Marilyn Monroe Memorabilia - The Testament of an Icon June 25 2021
Marilyn Monroe was an icon. Even today, nearly 60 years after her death, Ms.
Monroe's legacy endures and likely always will. Despite numerous efforts to replicate her fame — Marilyn Monroe, nee Norma Jean Mortenson, stands out among Hollywood royalty.
Here she is depicted in a famous scene in the movie "The Seven Year Itch", 1955.
In fact, collectors and avid fans can't seem to get enough of her. They clamor for books and movies about her life, products emblazoned with her likeness, and new stories and theories about her tragic death.
But there's also a robust market for items that have had some type of personal connection to her. Items she once owned, wore, or used command attention and high prices. Old photographs of the incomparable Marilyn Monroe are also in great demand.
Because of her enduring popularity, Ms. Monroe's estate continues to make money. In 2020, she was the only female on the Forbes list of the top 13 highest-paid deceased celebrities.  She was in 8th position on the list in 2019. The only other female on the list that year was Whitney Houston, in 12th place.
Ms. Monroe also made the list the first year the list was published in 2001, and every year after that through 2008. She fell off the list in 2009 and 2010, but appeared again from 2011 through 2015, and once again in 2018 and through 2020, as noted. No other female celebrity has appeared on the list as many times as Ms. Monroe.
Now consider that those rankings don't even account for many of the massive prices that Marilyn Monroe memorabilia commands between collectors. Take a look at some of the types of MM memorabilia held, sold, and acquired around the globe.
Notable Marilyn Monroe Memorabilia Collections
Ms. Monroe's acting coach and friend, Lee Strasberg, inherited most of the star's personal possessions when the icon died. Her mentor remained in possession of those items until his death in February 1982. Mr. Strasberg's third wife Anna Strasberg inherited the informal collection.
Mrs. Strasberg opted to sell some of the items in 1999. Christie's Auction house handled the sales. The total earned from about 576 lots came to more than $13 million. Christie's also oversaw an auction of MM memorabilia in 2001. Mrs. Strasberg had donated some of Ms. Monroe's possessions to Hollygrove, the orphanage she lived in as a child. Hollygrove later sold the items to raise operating funds.
Ms. Strasberg put more of Ms. Monroe's former possessions up for auction in 2005. Julien's Auctions handled those items. In 2016, Julien's auctioned off the last of Marilyn's estate, grossing close to $11 million.
A green dress worn by Marilyn Monroe while singing in a saloon scene, in Bus Stop
One of the largest private collections of MM memorabilia today — simply titled The Marilyn Monroe Collection — acquired many of the collection's pieces from those estate auctions.  It includes letters, invoices and receipts, financial documents and checks, photographs, autographs, items of clothing, including furs and accessories, plus many other miscellaneous things formerly owned by Ms. Monroe.
Collectible Marilyn Monroe Memorabilia
Truthfully, anything that Ms. Monroe owned, wore, or used is a collectible to some Marilyn Monroe collector or fan. So, it wouldn't be possible to list everything traded, sold or auctioned as MM collectibles. But the following items are a small sampling of some notable Marilyn Monroe-related pieces that are or have been in great demand.
Clothing and Movie Costumes
Ms. Monroe's rendition of "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy made waves in 1962 and is still talked about today. Hence, it's no wonder that sales of the dress she wore at that event set records. The first sale took place when Mrs. Strasberg auctioned off many of the items her late husband inherited from the actress.
The memorable gown sold for just under $1.3 million in 1999, making it the highest auction price ever paid for a dress at that time. The sale knocked a Princess Diana gown out of first place. The dress was later resold, fetching $4.8 million in 2016.
The iconic white dress that Ms. Monroe wore in the famous subway grate scene of "The Seven Year Itch" fetched a jaw-dropping price of more than $5 million. Another collector's favorite is the emerald green sequined gown Ms. Monroe wore to the 1962 Golden Globes, where she won her Henrietta Award. When first up for auction in 1999, it sold for $96,000. Nearly two decades later, its value jumped to $250,000 at a 2018 auction.
Some of her dresses were auctioned by Julien in 2019.
But even clothing that wasn't exactly noteworthy when she wore it now sells for exorbitant prices to collectors. One example is a black blouse and necktie the star wore at a 1956 press conference at the LA airport. The original price of the ensemble is estimated at $10,000. When sold at auction, it went for $43,750.
The market is saturated with items supposedly signed by Marilyn. But experts in the field estimate that only about a quarter of these claims are true. Instead, more than 75% are likely fake. So, it's important to acquire this type of memorabilia from a reputable dealer to ensure you're purchasing the genuine article.
Marilyn Monroe signed photo in the film There is No Business Like the Show Business (1954)
But be aware that these autographed items usually don't come cheap. Here are a few examples of in-demand autographed MM memorabilia.
2012 – Cecil Beaton, a society photographer, sold a signed photo of Marilyn for $25,263
2012 — A personal check dated August 4, 1962 was sold for $15,000 at auction. The assumption is that it's the last check Ms. Monroe every wrote. It's made out to a furniture company in the amount of $228.80.
Contracts — Signed movie contracts are popular MM signed collectibles that sell well.
Correspondence — People wrote letters in Ms. Monroe's day and she was no exception. Signed hand-written correspondence for both personal and professional reasons are in high demand among collectors.
There are so many pictures and images of Marilyn Monroe, that you'd think demand is limited. Instead, rarity and exclusivity determine which photographs fetch the highest prices. Last year, a very special collection of photo negatives sold for $61,866 to an anonymous buyer.
The late Jock Carrol was the photographer and journalist responsible for the 227-piece collection. He shot the photos on the movie set of "Niagara," the 1952 film in which Ms. Monroe had her first starring role. Only 19 of the photos had been published previously. Moreover, Mr. Carroll had nearly unrestricted access to Ms. Monroe for two weeks, allowing him to take many candid shots. These features make these negatives a must-have for serious collectors.
Another memorable photography collection now titled "The Last Sitting" commands large sums of money, as well. The pictures were taken during Ms. Monroe's last photo shoot. Bert Stern shot more than 2,500 photos over a 3-day period. The collection also included several contact sheets, and the movie star had x'd out the images she deemed unworthy of publication.
Marilyn Monroe and Maria Callas unsigned photo, sold for over $2,000
In 2013, a 10-photograph portfolio from the session sold for $41,250. Then, in 2015, an online-only auction raised $137,519 for different MM photograph collections. Pieces from "the Last Sitting" delivered a total of $80,000 in sales proceeds. Collectors also clamor for photos of pre-Marilyn Monroe Norma Jean.
If Marilyn used it, collectors, fans, and anyone obsessed with the iconic figure want it. In late 2020, the sale of a handkerchief with a complex transactional history essentially saved a French theater. 
Like many other entertainment venues, Comédie-Italienne suffered financial harm when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Fortunately for this Paris theatre, owner Attilio Maggiulli was the recipient of a special piece of MM memorabilia.
In 1970, while living in New York, Mr. Maggiulli was friends with Leo Castelli, a well-known art dealer. Years earlier, Mr. Castelli had been gifted with a handkerchief formerly owned by Marilyn. His benefactor was Andy Warhol.
Mr. Warhol received the handkerchief from a New York Waldorf Astoria concierge. He came by the piece in the hotel, with a business card linking it to Ms. Monroe. She left it in the bathroom of her suite in 1960. A decade later, gallery owner Leo Castelli gave his friend Mr. Maggiulli the handkerchief for luck.
Mr. Maggiulli held on to the lace-edged hankie for half a century. It was on display in his theater's foyer for many years. But when hard times hit last year, Mr. Maggiulli knew it was time to sell. He put the delicate memento up for sale via online auction. Ultimately, an anonymous benefactor offered the winning bid of €300,000. That was equal to about $350,000 in U.S. currency.
Naturally, the jewelry of the woman forever tied to the lyrics "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" is a popular collectible. Though the actress didn't possess many expensive pieces, even her costume jewelry is coveted. So, too are the many pieces she wore in her films.
The “How to Marry a Millionaire” costume jewelry earrings
Ms. Monroe once owned and drove a black 1956 Thunderbird convertible from 1956 through 1962. When this two-seater was auctioned off in 2018, it commanded a $490,000 sales price.
Marilyn Monroe´s 1956 Ford Thunderbird sold for $490,000
Andy Warhol Prints
Renowned artist Andy Warhol created several "Marilyn" pieces, each titled as a different Lifesaver flavor. When originally displayed in 1962 at the Eleanor Ward Stable Gallery, the ticket price was $250.
Their worth now possibly exceeds $50 million due to demand. They have become Mr. Warhol's most sought after graphic prints.
Andy Warhol - Marilyn Monroe 1967 Print
The fascination with Marilyn Monroe doesn't end with her
possessions during life. Many people are also interested in owning something close to her in death.
Ms. Monroe's bronze grave marker needs to be replaced every so often. The millions of hands of fans who visit her grave tend to wipe away the sheen after several years. When that happens, the old plaque may be sold, fetching prices up to $450,000, despite never having been touched by the actress.
That's not the only morbid sale connected to Ms. Monroe's final resting place. A $4.6 million transaction occurred in 2009 for the crypt above the star.
Ms. Monroe was the proud recipient of a Golden Globe in 1961 for being the World Film Favorite Female. The sale of that award broke records, selling for $250,000 at a 2018 auction.
Two for One
Every Marilyn Monroe fan is aware of her historic Playboy centerfold from the magazine's launch in December 1953. Many collectors are eager to possess a piece of this history. So, those magazine issues are popular among Marilyn Monroe fans.
Last year, one copy sold for $15,625. Its value was heightened by the autograph of the magazine's publisher, Hugh Hefner.  For comparison, an unsigned copy sold for €5,700 in 2019 – about 6,300 USD.
Legends Drive Memorabilia Sales
Not unlike the allure of other notable icons — Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Prince, Elizabeth Taylor, Robin Williams, Bruce Lee, and John Lennon, to name a few — the fervent attraction for, love of, or obsession with Marilyn Monroe is what impacts sales.
Owning something that these unforgettable stars once held or used makes many fans feel closer to the object of their desire or fascination. As always, collectors are motivated by interest, love, money, or some combination of these factors. With the collectibles of a world-renowned celebrity like Marilyn Monroe, all these motivations come into play.
Do you want to own a piece of history? A signed photo of Marilyn Monroe can give you that. Plus, with this icon's enduring popularity, her collectibles are a sound financial investment.
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