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Tag Archive: highest priced sales entertainment memorabilia


Back in September here at borg.com we predicted the November Bonhams auction of Robby the Robot and his “space chariot” from the 1956 science fiction classic Forbidden Planet would hit the $1 million mark and we even entertained the possibility of a $10 million sale.  Yesterday the hammer fell at $4.5 million at Bonham’s “Out of this World” auction of entertainment memorabilia and with the addition of a buyer’s premium resulting in a final sale price of $5,375,000, Robby and his car became the highest movie prop lot ever to sell at public auction.  Technically a costume that doubled as a prop, Robby the Robot also became the second highest sale price for any piece of entertainment memorabilia to sell at public auction, eclipsed only by the 2011 sale by auction house Profiles in History of the iconic Marilyn Monroe subway vent dress from The Seven Year Itch, which sold for $5.52 million including buyer’s premium (yesterday Bonhams and the mainstream press, including The New York Times and CBS, mistakenly claimed Robby’s sale surpassed the Monroe dress price, but their reports neglected to factor in the buyer’s premium for the dress–a fee the auction house charges bidders based on a percentage of the hammer price, and the Monroe dress had a hammer price of $4.6 million).  The Robby the Robot costume/prop was used in dozens if not hundreds of appearances over the decades, including in key episodes of Lost in Space and The Twilight Zone.

Still, top prop honors is nothing to sneeze at.  The sale of Robby and his car nudged from the top spot the sale of the 1966 Batmobile from the 1960s television series, which sold for $4.62 million in 2013, including buyer’s premium.  The rest of the pantheon of prime public auction screen-used prop and costume sales includes one of two original James Bond Aston Martins from Goldfinger ($4.6085 million/2010), one of the falcon props from The Maltese Falcon ($4.085 million/2013), Audrey Hepburn My Fair Lady and Breakfast at Tiffany’s dresses ($3.7 million/2011 and $807,000/2006, respectively), Sam’s piano from Casablanca ($3.4 million/2014), the Cowardly Lion suit from The Wizard of Oz ($3.1 million/2014), Von Trapp kids’ costumes from The Sound of Music ($1.5 million/2013), Steve McQueen’s racing suit from LeMans ($984,000/2011), and one of four pairs of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz ($666,000/2000).

In the science fiction genre, the artifact to beat was another robot–an R2-D2 that was pieced together from several screen-used components, which sold this past June for $2.76 million, and a Back to the Future III DeLorean time machine sold for $541,000 in 2011.  Robby easily nudged these props aside yesterday.  Would the sale price have been the same without the space car?  You’ll need to track down the anonymous telephone buyer to get the answer to that question (the four final bidders all dueled it out via phone bids), although you might keep an eye out at Paul Allen’s Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, as this is the kind of high-end prop he has purchased in the past.

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Robby the Robot.  He’s probably the only robot who has his own “Actor” page in the Internet Movie Database.  In the history of robots he is probably the most significant and the most game-changing robot of all time.  In the world of science fiction, few came before who achieved such fame, but many would follow.  Most who created the robots that came after–call them droids, androids and variants like fembots or even cyborgs, like the Terminator T-800, Cylons, and Cybermen, R2-D2 and C-3PO, and K-2So and BB-8–all can point back to Robby as inspiration and a critical step in the evolution of robots in cinema.  Robby would become a household name as a co-star and the focus of publicity for Forbidden Planet in 1956 (the classic sci-fi take on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest), and would go on to have guest appearances along with B-9 in Lost in Space, two episodes of The Twilight Zone, and all sorts of classic TV appearances (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Hazel, Dobie Gillis, The Addams Family, Columbo, Wonder Woman, The Love Boat, Mork & Mindy), and later he can even be spotted in the movies Gremlins and Clueless. 

As pop culture is concerned, there is likely no single, intact, tangible piece of entertainment memorabilia in science fiction that compares to the robot prop itself, which doubled as a costume worn by Frankie Darrow and voiced by Marvin Miller.  The word “iconic” was created for the likes of Robby the Robot.  So no wonder our heads began to spin when it became public this month that the actual robot from the groundbreaking science fiction film Forbidden Planet was going to hit the auction block this year.  And unlike most auctions of original, screen-used, Hollywood memorabilia, Robby the Robot is being sold with a host of original materials used with the Robot throughout his incredible run, and from the auction photos it appears his light-up electronics are still functional.

Bonhams is the lucky auction house that will sell off Robby later this year, presented by Turner Classic Movies.  The auction house posted preview images from its catalog (expected to be available sometime in October) and it’s clear each accompanying production item in the photos could have been auctioned off separately in its own right.  All we know so far is the listing itself and photos, with no idea of the auction estimate or any other details that may be released, including its provenance:   “Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet, together with Robby’s car, his alternative head, his control panel, and original MGM packing cases.  Also 2 rings for his head, 2 additional arms with pinschers, a stand, a harness, another part for the stand.”

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