This 1941 Junior High photo of Norma Jeane Baker (who later became Marilyn Monroe) is inscribed on the back to a classmate. It is one of the earliest examples of her signature and sold for $18,500 in May 2011.
A peek at WorthPoint’s top searches is always a fascinating exercise. It provides real insight into what people are buying, selling and exploring. Searches on the Worthopedia stem from a variety of needs. Sometimes people want to see what a similar item sold for in the past so they can price accordingly. Sometimes they want to check rarity or variations in style. And sometimes they want to see listing photographs to help identify what they have. But often they are just researching a subject or item. Each quarter offers an interesting window of information for collectors, dealers, enthusiasts and appraisers (who must always be aware of market trends). The first quarter of 2012 was no exception, with an array of unusual hits.
As expected, many searches this period were the result of current events. Marilyn Monroe has been prominent in collectible news for the past few months. Julien’s December “Icons and Idols” auction in Beverly Hills featured an extensive collection of Marilyn’s memorabilia and its March “Hollywood Legends” auction showcased more than 100 rare and never-before-seen Monroe photos sold by the estate of her personal makeup artist, Whitey Snyder.
Those events, so close together, brought an expected renewal of interest in the tragic movie star and everything about her, from her childhood through her death. The approaching 50th anniversary of her controversial death (Aug. 5) means that she will continue to be popular over the summer months and I fully expect to see her in the top searches again next quarter.
Similarly, a February story claiming new evidence in support of a disputed claim that Adolf Hitler had a son with a French teenager in 1918 is probably what sparked an increase in searches for information about the Nazi dictator this quarter. Jean-Marie Loret (who died in 1985) wrote in his 1981 autobiography that his mother revealed his father’s true identity in the early 1950s, only a few weeks before her death. But the story was debunked by most historians after Loret’s claim began to appear in print in 1979. According to the February article in Le Point (a French weekly news magazine), new evidence has supposedly surfaced that includes handwriting analysis and documents indicating that Hitler provided financial assistance to Loret’s mother. And, a portrait of her signed by Hitler was allegedly found in her attic. Meanwhile, a Belgium journalist who collected DNA samples from relatives of both men several years ago says they do not match. This type of news generally causes a bit of a stir (and subsequent Internet searches) for a few days and then rapidly dies off. The Worthopedia saw a brief increase in searches for Hitler newspapers, books and photos as a result.
The death of Peter Breck, the star of televisions’ “The Big Valley” also caused him to make our top list. Breck, who passed in early February at age 82, played the role of Nick Barkley (the middle son who was always itching for a fight) in the series from 1965 to 1969. Searches for glossy studio photos, headshots and autographs naturally increased for the rugged actor during the days following his death. Usually playing a rancher, cowboy, gambler or gunfighter in the Old West, Breck also appeared on “Maverick.” “The Virginian,” “Perry Mason,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “Gunsmoke,” “Wagon Train,” ”Have Gun – Will Travel” and “Lawman.”
Peter Breck appeared as the hot-headed middle son Nick Barkley on “The Big Valley” from 1965-1969.
Stingray 2000M Deep Sea Hunter dive watches probably made our list because of the search phrases “deep sea hunter” and “deep sea dive.”
This 1937 sealed package of Listerine cigarettes sold for $180 in March 2008. They were advertised as “cooling and soothing.”
And undoubtedly, film producer and director James Cameron’s highly-publicized March voyage to the ocean’s depths is what caused the sudden flurry of hits on Stingray 2000M Deep Sea Hunter dive watches. Cameron documented his historic March 26th expedition to the Mariana Trench’s lowest point (6.83 miles below the ocean’s surface) in high-resolution 3-D and received widespread acclaim. Although the watch wasn’t necessarily associated with the famous filmmaker or with National Geographic’s “Deep Sea Challenge,” they share eerily similar search phrases.
But sometimes the top searches are much more mundane. Collectors are simply looking for what they collect—an elusive comic book, funky vintage clothing, a rare first edition, Coca-Cola advertising, a celebrity autograph, a 15th-century woodblock print or an antique mechanical part. That’s why disparate items like dial gauges, pool cues, 1922 fabric measuring devices, Dumbo the Elephant toys, Joyce DeWitt posters, 1964 French designer sunglasses, Monica Lewinsky purses and 1937 sealed packages of Listerine cigarettes all made frequent appearances on this quarter’s top list. And that’s why I’m never surprised at what we find.
Liz Holderman is a Worthologist who specializes in collectible books.