Movie memorabilia market: 2012 auction review

While there was nothing to match 2011's $5.6m sale of a Marilyn Monroe costume, 2012 has nevertheless been a propitious year for sales of movie memorabilia. Several iconic items have been offered for auction across the globe, provoking much press speculation and bringing substantial increases when sold.

Eminent costumes, extraordinary props and exquisite automobiles are among 2012's most important sales; testifying to the health of the market in general, while transporting us to fantastical places in which anything is possible.

Racing in at first place was…

Top Sale

The watch features in McQueen's 1971 race movie, Le Mans

  • The McQueen, a beautiful Heuer Monaco wristwatch which was worn by Steve McQueen as Michael Delany in the acclaimed race movie Le Mans. The wristwatch saw an impressive 116.5% increase on its $300,000 estimate when it auctioned in Hollywood on July 31 for $799,500.

See the Top 10 movie memorabilia sales of 2012.

2012's most important costume sales

  • Judy Garland's iconic Oz dress auctioned in the US this year for $480,000. Last sold in 1981 for just $2,000, the November 2012 sale price represents an impressive increase of 19.3% pa.
Wizard of Oz dress
The only version of the iconic dress to actually appear in the film sold this year

  • Kate Winslet's Titanic "jump dress" sold in December, at a California sale, for $330,000. The dress, which was worn during the crucial scene in which ill-fated lovers Jack and Rose meet one another for the very first time, was meticulously designed by Deborah L Scott with historical accuracy in mind.

A vintage year?

Three stand out movie memorabilia sales related to Hollywood's golden age.

  • The "play it Sam" piano from Casablanca, which was bought by Leonardo DiCaprio at Sotheby's New York in December, went for $602,500.
top 5 movie memorabilia sales 2012
The Casablanca piano was bought by Leonardo DiCaprio

  • The trophy prop from Orson Welles' acclaimed Citizen Kane also sold this year with strong results, achieving $275,554 in June.
  • Marlene Dietrich's emerald coloured Rolls Royce rolled in and out of Bonhams in January, selling as top lot at the automotive sale for $524,000.

It was a break out year for…

  • Lord of the Rings film memorabilia, with perhaps the most important Lord of the Rings prop - Legolas' bow - going to auction in December. The sought after elven bow sold for $372,000 - 210% above its $120,000 high presale valuation.

A year to forget for…

  • Surprise discoveries: The US reality television show Storage Wars was accused of planting rare memorabilia items in storage containers this year, including a vest from the 1967 Planet of the Apes film. The show's Dave Hester, who has filed a lawsuit against A&E (the storage company in question), alleges that he has witnessed the "salting" of several lockers, and is claiming $3.5m in damages after being fired for drawing attention to the fact.  

One you may have missed…

top 5 movie memorabilia sales 2012
Tarkovsky's archive sold this year - drawing attention to the surrealist Soviet director's too often undervalued achievements

  • Sotheby's saw excellent results for an important archive relating to the work of Soviet film maker Andre Tarkovsky. Selling in London in November, the archive, which will return to Russia, brought $2.3m. The sale reinvigorated interest in an important and too often undervalued surrealist film maker.  

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