This Month in Collecting History - August 2016
By Mike McLeod

August 2, 2015: The 1882 Colt revolver belonging to gunfighter, lawman, gambler and sports reporter Bat Masterson sold for $96,000 at J. Levine Auction. After his gunfighting days, Masterson reported on prizefighting, sports and other newsy topics for the New York Morning Telegraph. He died of a heart attack on October 25, 1921 at his desk…with his boots on.

Bat’s revolver (Photo courtesy of Tim Nelson and
J. Levine Auction.)

Bat Masterson

August 5: Birthdays of actor and director John Huston, 1906 (The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen and The Misfits), and Neil Armstrong, 1930. In 2013, Bonham’s sold the 45-lb. lead Maltese Falcon statuette used in the movie for $4,085,000. A resin Falcon used for still photos sold at Guernsey’s in 2010 for $305,000 to a group of collectors that included Leonardo DiCaprio.

August 6, 1911: The Queen of Comedy, Lucille Ball was born to bring laughter to the world. Known for her red hair, Lucy was naturally a brunette. With four TV series, TV specials and 100+ movies, Lucy acted almost every year but one between 1933 and 1977 ( A 1975 photo of her by Cindy Sherman sold for $23,750 at Heritage Auctions in 2013. Other copies have sold for less.

Photo Right: Cindy Sherman’s photo of Lucy
(Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

August 7, 2001: Joseph Jefferson “Shoeless Joe” Jackson’s “Black Betsy” bat sold for $577,610 on eBay. His 12-year career (batting average .356) was cut short by the Black Sox scandal where eight White Sox players were banned from baseball for throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. All were acquitted in court but banned nonetheless. Many seriously doubt that Jackson was guilty.

Photo Right: “Shoeless” Joe Jackson

August 10, 1846: President James K. Polk signed an Act of Congress that established the Smithsonian Institution, America’s collection, including the Star-Spangled Banner flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, the Apollo lunar landing module and one pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

Photo Right: The Star-Spangled Banner

August 11, 1919: Steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie passed away. He reportedly funded 3,000 libraries in the U.S. and the world. A Tiffany Dragonfly table lamp from Andrew Carnegie’s collection auctioned for $2,110,000 at Sotheby’s in 2015.

Photo Right: The Tiffany Dragonfly lamp
(Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s)

August 12, 1881: Producer and director of 80+ movies, Cecil B. DeMille debuted in life. In his blockbuster film, The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston’s own newborn son played the baby Moses, and in the burning bush scene, Heston was the voice of God ( In 2012, the Ten Commandments tablets made of fiberglass and painted like red granite sold for $36,250 at Julien’s Live.

August 13, 1860: The birthday of Phoebe Ann Mosey who became famous as Annie Oakley. Her 16-gauge Parker Brothers hammer shotgun hit $293,000 at Heritage Auctions in 2013.

Photo Right: Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley’s Parker (Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

August 14, 1851: Birthday of O.K. Corral legend John Henry "Doc" Holliday. Doc’s frock coat auctioned for $55,000, his pistol in a case for $50,000 and his dental chair for $40,000 at Guernsey’s in 2013.

August 14, 2014: The highest price for a car sold in an auction was paid this day, $38 million for a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta at Bonhams. The most ever paid for any car was in the private sale of a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO racer for $52 million in 2013 (, 10/2/13).

August 15, 1935: Beloved cowboy humorist Will Rogers passed away this day in a small plane crash in Alaska, setting off national mourning. A collection of photos of Rogers and his pilot Wiley Post prior to the crash and after the crash of the plane upside down in the water, and some autographs, were appraised at $18,000 to $20,000 on the Antiques Roadshow in 2008 (

August 16, 1948: Babe Ruth succumbed to cancer this day, but his legend continues. His circa 1920 New York Yankees game-worn jersey—his earliest known—reached $4.4 million at SCP Auctions in an Internet auction in 2012.

Photo Right: Babe Ruth’s earliest known jersey
(Photo courtesy of SCP Auctions)

August 16, 1949: Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind, passed away from injuries after being hit by a car. A 1938 edition of Gone With the Wind autographed by 26 cast members and two directors—including Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, Hattie “Mammy” McDaniel, Butterfly “Prissy” McQueen, David O. Selznick and Victor Fleming—hit $135,300 at a Profiles in History auction in 2012.

August 18, 1992: Larry Bird announced his retirement from basketball. A member of the 1992 Olympic Basketball Dream Team, his USA game-worn jersey sold for $4,800 at Julien’s in 2014. A 1992 USA Olympic Dream Team basketball, signed by the team including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Bird and used in their gold medal victory, sold for $230,041 in 2015 at SCP Auctions.

August 19: Philo T. Farnsworth, generally regarded as the inventor of the first working and patented television, was born in 1906. In 1921, Gene Roddenberry was born and used TV to bring “Space, the final frontier” into our homes with Star Trek. Profiles in History sold Capt. Kirk’s chair for $304,000 in 2002. The original 11-foot model of the Starship Enterprise is docked in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The original phaser rifle used in only one episode by William Shatner sold for $231,000 at Julien's Auctions in 2013.

August 23, 1926: At the age of 31, silent film star and national heart throb Rudolph Valentino died from infection after surgery for a perforated ulcer. His death reportedly caused chaos, riots and fans to commit suicide. It is estimated 100,000 people paid their respects at his casket. While his signed check and signed letter went for $580 at Christie’s in 2007, his 1926 estate auction catalog sold for $4,000 at Profiles in History in 2010.

Photo Right: Valentino

August 25, 1930: The first James Bond was born, Sean Connery. Of the twenty-six Bond movies, Connery starred in seven; only Roger Moore acted in as many. In 2015, Sir Sean sold two diamonds at Sotheby’s: a pear-shaped 15.2-carat, pink diamond for $4,058,000 and a 5-carat, pear-shaped diamond in a ring for $250,000.

August 26, 1930: Lon Chaney, “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” passed away. With 150+ movie roles from1913 to 1930 ( to his credit—including Phantom of the Opera (1925) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)—it is fitting that the one-sheet for London After Midnight (1927) sold for an incredible $478,000 at Heritage Auctions in 2014. In it, he played a vampire. This was the only known copy of the two versions of this poster.

Lon Chaney

(Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

August 28, 2005: One of the four existing pairs of Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota (, 12/3/08). When the thief or thieves broke in, security cameras and alarm systems were not working (, Feb. 2009). The slippers have not been recovered to date. A pair of ruby slippers could sell for millions of dollars.

Photo Right: Ruby slippers safe in the Smithsonian
(Photo courtesy of dbking.)

August 29, 1958: Michael Jackson popped into the world. More than 13 million of his albums have sold since his death on June 25, 2009 (, 6/26/17). His sequined white glove went with a flourish for $350,000 at Julien’s in 2009.

August 29, 1982: The Swedish movie star Ingrid Bergman passed away this day, 67 years to the day after she was born in 1915. The piano that Sam (Dooley Wilson) played at her request in Rick’s Café sold for $3.4 million at Bonhams in 2014. Another piano seen briefly in the movie tuned up $602,500 at Sotheby’s in 2012.

August 30, 1797: The birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the “mother” of Frankenstein. Published in 1818, Frankenstein was a horror classic in print and on film. A three-sheet Style C movie poster from 1931 sold for $358,500 at Heritage Auctions in 2015.

(Photo Right, courtesy of Heritage Auctions)


Credits: and
Unless otherwise credited, all photos public domain, PD-US.



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