MARILYN MONROE MEMORABILIA: THE WORLD'S MOST VALUABLE ITEMS
She was the world's most photographed woman, whose on-screen performances captured the hearts of millions of fans, and whose tragic private life saw her struggle with the price of fame.
More than 50 years after her death, Marilyn Monroe's remarkable life and career continues to fascinate us - and collectors are willing to pay huge sums to own a piece of her magic. Here's our list of the most valuable items of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia ever sold.
Hand-Knitted Cardigan - $167,500
This hand-knitted woollen cardigan was worn by Monroe during her last-ever photo-shoot, at Santa Monica beach on July 3, 1962.
The images were taken by George Barris, a Hollywood photographer who originally met Monroe on the Set of The Seven Year Itch in 1954 and remained close friends with the actress for the rest of her life.
The Santa Monica photographs were intended as part of a book the pair were collaborating on, entitled 'Marilyn: Her Life In Her Own Words'. However, just three weeks after the photographs were taken, Monroe was found dead in her Los Angeles home and the distraught Barris abandoned the project, refusing the publish the photographs until 25 years later.
The cardigan was amongst the personal items Monroe bequeathed to her acting coach Lee Strasberg, and in 1999 it sold as part of a blockbuster Christie's auction featuring the collection of his widow Anna Strasberg, for $167,500.
Silk overcoat - $175,000
This fawn coloured silk overcoat was worn extensively by Monroe from 1956-1959, and was dubbed by many as "Marilyn’s Favorite Coat".
She was photographed wearing the coat as a newlywed in June 1956, as she set off on a road trip with her husband Arthur Miller to his country home in Roxbury, Connecticut, accompanied by her associate and photographer Milton Greene.
She was also photographed in the coat in June 1959, as she left New York’s Lennox Hill Hospital with Miller following a surgical procedure.
The coat was later displayed prominently for many years in the home of a South Carolina collector, before selling at Julien's in December 2014 for $175,000.
Golden Globe award - $184,000
On March 5, 1962, just a few months before she passed away, Monroe was presented with the Golden Globe award for 'World's Favorite Female Star of 1961', as voted for by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
She received the award at the 1962 Golden Globe Awards ceremony, where she appeared visibly drunk and slurred her acceptance speech alongside actor Rock Hudson.
It was the last award of her career, and the Golden Globe statue was amongst her estate which sold at Christie's in 1999, fetching a sum of $184,000.
Rhinestone earrings - $187,500
Although she famously sang 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend' in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Monroe actually owned very few pieces of fine jewellery and preferred to wear costume jewellery in her public appearances.
She wore this pair of clip-on rhinestone earrings in December 1955 to the premiere of The Rose Tattoo, where she was famously photographed and interviewed alongside actor Marlon Brando.
Monroe also wore the earrings in 1956 to the Broadway opening of The Middle of the Night, a play produced by Joshua Logan, who also directed Monroe in Bus Stop that same year.
Having sold as part of the famous Christie's auction in 1999, the earrings sold again at Julien's in April 2014 for $187,500.
Minaudiere handbag - $187,500
(Image: Julien's Auctions)
This ladies evening minaudiere handbag once belonged to Monroe, and was described as "a virtual time capsule of one of the star's nights out on the town".
Inside were three separate compartments, containing a loose powder compartment and original cotton buffer with mirror; a lipstick holder with a tube of lipstick, a clear plastic comb and two loose Mercury dimes; and eight Philip Morris cigarettes.
These personal effects had apparently remained untouched since the last time Monroe used the bag.
Having passed down to Lee Strasberg and his wife Anna following Monroe's death, the bag sold at Julien's in November 2016 for $187,500.
Signed baseball - $191,200
(Image: Heritage Auctions)
This baseball is one of the few items signed by both Monroe and her second husband, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio.
The pair were married in January 1954, but travel kept them apart for much of their relationship and the final straw came in September that year, when Monroe's iconic Seven Year Itch photo-shoot with her skirt blowing up around her made DiMaggio furious with jealousy.
Monroe filed for divorce in December 1954, but DiMaggio was known to be heartbroken and the pair remained close for years.
Following her subsequent divorce from Arthur Miller in January 1961, Monroe entered the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic for treatment but quickly wanted to leave and called DiMaggio for help.
He immediately travelled from Florida to ensure her release, and took her back to the New York Yankees Spring Training Camp in Florida.
Many believe the couple made attempts to reconcile during the trip, and one lucky sports photographer managed to acquire a baseball signed by both of them during his assignment.
The remarkably rare baseball sold at Heritage Auctions in May 2006 for $191,200.
Grave marker - $212,500
Following Monroe's death on August 5, 1962, her funeral was held on August 8 at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
The private ceremony was organized by her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, along with her business partner Inez Melson, and for the next 20 years DiMaggio (who never remarried) had a half-dozen red roses delivered three times a week to her crypt.
Monroe's grave site became a popular destination for fans and tourists, and by the 1970s her grave marker was worn and damaged. It was replaced with a new marker, and the original was returned to the Gasser-Olds bronze casting company that originally supplied it.
One of the company's employees was gifted the original grave marker, and in June 2015 it sold at Julien's Auctions for $212,500.
Platinum Art Deco watch - $225,000
(Image: Julien's Auctions)
Although Monroe mainly wore elaborate costume jewelry throughout her life, she did own a handful of genuinely valuable items, including this wristwatch.
The platinum Art Deco cocktail watch is set with round cut and marquise diamonds, and was made by Swiss company Blancpain, the oldest watch brand in the world.
The watch sold at Julien's Auctions in November 2016 for $225,000 to Blancpain themselves, and is now part of the manufacturer's permanent museum collection.
Dog photographs - $225,000
In 1961 Monroe was gifted a white Maltese terrier named Maf by her friend Frank Sinatra.
According to her friends, Monroe let Maf sleep on a white fur coat given to her by her ex-husband Arthur Miller, although he spent his nights in the guest house of Monroe's Los Angeles home as she suffered from insomnia and needed complete silence to sleep.
Following Monroe's death in August 1962, Maf was adopted by Sinatra's secretary, Glora Lovell, but was run over and killed just a few weeks later.
Whilst he was still a puppy, Monroe took several Polaroid photographs of Maf, which remained in her possession until her death.
The Polaroid photographs were offered at the Christie's sale in 1999, with an estimated value of just $600-$800 – and stunned everyone when they eventually sold for a remarkable $225,000.
Travelling make-up case - $266,500
Monroe's personal folding make-up case contained a wide range of cosmetics, including Elizabeth Arden eyeliners and eyeshadows, Max Factor lipsticks, Revlon nail polish in shades Cherries a la Mode and Hot Coral, and two bottles of perfumed lotion by Shisheido.
Along with a selection of make-up, the box also included a pair of false eyelashes by Glorene of Hollywood, a small collection of restaurant matchbooks and a bottle of smelling salts.
The box was another lot that surprised everyone at the Christies auction in 1999. Offered with an estimate of $1,000-$1,500, it soared to a stunning final price of $266,500.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes pink dress - $310,000
(Image: Profiles in History/Wikipedia)
The performance of ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ is certainly one of Monroe’s most iconic screen moments, and has been imitated by stars such as Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Geri Halliwell and Anna Nicole Smith.
The performance in Monroe's breakthrough film role saw her wear this pink satin gown designed by Travilla, the renowned American costume designer who created outfits for eight of Monroe's most famous films.
Offered with its original 20th Century Fox wardrobe department labels, the dress – which was originally part of a two-piece garment, before the top was discarded during filming – sold at Profiles in History in June 2010 for $310,000.
Black cocktail dress - $358,000
During a Julien’s auction in May 2011, this black crepe cocktail dress with a plunging ‘V’ neckline and low-cut back sold for a price of $358,000.
The dress had been worn by Marilyn whilst attending a Beverly Hills Hotel party, and was featured on the cover of the photography book ‘Marilyn Monroe – From beginning to End’ by Michael Ventura.
Something's Got to Give dress - $358,000
(Images: Julien's/Profiles in History)
In 1962 Monroe starred alongside Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse in the final film of her career, Something's Got to Give.
However, illness meant Monroe didn't show up for the first day of filming, and a series of constant delays and re-writes to accommodate her led 20th Century Fox to fire Monroe from the production.
However, with nine hours of footage in the can and the film already making headlines, thanks to Monroe's already-filmed (and highly publicised) skinny-dipping scene, the studio rehired her to complete it – but before another scene was shot, Monroe was found dead and the project remained unfinished.
This figure-hugging silk crepe dress was worn by Monroe during a scene in which her character is reunited with her children, having spent five years stuck on a dessert island.
As one of the final screen-worn costumes from Monroe's career, it sold at Julien's in June 2015 for $358,000.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes suit - $425,000
(Images: Bonhams/20th Century Fox)
This grey woollen jacket and matching skirt were worn by Monroe in the classic 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in which she starred alongside Jane Russell as a pair of showgirls on the hunt for love and wealthy husbands.
Monroe wears the suit in one of the film's most famous scenes, in which the pair are refused credit by a Paris hotel and end up in a sidewalk cafe singing When Love Goes Wrong.
The role of Lorelei Lee marked a major breakthrough in Monroe's career, and she followed the film's success with an appearance in the inaugural issue of Playboy Magazine and received the Photoplay award for Fastest Rising Star.
In November 2015 the screen-worn outfit sold at Bonhams for $425,000.
Some Like It Hot cocktail dress - $490,000
(Image: Julien's Auctions)
Monroe wore this sheer black cocktail dress on-screen in Some Like It Hot, the 1959 Billy Wilder film acclaimed as one of the greatest comedies of all time.
Monroe played Sugar Kane, the singer and ukulele player in an all-female jazz band, and wore the dress whilst sat atop a grand piano, performing the musical number 'I’m through with Love'.
According to legend, Monroe had to be lifted on and off the piano, as the revealing dress was so tight she couldn't move properly in it.
Decorated with like beads, sequins, scattered beaded butterfly appliques and beaded fringes, the dress retained its original Western Costume label inscribed "Marilyn Monroe 1575-1".
It sold at Julien's in Beverly Hills in November 2016 for $490,000.
There’s No Business Like Show Business dress - $500,000
(Image: Profiles in History)
In 1954 Monroe was part of the all-star cast of the comedy-musical There’s No Business Like Show Business.
She starred as budding singer Victoria Hoffman and performed the Irving Berlin song ‘Heat Wave’, wearing this seductive Travilla-designed costume of a tropical print pink, black and white skirt, black halter top and hat.
Ed Sullivan later described Monroe's performance of the song as "one of the most flagrant violations of good taste" he'd ever seen.
The dress was one of many Monroe screen-worn costumes placed up for sale in 1971 by 20th Century Fox, as the film studio looked to clear out its archives.
However, before they could hit the auction block they were all snapped up by Hollywood actress Debbie Reynolds, who immediately recognised the value and historic importance of the costumes.
Having spent years in Reynolds' renowned collection of movie memorabilia, the dress sold in June 2011 during a landmark auction at Profiles in History for $500,000.
River of No Return red dress - $510,000
(Image: Profiles in History/Oscars.org)
The Reynolds collection auction also saw the sale of a stunning gold and red saloon girl dress worn by Monroe in the 1954 Western ‘The River of No Return’.
The dress had originally created for Betty Grable, and she wore it on-screen whilst singing 'Cuddle Up a Little Closer' in the 1943 film Coney Island.
A decade later it was retrieved from the 20th Century Fox costume department and given the classic Travilla treatment, before being worn by Marilyn as she sings the title song of the Western.
The dress far surpassed its pre-sale estimate of $80,000 - $120,000, eventually selling for a price of $510,000.
River of No Return green dress - $526,000
Although Monroe later described it as her worst film, River of No Return did feature some of her most spectacular period costumes as she starred as dance hall singer Kay Weston.
This green velour dress, featuring two thigh-high slits, a red tiered underskirt and an exaggerated bustle at back, was created by Monroe's favourite designer Travilla, and was worn as she performed the song 'I'm Gonna File My Claim'.
The dress was offered for sale at Julien's in October 2011, during the Legends sale in Maccau, China, where it sold for $526,000.
White piano - $662,500
The white piano was one of Monroe’s most treasured possessions, having originally belonged to her mother.
The piano was later sold when her mother was sadly sectioned, and Marilyn spent a number of years tracking the instrument down before she bought it back.
The first chapter of her posthumously published book My Story is entitled ‘How I rescued a white piano’, demonstrating her close attachment to it.
It was purchased by the singer Mariah Carey during the Christie’s sale of Monroe’s possessions in 1999 for a price of $662,500.
Wedding ring - $772,500
During their wedding ceremony on January 14, 1954 at San Francisco's City Hall registry office, Joe DiMaggio gave Monroe this platinum and diamond eternity band set with thirty-five baguette-cut diamonds.
Although their marriage lasted less than a year, the couple's close relationship endured and Monroe kept her wedding ring for the rest of her life.
The pair were rumoured to be on the verge of reconciliation when she died in August 1962, and DiMaggio never remarried, carrying a torch for Marilyn for the rest of his days.
The wedding ring was one of the star lots at the Christie's estate sale in 1999, where it sold for $772,500
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes showgirl dress - $1.47 million
(Images: Profiles in History/20th Century Fox)
Monroe wore this floor-length red dress in her breakthrough movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, as she performed ‘Two Little Girls from Little Rock’ alongside her co-star Jane Russell.
Designed by Travilla, the spectacular showgirl gown with feathered hat featured thousands of hand-sewn sequins which caught the light from every angle.
It was amongst the collection of Monroe costumes snapped up by Debbie Reynolds directly from 20th Century Fox in 1971, and spent years in her esteemed collection before hitting the auction block in June 2011.
Estimated at $200,000-$300,000, it sold for $1,476,000, making it one of the most valuable screen-worn costumes in movie history.
Happy Birthday Mr President dress - $4.8 million
In one of the most iconic moments of her life, Monroe sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to U.S president John F. Kennedy at his birthday party in May 1962.
"I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way," said Kennedy after the sultry performance at Madison Square Garden (which his wife Jacqueline did not attend).
The event marked one of Monroe's last major public appearances before her untimely death just three months later.
Rumours have persisted ever since that the two had been engaged in affair, and the mystery behind their relationship has fuelled the market for memorabilia relating to the pair of them.
The skin tight dress Monroe wore during the performance, designed by Jean Louis and covered with 2,500 shimmering rhinestones, caused gasps from the crowd when she revealed it at the podium.
In 1999 it sold at the Christie's estate auction for $1,267,500, setting a then-world record price for any dress sold at auction.
Seventeen years later in 2016 it hit the auction block again, this time at Julien's in Beverly Hills - where it sold for an even more remarkable $4.8 million.
Seven Year Itch White Subway dress - $5.65 million
(Images: Profiles in History/20th Century Fox)
Regarded as the most famous dress in Hollywood history, Marilyn’s Travilla-designed white subway dress was always going to be a record-breaker at auction.
But even experts were surprised when it sold during the Debbie Reynolds memorabilia auction at Profiles in History in June 2011.
The dress had played a huge role in Monroe's life: not only did the image of its skirt blowing up around her in The Seven Year Itch solidify her place as a genuine cultural icon, but it also brought about the end of her second marriage to baseball star Joe DiMaggio, who watched on furiously as a crowd of press photographers ogled his wife's underwear.
The dress was yet another Monroe costume cleverly snapped up by Debbie Reynolds from 20th century Fox in 1971, at a time when few collectors saw the value in movie memorabilia.
Her initial gamble paid off 40 years later, as the dress soared past its estimate of $1-$2 million to sell for a World record price of $5,658,000, making it the most expensive movie costume of all time.