Believe it or not, Playboy isn't just about fruity women taking their clothes off. Back in its 1960s-1970s heyday, Hugh Hefner's world-famous magazine was as much about men aspiring to live a fabulous lifestyle.
The publication's young and hip readers were treated to exclusive interviews with the likes of John Lennon and Bob Dylan. But also of great interest to collectors - particularly of classic 20th century Americana - is the magazine's inclusion of some of the most forward-thinking artists of its era.
It's a little known fact that Hugh Hefner, before setting up Playboy magazine, partly funded with $1,000 from his mother, was an aspiring artist. As result, his publication became a haven and showcase for great artists whose work chimed with the magazine's libertarian ethos.
Legendary artists like Alberto Vargas and Robert Crumb all lent their talents to the magazine, whose art is today celebrated by the world's top auction houses. This includes Heritage Auction Galleries, whose finger is rarely off the pulse when it comes to offbeat art.
"Since Hef was, from the start, a big fan of cartoon art, he made sure that some of the best cartoonists and pin-up artists in the world were published in his magazine, " said David Tosh, Comics Cataloguer at Heritage in his exclusive interview with Paul Fraser Collectibles.
LUDVIC's masterful pen and ink drawings appeared in Playboy,
"Naturally, all those hip, stylish guys reading Playboy were digging the fantastic cartoons, too. The cartoons were great, no doubt - not to mention colourful and (for the most part) risqué."
Highlights at Heritage's sale included a piece by Vargas from 1963 entitled Vargas Girl, sold for $179,250. But collectors who missed out on that sale needn't fret, as two more unique investment opportunities have emerged on the current markets.
The first is a new series of limited edition prints by the artist LUDVIC, whose original pen and ink drawings made regular appearances in Playboy, Penthouse and other publications back in the early-1970s.
As well as celebrating the nude female form, LUDVIC's works also include a series of oil portraits of Marilyn Monroe - who happened to star on the front cover of Playboy's very first issue, back in December 1953 ("The famous MARILYN MONROE NUDE" reads the tagline).
The new collection of four limited edition prints, "Fantasy Suite", female nudes in fantastical natural surroundings with butterflies, dragonflies, snakes and more. The original artworks took the artist several months to create and have been compared to the works of master Aubrey Beardsley.
According to the seller, Exclusive Editions International of Scottsdale, Arizona, the prints are "perfectly re-created". Limited to 150 pieces, including 25 artist proofs, and measuring 30h x 20w inches, each set of prints is packaged in an archival box and priced at $5,000.
Meanwhile, for collectors on the look-out for an even more, erm... 'tangible' investment, one of the original and iconic Playboy Bunny costumes also for sale on the market. The maroon velvet gown was worn between 1967-1981 and bears a rosette badge, 'Erica'.
While other Playboy bunny gowns reside in the Chicago History Museum and Smithsonian collections, this example is currently for sale to collectors along with a photograph of Erica wearing it at the London Club.
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