Ever wonder what that favorite souvenir, that prized piece of classic movie star memorabilia that you’ve been saving all these years is worth in the hard-nosed commercial market? Good question.
And make no mistake, it is a tough market out there.
While there are plenty of star museums still dotting the country — including those for Gene Autrey in Oklahoma, Rosemary Clooney in Kentucky, James Dean in his home state of Indiana, Clark Gable in Ohio, Judy Garland in Minnesota and facilities honoring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, among other sites — several such museums struggle mightily and some have closed.
The Ava Gardner museum in Smithfield, North Carolina is still going strong but a site dedicated to Liberace near Las Vegas shuttered in 2010. The Debbie Reynolds Museum located in a hotel on the Strip closed in 1997. (Frank visited both, and he says their respective closings did not come as a shock.) Reynolds is said to be in the process of auctioning off piecemeal the memorabilia in her extensive collection.
One of the saddest closings came on Dec. 12, 2009 when the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri packed it in after 42 years of continuous operation.
Explained Rogers’ son, Dusty: The decision to close the Museum has come after two years of steady decline in visitors…Dad’s fans are getting older, and concerned about their retirement funds. Everyone is concerned about their future in this present economy.
You ask, who was Roy Rogers? Well, the former Leonard Franklin Slye would have marked his 100 birthday old two years ago had he lived. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on Nov. 5, 1911, Slye became Roy Rogers, and then became King of the Cowboys and even King of the West.
He is perhaps the most prominent and durable cowpoke in movie history — totally encapsulated by his cowboy roles. That’s all Rogers did.
He was strictly a genial, sometimes singing but always straight-shooting cowboy who starred in nearly 120 movies and tv vehicles spanning nearly a half century. He certainly ranks right up there with the likes of Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy (aka William Boyd), Lash LaRue and Don “Red” Barry.
Supporting Rogers was his faithful horse Trigger, who appeared in all Roy’s pictures from 1938 until 1965, when the steed died at the ripe age of 33. Dale Evans was Roy’s wife and closest sidekick for half a century. Their 50-year-marriage ended in 1998, when Roy was felled by congestive heart problems.
Following the Branson closing, a decision was made (in accordance with Roy’s instructions) to auction off the museum’s contents, which happened last year at Christie’s in New York City. Here, according to a report on the website Examiner.com, is what various stuff fetched:
Trigger’s saddle and bridle sold for $386,500. Roy’s collection of signed baseballs went for $3,750. Just one of Roy’s elaborately decorated shirts was auctioned off for $16,250. A cowboy hat drew $17,500. The Bible that Roy and Dale used at nightly dinners commanded $8,750.
Then, one of Roy’s guitars netted $27,500. A set of movie posters drew $18,750. And, Dale’s parade saddle sold for a whopping $104,500 — five times the pre-auction estimate. In all, the Christie’s auction brought in just under $3 million.
Hope this provides some idea of your memorabilia might be worth. Final note: According the Associated Press, after the auction ended, bidders at Christie’s broke out “spontaneously” in ensemble vocalizing of Roy’s theme song, “Happy Trails.”