The 26 Most Incredible Auctions of Star Memorabilia

The 26 Most Incredible Auctions of Star Memorabilia

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Celebrity auctions frequently hit the headlines. Some stars sell off vast collections of memorabilia during their lifetime, while other sales form part of their estate.

These sales offer a fascinating insight into the lives of our favorite actors, athletes, and musicians, with many of those celebrities assuming vast collections. The staggering sums of money also keep these auctions firmly in the news.

1. Charlie Watts: Rolling Stones Drummer

Charlie Watts
Image Credit: Poiseon Bild & Text, CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

When Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died in 2001, his estate passed a memorabilia collection to the UK auction house Christie’s. Many fascinating items went under the hammer, but his books were the main focus. Watts had assembled rare first editions by renowned authors, and one of those items set a new record for printed books by classic authors. The first edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fetched an impressive £214,200.

2. Pele: Soccer Player

Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006)
Image Credit: Miramax Films.

Debate will continue over the best soccer player ever, but Brazil’s Pele will always be in the conversation. He was a three-time World Cup winner and claimed significant medals and awards. In 2016, over 2,000 items of Pele’s memorabilia collection went under the hammer, raising some £3.6 million. The sale’s highlight was his official replica of the World Cup trophy, bought for £394,000.

3. Anthony Daniels: Star Wars Actor

Anthony Daniels C3PO Star Wars
Image Credit: Lucasfilm.

The man who played C-3PO in the Star Wars franchise auctioned off an extensive range of film memorabilia in 2023. Propstore is a specialist auction house based in Hertfordshire, UK, near where much of the filming occurred, and they handled the sale. Daniels explained that the items were no longer “looked at” and that he was happy to see them go to collectors who would cherish them. Among the lots was C-3PO’s gold helmet, which sold for $838,750.

4. Steve Forbes: Forbes Media

Steve Forbes speaking at the 2013 FreedomFest in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Image Credit: Gage Skidmore – CCA SA 2.0/WikiCommons.

In 2010, Steve Forbes auctioned off memorabilia relating to former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He’s been an avid collector for years, and that sale produced a return of $850,000. In 2024, Forbes sold more items from his collection, including oil paintings and one of Churchill’s desks. Steve Forbes was the leading collector of Churchill memorabilia in the 1980s, and his passion now bears dividends.

5. Elizabeth Taylor: Actress

Studio publicity still of Elizabeth Taylor for the film The Girl Who Had Everything (1953).
Image Credit: Public Domain/WikiCommons.

Many of her jewelry items appeared at auction after Elizabeth Taylor died in 2011. In terms of finances alone, the results make this one of the most significant sales of celebrity memorabilia ever. Total sales reached an astounding $116 million, including Taylor’s beloved La Peregrina necklace, which finished at $10 million after an intense bidding war.

6. Shane Warne: Cricketer

Shane Keith Warne
Image Credit: Eva Rinaldi – flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Many celebrities auction personal items for charity, and Australia’s Shane Warne is a perfect example of what is achievable. In 2020, he auctioned his “baggy green,” a cap awarded to every Australian test cricketer. The sale raised $1 million for bushfire relief, and the cap is now permanently on display at the Bradman Museum in Bowral.

7. Danny Baker: Journalist and Broadcaster

Danny Baker in 2012.
Image Credit: Paul Hudson – CCA 2.0/WikiCommons.

As someone involved with the music industry for over 40 years, Danny Baker has enjoyed access to some famous artists. He took full advantage of his situation by gaining signatures to an impressive collection of records set for auction in 2024. Baker owned rare white labels and unique pressings; many of these releases should make eye-watering sums.

8. Nigel Mansell: Formula One Racing Driver

Nigel Mansell at the 1990 United States Grand Prix.
Image Credit: Stuart Seeger – CCA 2.0/WikiCommons.

Britain’s Nigel Mansell enjoyed a successful career in Formula One, winning the World Championship in 1992. Thirty-one years later, he sold a remarkable collection of motorsport memorabilia, which fetched over £2 million. Three hundred twenty-four lots, including trophies and helmets, went under the hammer, but Mansell’s personalized license plate was the most expensive item. “5 NM” sold for £50,400, about $65,000. 

9. Bruce Springsteen: Musician

Bruce Springsteen
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Many modern artists sell handwritten lyrics as part of their merchandise package. It’s a big deal for fans as it lets them grab something genuinely personal from their favorite musicians. Few could hope to match the revenue earned by Bruce Springsteen when he auctioned the original lyrics to “Born to Run.” The handwritten notes fetched $197,000 at Sotheby’s New York in 2013.

10. Emma Tighe: TV Advertising

Cadbury Chocolates
Pictured: Cadbury chocolate. Image Credit: Mohammed Moosa – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

It’s unlikely you’ll have heard of Emma Tighe. At age three, she starred in a TV ad for the chocolate producer Cadbury. That was the height of her acting career, but that appearance inspired Tighe to build a vast collection of chocolate memorabilia. At the start of 2023, it was announced that the collection was going up for sale. Included in the 329 lots were limited edition egg cups and chocolate tins, plus a selection of retro shop signs, all of which are highly collectible.

11. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: NBA

MAGIC MOMENT—Magic Johnson, wearing his new T-shirt, laughs at Jamaal Wilkes' joke during Laker rally outside Forum after the NBA champions returned from Philadelphia Saturday. At left are Norm Nixon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Image Credit: Jayne Kamin, Los Angeles Times – CC BY 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Charities benefited from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s extreme act of kindness. In 2019, Abdul-Jabbar’s four championship rings and 228 other memorabilia items raised a staggering $2.8 million at auction, with the proceeds going to his Skyhook charity, which helps underprivileged young people.

12. Jeremy Bulloch: Star Wars Actor

The Empire Strikes Back Dinner with Vader Lando Calrissian Boba Fett Jaems Earl Jones Dave Prowse Billy Dee Williams Jeremy Bulloch
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Anthony Daniels wasn’t the first member of the Star Wars fraternity to sell up. In 2023, Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett, put many personal lots up for sale with UK-based East Bristol Auctions through his estate. Bulloch was a massive fan of the franchise, and following his death in 2020, his estate made items available for fellow collectors. Included in the sale were action figures and items sent in by fans.

13. Dermot Reeve: Cricketer

Dermot Reeve from a news airing where he announces his retirement (7/22/96).
Image Credit: Youtube/DM MORDECAI.

Not every athlete sells personal awards because they want to—some auction off items due to necessity, which was the case with Dermot Reeve. A former international cricketer, Reeve enjoyed a later career as a commentator before personal issues got in the way. In 2017, it was reported that Reeve was selling his leather-bound 1996 copy of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack to raise money. These versions of the book go to Wisden Cricketers of the Year, so it was a unique sale.

14. Barbara Walters: Journalist and Broadcaster

Barbara Walters
Image Credit: ABC News.

Many items from the estate of the late Barbara Walters went to auction in late 2023. Lots included personal memorabilia from her long career, and the final sales exceeded $5 million. Walters was a collector of fine American art, and The Peony Girl by Massachusetts Impressionist Childe Hassam reached an impressive $622,800.

15. Slava Medvedenko: LA Lakers

Slava Medvedenko receiving replacement championship rings after auctioning his off for his home country of Ukraine.
Image Credit: Youtube/Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission.

Like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Slava Medvedenko sold cherished NBA memorabilia for worthy causes. In 2022, the former LA Laker auctioned his two championship rings to raise money for the conflict in Ukraine. The rings followed the Lakers’ wins in 2001 and 2002, reaching $126,767. Auctioneers SCP Auctions successfully fulfilled the player’s wishes, totaling $253,534.

16. Audrey Hepburn: Actress

Breakfast at Tiffany's Movie (1961)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Many of Audrey Hepburn’s favorite personal items went to auction in 2017. Items from the iconic movie star’s estate became Christie’s responsibility, and 251 lots were involved, including clothing and jewelry. Totals for the sale exceeded £4.6 million, and a significant proportion of the funds came via an original script for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The script went for £630,000, seven times its pre-sale estimate.

17. Margaret Thatcher: UK Prime Minister

Margaret Thatcher
Image Credit: European Communities, 1983 / EC – Audiovisual Service – Athens European Council, 04-06/12/1983, Attribution/Wiki Commons.

Christie’s of London oversaw a vast collection of Margaret Thatcher’s personal effects. Christie’s split the lots into three separate sales, which took place between 2019 and 2015. Included in those auctions were jewelry and gifts from other world leaders. The final sale included a list of engagements from her final day in power, and the total exceeded £1 million.

18. Amy Winehouse: Singer

Amy Winehouse
Image Credit: Gregory Gebhardt, CC 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Not every auction takes place under the agreement of family and friends. Shortly after Amy Winehouse passed away in 2011, two former friends cashed in by selling some personal items, including underwear, jewelry, and hair clips. Amy’s father, Mitch Winehouse, is also the administrator of her estate. He was appalled and filed a lawsuit against the individuals involved.

19. Boris Becker: Tennis Player

Former tennis star Boris Becker was in attendance Tottenham Hotspur v Bayern Munich UEFA Champions League Group B Tottenham Hotspur Stadium London UK 1st October 2019 1
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

German tennis star Boris Becker is another athlete who reluctantly sold medals and trophies. Becker was made bankrupt in 2017 and was obliged to raise funds to pay off a considerable debt. The German was later accused of withholding trophies. An Olympic Gold medal and Wimbledon winners trophies were among the items which raised $920,000.

20. Freddie Mercury: Musician

David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, Bono, George Michael, Andrew Ridgeley, Queen, Wham!, and Neville Cawas Bardoliwalla in Live Aid (1985) 80s TV Moments
Image Credit: ABC, BBC, and MTV.

The auction of Freddie Mercury’s memorabilia in 2023 was called “A World of His Own,” which sums up the diverse range of items on sale. Sotheby’s took charge of the lots, including a neon telephone and a tiny silver mustache comb. One of the highlights saw Freddie’s piano sell for an incredible £1.74 million.

21. Mark Wells and Mark Pavelich: 1980 Olympic Hockey Gold Medallists

Mark Pavelich in the rink.
Pictured: Mark Pavelich. Image Credit: Youtube/Wiki4All.

Two members of the 1980 Winter Olympics US gold medal-winning hockey team sold their awards for different reasons. Mark Wells sold his medal to pay for medical treatment required to manage a rare genetic disorder. He traded to a private collector who later sold the medal at auction for $310,000. Wells’ teammate Mark Pavelich also sold his gold medal, raising $262,900 at auction in 2014. Pavelich wanted to give his daughter a “step forward ” in life.

22. Wladimir Klitschko: Pro Boxer

Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko with user terminal of Starlink system of satellite Internet access in Kyiv. The terminals and access to the system were provided to Ukraine by Elon Musk shortly after beginning of the 2022 Russian invasion (source).
Image Credit: CC 4.0/WikiCommons.

The 1980 Olympic Gold Medals fetched impressive prices, but heavyweight boxer Wladimir Klitschko dwarfed the figures. At the Olympic level, the Ukrainian won gold at the Atlanta games in 1996 and sold the award for a cool $1 million. He later explained that 100% of the proceeds went towards the Klitschko Brothers Foundation, which funds children’s sports facilities.

23. Alfredo di Stefano: Argentine Soccer Player

Rome (Italy), Olympic Stadium, February 28, 1959. Argentine-born footballer Alfredo Di Stéfano, Spanish naturalized, leave the pitch during the friendly game between Italy and Spain (1-1).
Image Credit: Public Domain/WikiCommons.

A dual international who represented Argentina and Spain, soccer player Alfredo di Stefano was the greatest player of his day, and he won a host of trophies in a long career between 1945 and 1966. In 2021, his family decided to share some artifacts with the world.

Over 600 items of memorabilia, including medals, trophies, and shirts, were put up for sale at Julien’s Auctions in London. The collection may not have raised the most money for an athlete, but it represented one of the more fascinating and diverse sets of lots.

24. Elton John: Musician

elton john 2 1
Image Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock.

A fascinating collection of Elton John’s memorabilia caused a stir when it went up for sale at Christie’s in February 2024, with many items exceeding expectations. A signed, collector’s edition pinball machine with a top estimate of $15,000 eventually sold for $69,300. Included in the remaining lots were some incredible icons of Elton’s performing career, including platform boots and a pair of his trademark glasses.

25. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: Former First Lady

Jackie Onassis Kennedy
Image Credit: Robert Knudsenderivative work: Nickvaughn49, Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

Sotheby’s of New York handled the sale of former United States first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. 1996 saw personal items exceed their original estimates by considerable margins. Sotheby’s initially felt that the total sale would come in at around $4.6 million, while the final total was an incredible £34,457.470. Highlights of the auction included a rocking chair previously used in the Oval Office, purchased for $453,500 by the musician Carole Bayer Sager.

26. William Perry: NFL Star

Football player William "the Refrigerator" Perry sacks Duke quarterback Ben Bennett
Image Credit: Public Domain/WikiCommons.

In the 1980s, no single player helped the NFL become a global sport more than William “The Refrigerator” Perry. Major broadcasters showed the league in the UK for the first time, and Perry was the standout figure in a Chicago Bears team of characters. The Bears won the Super Bowl in 1985, but Perry was forced to sell his winner’s ring due to personal issues.

The story has a happy ending: After selling his ring for $24,000, the buyer returned it to William Perry in a touching gesture.

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