Few people can resist the dazzling charm of Hollywood, and in recent years this weakness has been revealed in several high-profile listings of noteworthy memorabilia. The items sold include personal belongings and movie memorabilia of two iconic Hollywood stars: Audrey Hepburn’s personal collection (star of “Roman Holiday”, “My Fair Lady”, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”) sold at the Christie auction, and Vivien Leigh’s collection (“Gone with the wind”, “Tram called lust”) sold at the Sotheby’s auction.

Hollywood memorabilia started with autographs and original photos, but in recent years this hobby has evolved into a lucrative collector’s business with items such as the famous blue and white checkered dress worn by Judy Garland “Dorothy” in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), which was sold for $ 1,565,000.00. At the beginning studio employees used to take and sell old costumes without permission as it took Hollywood studios a while to realize how valuable their fans’ interest is. People used to talked about costume designer Kent Warner who sold an extensive private collection of clothes, including Humphrey Bogart’s trench coat from “Casablanca” (1942). Before the 1970s, the efforts of Hollywood studios to eliminate their collections led to the first ever Hollywood memorabilia auction, which included hundreds of items. The success of the 1970 MGM auction gave rise to a new wave of interest in Hollywood. Today’s collectors and enthusiasts are still looking for the splendour and charm of this bygone era. In November 2016, a costume discovered in a vintage store in New York turned out to be the iconic costume worn by Kim Novac in the critically acclaimed film “Vertigo” by Alfred Hitchcock (1958) and was sold for 28,750.00 dollars.

Audrey Hepburn’s personal collection was part of a five-day exhibition preceding the largest ever auction of Hepburn’s personal items, which was organized at the Christie’s auction house .The iconic Hepburn wardrobe was placed at the auction, including the Burberry coat from the eighties, which reached a price of £ 68,750.00, a screenplay with notes for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), which reached a price of £ 632,750.00 and a series of previously unseen portraits. This extensive collection of memorabilia offers a close insight into the timeless style and Hepburn’s personal archive. The impeccable conditions in which these objects were stored increased their priceless value and the pleasure of looking at them.

Luca Dotti, son of Hepburn, recalls that his mother kept her clothes in immaculate condition, which delighted Valentino, who once said: “Everyone else’s clothes are stained and torn, but yours are like new”. “The iconic Hepburn style has long been sought-after at auctions. In 2006, the original “little black dress” designed by Givenchy, which appeared in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, was sold for a staggering £ 477,200.00.

The cinematographic meaning of these objects can’t be underestimated. Their value is determined by their connection to both famous films and stars. Regardless of whether they are passed on in the family (as in the case of Hepburn’s personal collection) or discovered by chance in a vintage store, collecting Hollywood memorabilia is a unique opportunity to collect timeless elements of film history. Many old costumes and props bear the marks of their owner, such as studio labels like Paramount or Universal.

When trying to value Hollywood memorabilia, you need to take into account several factors related to it:

  • authenticity
  • who it belonged to
  • meaning for cinema
  • quality and condition

As with other types of collector’s items, the rarer the item, the higher its value. The popularity and fame of Hollywood stars and films directly influence the price of such an item. For many people collecting such souvenirs is a form of tribute to a given star and an opportunity to keep a fragment of their life. The everlasting charm of old, classic Hollywood movies and their stars gave rise to the fad of collecting items associated with them.

Quote: “Audrey Hepburn Exhibition Celebrates the Star’s Enduring Appeal” Hannah Marriot, The Guardian, 22 September 2017.

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