Hubba hubba! The best pieces of Playboy collectible memorabilia

After its birth in the 1950s, Hugh Hefner's magazine became a lifestyle symbol for the rich and famous. Boasting the world's top writers and artists, the magazine forever revolutionised pop culture - and its legacy is still felt on today's collectibles auction markets.

Anti-war cartoons, pop culture icons and an iconic silk dressing gown all feature in Paul Fraser Collectibles' rundown of the best pieces of Playboy memorabilia...



#7. Hugh Hefner's custom-made silk pyjamas - $2,750

Profiles in History auctioned the pyjamas of "sophisticated bon vivant" Hugh Hefner in 2009 - a wise move, considering that "living legend" was and will always be associated with this dressing downs and nightwear.

These pyjamas were classic Hefner: a black silk and burgundy crushed velvet smoking jacket trimmed with black cord and satin cuffs. The outfit was custom-made by Gary's Custom Tailoring of Beverly Hills, an exclusive tailor that only makes clothing for Hefner.

This set was personally donated by Hefner for the unveiling of a figure in his likeness to celebrate his 75th birthday in 2001. In the end, the iconic pyjamas sold for $2,750 over their $1,000-1,500 pre-sale estimate.


#6. Fender Playboy electric guitar - $6,500


Budding musicians hoping to capture some of Hugh Hefner's rock star lifestyle had an opportunity to do so at a sale held by Brunk Auctions of Ashville, North Carolina, back in 2007.

This Fender Playboy-themed electric guitar auctioned with a $5,000 lower estimate. Aside from the obvious racy decor, the guitar also boasted inlaid diamond and Playboy symbols the tip of its headstock (where the tuning knobs are).

On the back was an iconic image of Marilyn Monroe. The guitar sold with an original certificate of authenticity dated to 1994 and - a less rock 'n' roll inclusion - an unrelated block of 1995 US Postal Service Stamps featuring Monroe. In excellent condition, the guitar sold for $6,500.


#5. Playboy's first issue featuring Marilyn Monroe - $6,500


Thanks to her iconic appearance on cover of the magazine's first-ever issue, Marilyn Monroe will forever be associated with Playboy. The magazine's debut issue was published in 1953 and would forever revolutionise the men's magazines genre.

Monroe was the first Playmate of the Month (or "Sweetheart of the Month" back then) and her full page nude ingrained in Americana lore. However, Playboy stood for more than just titillation.

Hefner bought brought fiction from outstanding authors of the 20th century (Sir Arthur Conan in the first issue, and the likes of Ian Fleming and Jack Kerouac in later editions), included interviews with celebrities of the day, and featured contributions from top cartoonists.

Sports, food, music, automobiles, travel, relationships, and other diversions were among the magazine's featured topics. The print-run of the magazine's first edition was limited to 50,000, and complete copies - and versions in nice condition are highly sought-after today.

This copy is the rarer "Page 3 Copy" version (one in which page 3 is numbered). Encased in plastic, it sold for a surprisingly modest $6,500 at Heritage Auctions in 2010 and be worth significantly more in the future.


Original London Club Playboy Bunny Suit

#4. Vintage Bunny Costume worn at the London Playboy Club - £5,950 ($9,281)

From the early 1960s to late 1980s, membership of Hugh Hefner's Playboy Clubs of the world acted as a status symbol for the rich and famous. In the elitist atmosphere of the club rooms, drinks were served by specially trained waitresses: Playboy Bunnies.

The tuxedo-style dress code of the Playboy Clubs became iconic - with each outfit tailored for wearer. Each bunny also wore a name tag, made from a satin rosette, pinned above her right hip bone.

The costumes were so important that they were even registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Not surprisingly, these are rare and highly sought-after today - like this example, once worn by Erica, presently for sale at Paul Fraser Collectibles priced at £5,950.



#3. Little Annie Fanny, World Peace art - $20,000

Never let it be said that Hugh Hefner's Playboy doesn't have a social conscience - perfectly demonstrated on this gouache and board artwork dated to circa late '60s-early '70s.

Entitled Little Annie Fanny, World Peace, this painting by American artist Will Elder was one of a series for Playboy in which Little Annie Fanny campaigns for peace in the world in her own inimitable style.

Billed as being in "excellent condition" apart from some extra flag fragments pasted to the work, the unsigned 20 x 14.5 inches artwork sold for $20,000 at Heritage Auctions in 2008.


#2. Paul McCarthy's signed 1979 'illegal war' sketch - £15,000

As mentioned, Playboy made a point of featuring some of the most pioneering and subversive artists of their respective eras - indeed Hefner himself had been a budding artist.

Among the publication's leading artists was Paul McCarthy, whose drawings, paintings and sculpture were influenced by the likes of Jackson Pollock and have since inspired later artists such as Jake and Dinos Chapman.

This untitled McCarthy cartoon dates to 1979 but, with its references to an illegal war and appeals for taxes, could easily apply to America's recent events. "I just thought we'd drop by and mention that, as we're not carrying on any illegal wars at the moment, you might like to start paying taxes again," reads the caption.

The contentious work clearly resonated with bidders when it auctioned at Phillips de Pury & Company of New York in 2010. It sold for £15,000, its value boosted by the artist's autograph.


#1. Alberto Vargas 'Vargas Girl' artwork, 1971 - $45,000


"From the time America was introduced to the Varga Girl in 1940, the name Vargas has been synonymous with pin-up and glamour art," wrote Great American Pin-Up author Charles G. Martignette.

"In fact, the word 'vargas' has actually been applied to almost every kind of pin-up subject -- a fitting tribute to the most famous and prolific glamour artist of all time."

This sizzling centrefold hails from Vargas' peak period, the swinging '70s, after many years of supplying monthly cartoons for Hefner's magazine.

Entitled Just Add Mistletoe, this 18 x 27 inches watercolour on illustration work dates to March 1971 specifically and sold for an impressive $45,000 at Heritage Auctions in 2010. It sold directly from the Playboy Collection - a key historic work.


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