Elvis auction racks up a King's ransom
October 11, 1999
LAS VEGAS (CNN) -- The weekend's yard sale of Elvis Presley memorabilia generated a gross of nearly $5 million in Las Vegas.
"It was significantly more than we expected," says Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey's auction house. Proceeds from the auction are to benefit Presley Place, a low-income housing complex under development in Memphis, the site of Presley's Graceland Mansion.
Karl Lindroos, who bought Presley's 1970 Mercedes limousine for $80,000, says his new ride makes him "feel like a king."
"I hope to take this car with me someday and drive around Finland on a beautiful summer," he says.
Another set of Presley's wheels was the vehicle of the auction's highest bid: Gallery Furniture of Houston paid $250,000 plus $27,000 in auction commissions for a 1956 Lincoln Continental in which the singer once took actress Natalie Wood on a date. Susie Palacios, buying for the store, also landed the King's bejeweled 35-pound "eagle cape" for $85,000 plus a 15 percent commission. The cape was worn in one of the star's last television specials, "Aloha From Hawaii."
Several other corporate bidders were involved. Swatch was the successful bidder on Presley's Hamilton wristwatch. The company now owns Hamilton and wanted Presley's watch as an addition to its archives.
And the Hard Rock Cafe bought the wooden box in which Presley kept Muriel Tiplatet cigars. Barrie Lipins, buying for the company, says the humidor will be put on display at one of the Hard Rock restaurants.
Drafting clothes into the act
Much sentimental value was attached to Presley's 1956 draft card. It sold for $22,500.
And who says clothes don't sell at garage sales? Presley's peacock belt cinched $32,500. A jumpsuit went for $65,000. And a velvet ensemble sold for $20,000.
Auctioneer Joanna Grant pushed through three days of barking bids on true grit and pain killers. She broke her leg upon arrival but went on to auction off Presley's Bible for $25,000. His handgun sold for nearly four times as much, $95,000. Ronald Melby says he was ready to pay more.
"I had to talk to my wife a little bit, and she said go ahead and buy it," he says. "I was set for $100,000 to $150,000."
Melby was among hundreds of bidders at the MGM Grand Hotel, vying for the 2,000 pieces on the auction block, including one item shipped there by mistake -- a Christmas-tree-shaped television antenna once installed at the Graceland mansion.
"It wasn't supposed to be in the auction, but was brought here mistakenly," Ettinger said. "In the spirit of the moment, we went ahead and put it up for bid."
Sue Fergerstrom of Springfield, Missouri, paid $1,725 for it. "It's a real piece of Graceland, not just some document," Sue Fergerstrom said.
"And when he tries to contact me, I'll have better reception."
CNN Entertainment News Correspondent Paul Vercammen and Reuters contributed to this report.
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