Top 10 spectacles ever auctioned

What do Abraham Lincoln and Benny Hill have in common? Both have pairs of eye glasses coming up for sale next week. And they're in good company. Here's the Top 10 most famous spectacles ever auctioned. 

10. Harry S Truman

Truman's presidency (1945-1953) is most remembered for his decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. The move was made to shorten the war in the Pacific, which was predicted to drag on for another year.

Image: RR Auction

These glasses, offered at RR Auction's September 17-18 sale this week, are unlikely to date to his years as president but are the same style as the glasses he wore throughout his political career.

They were a gift to Arthur S Prettyman, who served as his valet once he took office.

9. Benny Hill

Benny Hill was a regular fixture on British TV from the early 1960s through to the late 1980s, and also became enormously popular overseas, particularly in the US.

Benny Hill
Image: C&T Auctioneers

For those who missed it first time round, he is best known for his signature gag - which sees him pursuing (or pursued by) a gaggle of furious women/vicars/policemen to the tune of Boots Randolph's Yakety Sax.

This pair of glasses was used in a sketch from 1973 titled The Deputy, which saw Hill doing what he does best in a wild west setting.

They will sell at C&T Auctioneers on September 19.

8. Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was famous for his pince-nez, a style that was immensely popular during the latter part of the 19th century.

Image: Heritage Auctions

A populist president, Roosevelt consistently ranks highly on lists of the greatest American presidents. His visage is carved into Mount Rushmore, along with Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson. The glasses appeared at Heritage Auctions in 2005, but failed to meet their reserve.

7. Winston Churchill

These Sir Winston Churchill spectacles were made by British company CW Dixey & Son - a British optician that has been in operation since 1777.

Image: Paul Fraser Collectibles

The glasses remained at the opticians after being sent for repairs and later were acquired by Paul Fraser Collectibles, where we valued them at ?�25,000 ($40,580).

Founder Paul Fraser commented: "Churchill's glasses are central to his image and he used CW Dixey throughout his career.

"This pair was made for him in 1954."

6. Pierre Auguste Renoir

Image: Heritage Auctions

Renoir is often referred to as the father of impressionism, a status that ensures his work sells for tens of millions.

Although there is scant information available on the glasses themselves, they were made in Paris - most likely to order. They failed to meet their reserve at Heritage Auctions in 2013.

5. Adolf Hitler

Image: Hermann Historica Munich

It's a little known fact that Hitler wore glasses, precisely because he worked hard to keep it from the public. Towards the end of the second world war his sight began to fail. In order to avoid wearing his glasses, he had the text of his speeches enlarged.

The Berlin-based opticians Ruhnke made the glasses for him in secret. 

They came to auction in 2011 but did not make their reserve.

4. Mahatma Gandhi

Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 2012, a pair of Gandhi's glasses made ?�34,000 ($54,885) in a sale at Mullock's in the UK. He had acquired them while on a trip to the UK in the late 1890s, where he met with members of a vegetarian society. 

As with other notables on this list, he chose to wear the same style throughout his life.

3. Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Buddy Holly will forever be associated with his thick framed black glasses. This pair, the ones he was wearing when he died, were discovered in a sheriff's office in Iowa in 1994 and given to his Holly's widow.

She sold them for $80,000 in 1998 to a non-profit organisation that donated them to a museum in Holly's hometown of Lubbock, Texas. 

2. Abraham Lincoln

Image: Nate D Sanders

This pair of specs was discovered in a suitcase in an attic by Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, great grandson of Abraham Lincoln.

They were sold alongside a letter of provenance from Beckwith confirming he had found "two pair of eye glasses which had belonged to my great grandfather President Abraham Lincoln, and so marked by my grandmother Mary Harlan Lincoln."

Lincoln's status as one of the most popular presidents of all time ensures demand for his memorabilia remains high among collectors - resulting in a sale price $84,422 at Nate D Sanders in 2013.

Another pair is coming up for sale at RR Auction on September 17 with a $15,000 high estimate.

1. John Lennon

Lennon's trademark round glasses are one of the most instantly recognisable personal objects of the 20th century. These examples were worn during the Beatles' final tour of Japan in 1966.


They were given to his translator, Junishi Yore, who took the lenses out after Lennon was killed in New York in 1980.

In 2007, they were sold to an anonymous collector for around $1.7m.   

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