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April 18, 2014

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Celebrity memorabilia hits the auction block in Las Vegas

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Justin M. Bowen

A number of Cher’s personal and professional items are among 1,600 lots for sale at the Julien’s Auctions summer sale being held Thursday through Sunday at Planet Hollywood.

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Julien's Auctions Summer Sale

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Map of Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino

Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino

3667 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas

Not far from the slot machines and blackjack tables of Planet Hollywood sit some of American royalty’s most obscure possessions — Elvis Presley’s blue belt karate certificate, Cher’s collection of furs and Marilyn Monroe’s dry cleaning bills.

They’re part of Julien’s Auctions annual summer sale, which starts Thursday at Planet Hollywood.

Among the 1,600 lots up for bid this weekend is a treasure trove of Michael Jackson belongings set to go on sale on Friday, the first anniversary of the pop star’s death.

Although some of the 250 lots were commissioned but never owned by Jackson, Julien’s Auctions owner Darren Julien said items in the collection are some of the most popular and priciest.

One of Jackson’s signature Swarovski crystal-covered gloves worn on his “Victory” tour is expected to fetch up to $30,000, and a T-shirt he wore in his “Beat It” video is anticipated to sell for between $14,000 and $16,000.

A gold-gilded and red velvet nine-seat sofa commissioned by Jackson is one of the highest valued items in Julien’s Auctions summer sale.

Its estimated value is between $130,000 and $150,000, yet it was never touched by Jackson. It retailed at $215,000 when Jackson ordered it for his “This Is It” concert tour.

Despite protests from Jackson’s father, Joe Jackson, and brother Randy Jackson about hosting the auction on the anniversary of Jackson’s death, Julien won’t be changing the date. The summer sale has taken place in Las Vegas the same weekend for the last five years.

Julien said Friday the auction is expected to attract fans from all over the world. Last year’s auction, which took place at the time of Jackson’s death, included only 21 lots related to the singer.

“The demand for his items has increased significantly since his passing. We had an auction in New York in November and 88 of his items sold for over $2 million,” Julien said.

Included in the November auction was the glove Jackson wore when performing the moonwalk for the first time at the “Motown 25” concert in 1983. It sold for $420,000.

The jacket Jackson wore in his “Bad” video sold for $271,000. Before Jackon’s death, Julien said, the jacket would have sold for $15,000 to $20,000.

Julien has been in the business of selling history under his own brand for the past 10 years.

He started in classic car sales, working with collectors such as Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld. He later worked for Sotheby’s in Los Angeles and then branched out on his own to start Julien’s Auctions.

His favorites among the memorabilia up for sale this week aren’t the flashiest or most expensive pieces. They’re the more personal pieces, such as letters and jewelry from Frank Sinatra to Mia Farrow and a guitar Johnny Cash asked him to sell to raise money for his daughter.

The guitar has been turned back over to Julien’s Auctions by its owner and is up for sale again.

Some celebrity items have proven more collectable than others. Pieces owned by artists such as Cher and Elvis are always popular because of the strong fan base, Julien said.

A guitar owned by Jimi Hendrix is the most expensive item in the summer sale collection, with a value up to $200,000. Other items, such as a boxing robe from R.Kelly and purses from Anna Nicole Smith, will be lucky to fetch triple-digit prices.

“Some celebrities just haven’t met that bench mark of collectibility yet,” Julien said.

Potential buyers run the gamut. They’ll include rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia collectors, celebrities, avid fans, museum curators and gamblers who have hit it big on the casino floor, Julien said.

If you think the recession has negatively impacted the memorabilia industry, you’d be wrong, Julien said. The price and demand for memorabilia has actually gone up in the economic downturn.

“This is an industry that is recession-proof, and the reason is because a lot of our high-end customers are investors looking to diversify their portfolios. They see this as a safer investment than the stock market,” Julien said. “During the 1999 Christie’s Marilyn Monroe sale, everyone thought those prices were so high. Those same items are selling for 10 to 20 times more today.”

The auction items are open for the public to inspect until Thursday at Planet Hollywood.

Julien’s Auctions summer sale will start Thursday morning with the Music Icons catalog and will finish up Sunday with the “Star Trek” catalog.

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