This week's top news stories... Monroe, Capone and a rare Hawaiian stamp


Well what a week it's been in the collectibles markets...

Marilyn Monroe's 'most iconic dress' brings $5.6m

Debbie Reynolds' sale of her vast assortment of legendary Hollywood memorabilia, on Saturday June 18, grabbed the world's attention and put the spotlight on the collecting markets.

The fact the star piece, Marilyn Monroe's white 'subway' dress from the film The Seven-Year Itch, sold for a staggering $5.6m was worthy of the media circus in itself.

Put the famous 1955 frock alongside other items entrenched in film history, like Dorothy's ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz and Audrey Hepburn's Ascot dress from My Fair Lady, and you have a got a contender for the auction of the year.

Do you know what the most incredible part is? This $18.6m sale was only one part of Reynolds' collection. There's more to come yet...


The most iconic dress of all time? The frock worn by Monroe in the famous subway scene


So, how do you follow that up? Probably by selling one of the world's finest and rarest stamps. Philately is an amazing hobby, and one which never fails to throw up fantastic sales.

Siegel auctions a six-figure Hawaiian stamp rarity

So when Siegel sold the amazingly rare 2c Blue Hawaiian Missionary stamp for $170,000 as part of its Rarities of the World auction, also on Saturday June 18, it wasn't that much of a surprise. But it was still a brilliant event.

The unique 150-year-old stamp is a philatelist's dream, as only 15 copies of it are known to exist, of which five are thought to be in museums.

Called Missionaries because they were the first postage stamps produced on Hawaii, and were sent by missionaries working on the islands, they are highly valued by collectors worldwide.

Not too far behind that sought after lot however was the 1852 13c "H.I. & U.S. Postage" Missionary stamp, which smashed its estimated selling price of $35,000 to make $110,000.

Made one year after the 2c Missionary in the sale, this copy is one of just two sound examples recorded. In all 52 were produced, with a large number of them in museum collections and having been repaired.


Not many stamps are rarer than this Hawaiian 1851 2c Missionary

Therefore, because of the superb condition of this unused rarity, it fully deserved to more than triple its estimate.

An incredible $1.31m sale for Indian artist Tyeb Mehta

Turning our attention away from philately brings us to the art world, where the results of a very significant auction, which took place in India, were released.

The selling of Tyeb Mehta's 1998 painting Untitled (Kali) for $1.31m by Saffronart was important, as were the prices made by other artists whose works sold for high amounts, including Jehangir Sabavala, Manjit Bawa, SH Raza and G Ravinder Reddy.

But what was more important than the sales themselves was who actually bought them. It can't have escaped any art investor's attention during the last few years that new markets in Asia are becoming increasingly prominent.

What this auction, and others like it, shows is that the developing art markets in countries like China, India, and also Russia, are becoming increasingly influential.

This means savvy collectors need to start looking at these markets as not just places where they can sell art, but also where they should be buying it from. In the next few years, the Asian art scene is going to be much more prominent, as so-called 'Medici' collectors look to assert their authority.


Indian artist's works, like this one by Mehta, are becoming more valuable

Collectors stare down the barrel of Al Capone's gun

This week also saw the selling of one of the most notorious criminals in history's favourite gun: The shooter which once belonged to Alphonse 'Al' Capone.

The infamous mobster's revolver sold for a stunning £67,250 ($109,080) at Christie's in London on Wednesday June 22.

Though they are from different eras, and some are more unpleasant than others, the collectibles associated with the like of Jesse James, John Dillinger and Capone are all undeniably desirable.

So it always seemed like a bargain when someone bought his personal .38 (special) 'police positive' nickel-plated six-shot double-action revolver for $20,000 ($23,900 with buyer's premium) last year at Alexander Autographs - a damp squib for the auctioneer in an otherwise successful sale.

With better publicity ahead of this auction however, the stage was set for a monumental sale, and yesterday it was confirmed that the owner (presumably the October 2010 buyer) had pulled a blinder.


Al Capone's revolver
Capone's 384221 Colt police special shot up to an incredible price at Christie's

The revolver shot up to an amount over four times more than what was paid for it - a 356% profit. Even allowing for some hidden costs, this was an out-of-this-world sale, and demonstrates the power of collectibles as alternative investments if the buyer is canny.

Could this be the greatest piece of Apollo 11 memorabilia...?

Talking of out-of-this-world sales, it was announced on Tuesday June 21 that pieces of ever popular space memorabilia connected to the Apollo 11 mission are to be sold next month, on July 10.

What makes this auction likely to be more popular than most however is the fact it contains what has been called the 'most important Apollo 11 piece of memorabilia ever offered' for sale.

Shortly before the Apollo 11 flight, a committee recommended the astronauts should plant a US flag on the moon to mark America's achievement, without implying ownership.The flag would be accompanied by a country-neutral plaque, 'claiming' the Moon on behalf of the whole world.

Thomas S (Tom) Moser was given the responsibility of designing the flag and pole so they could be carried easily to the Moon, assembled and successfully planted. Moser kept hold of a slim set of red, white and blue cloth, which was attached to a presentation plaque, accompanied by photographs of the flag-planting.

The flag fragments appear in Ira and Larry Goldberg's auction on July 10 in Los Angeles, California with a listing of $100,000-150,000, and will make someone an incredible investment.

So there you have it folks, if ever there was a week which proved collectibles can be something for everyone, this was it.


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