Memorabilia: 2016 auction review

This was an exceptionally good year for memorabilia at auction, with a huge range of pieces offered from some of history's most notable names.

At the top of the market (as always) were those figures that shaped the worlds of science, politics and entertainment.

However, there were some surprises throughout the year, with lots pertaining to more controversial figures performing better than expected.

Top memorabilia sale of 2016

Marilyn's performance that night has gone down in history

Monroe's sultry performance of Happy Birthday for JFK at Madison Square Garden in 1962 is the stuff of legend.

The sheer, near see-through dress she wore on the occasion came up for auction at Julien's in November.

It sold for a record $4.8m - making it the most valuable dress ever sold at auction. The previous holder of that title was the white Subway dress she wore in The Seven Year Itch (which made $4.6m in 2011).   

2016's most important memorabilia sales

Rowling decorated the chair herself

JK Rowling may have enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom, but she never forgot where she came from. The chair she sat on to write the first two books in the Harry Potter series (in her Edinburgh council flat) made $394,000 at Heritage Auctions in April.

One of the most extraordinary lots to cross the block this year was Joan of Arc's ring, which sold for £297,000 ($411,832) at Timeline in February. It matches the description of it she herself gave during her trial in 1430.

Few things are as loaded with symbolism than Albert Einstein's pocket watch. The father of relativity acquired it in 1900, five years before his 'annus mirabilis'. It made £266,500 ($353,592) at Christie's in July.

The handcuffs used to arrest Lee Harvey Oswald sold for $110,250 at Goldin in December. They belonged to Officer Ray Hawkins, who cuffed Oswald in the Texas Theatre shortly after the assassination of president Kennedy.

The most unusual memorabilia sale of 2016

Eva Braun underpants are monogrammed with her initials

There were two very strong contenders for the most unusual piece of memorabilia sold this year.

The first was a pair of Eva Braun's monogrammed knickers, looted from Hitler's mountain retreat by an American GI in the closing days of the war.

The other was a box containing the ashes of author and celebrated raconteur Truman Capote.

They sold for $4,000 and $43,750 respectively.

Which is the weirdest? You decide.

It was a breakout year for…

Reagan helped to bring down the Berlin wall

Christie's held a major auction of pieces from the collection of Ronald and Nancy Reagan in New York in September. The event was a roaring success, with all of the lots selling for well over estimate.

Among the highlights was a piece of the Berlin wall signed by Reagan himself. It made $277,500 - up 1,287% on its $20,000 estimate.

It was a year to forget for…

Donald Trump's family lived at the house in Queens for four years after he was born

Residents of Wareham Place, Queens may be looking to move, as tourists have flocked to the quiet street in their hundreds to photograph Donald Trump's childhood home.

The house will be selling in the new year. There's talk of it being made into a museum.

One you may have missed

These stones were brought back to Britain from Elephant Island

This unprepossessing collection of stones is testament to one of the greatest feats of human endurance in history.

They belonged to Colonel Alexander Macklin, a doctor on Shackleton's 1914-1917 Endurance expedition to the Antarctic.  

He brought them back to the UK from Elephant Island, where he and other members of the crew waited five months in the biting cold to be rescued.

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