway shared an equally unhappy relationship with his own mother, but had a fondness for his father, whom he often favoured in his parents’ endless arguments: “I hate her guts and she hates mine,” he wrote in 1949. “She forced my father to suicide.”

Of course, Hemingway followed in his father’s footsteps. A heavy drinker, possibly suffering from bi-polar and severe depression, he shot himself in 1961.

A gloomy bunch, but it’s not just these two generations of the Hemingway family that have been blighted with this curse.

Hemingway and sons at the writer's Finca in Cuba

Hemingway and sons at the writer’s Finca in Cuba

In fact, in four generations of the Hemingway family, there has been five suicides – Ernest, his father, his sister Ursula, brother Leicester and granddaughter Margaux. Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory, lived a chequered life after having gender reassignment surgery, and was described by Ernest as having “the biggest dark side in the family except me.” He died in 2001.

In the show I was watching, the two surviving brothers, Patrick and Jack explained they had a friendly competition to see how long a Hemingway can survive for. An old documentary, Jack died in 1991 following heart surgery.

But it seems there may be an answer to their family’s plight, albeit a little too late…

Both Hemingway and his father’s behaviour became increasingly erratic in their later years. His father was extremely paranoid, locking all the drawers in his home obsessively and distrusting all those around him. Ernest followed suit as he reached old age, becoming constantly worried about taxes and the FBI’s investigations into him.

Checking himself into the Mayo Clinic, he was treated for hypertension with electroconvulsive therapy. It was here that they discovered that Hemingway suffered from hemochromatosis, an overload of iron in the blood that causes mental and physical deterioration.

Exacerbated by his drinking, this was certainly a strong contributor to Hemingway’s suicide. What’s more, it was also revealed that his father might also have suffered with the hereditary disease.

Yet it’s not certain what exactly drove so many Hemingways to despair, with depression, the family’s secretive nature and other mental health issues also to blame.

The Hemingway memorial in Idaho

The Hemingway memorial in Idaho

You can find out more in Running from Crazy, a 2013 film by Barbara Kopple starring Hemingway’s granddaughter and actress Mariel Hemingway.

by Joe

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