Cowardly Lion Costume, 'Casablanca' Piano Sell for More Than $3 Million at Auction
The Cowardly Lion costume from the Wizard of Oz and the Casablanca piano, two of the most iconic pieces of movie memorabilia, sold at Bonham’s Turner Classic Movies auction.
Both pieces went for more than $3 million (with buyer’s premium). While neither result is a record, the sale price was at the upper end of presale estimates.
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The Cowardly Lion costume, owned by Los Angeles TV museum founder James Comisar, fetched $3,077,000, which includes a buyer’s premium of $477,000. The costume had been left in an old MGM building before it was rescued by a junk dealer cleaning out the abandoned building.
Comisar bought the costume, which is made up of real lion's fur, and had it preserved by professional museum curators. Several costumes were made for the film. Comisar says an extensive analysis of the unique fur swirls prove this one was screen-used in key scenes featuring the Lion (played by Bert Lahr).
The piano, which an anonymous Los Angeles-area collector owned for decades, fetched $3,413,000, including a buyer’s premium of $513,000. The piano is the one Sam (Dooley Wilson) played in Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca. The piano was likely built in 1927 and used in several productions. It features a modification made for the movie so that Rick (Humphrey Bogart) could open the lid from the rear to hide papers.
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The auction record for a movie prop is the $4,085,000 paid for a Maltese Falcon at last year’s Bonhams-TCM auction. The overall record for a piece of movie memorabilia is the $4.6 million paid for the Aston Martin James Bond (Sean Connery) drove in Goldfinger. The record for a piece of TV memorabilia is the $4.6 million paid for the 1960s TV Batmobile.
This is the second year TCM and Bonhams have collaborated on the auction. Other items selling for high amounts included Aragon’s (Viggo Mortensen) sword from the Lord of the Rings for $437,000, a Dorothy “test” dress from Wizard of Oz for $245,000 and a costume from Gilda worn by Rita Hayworth that went for $161,000.
Full results can be found here.
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