Auction lots we'd love to own: November 2017



2017-11-09 15:11:33

Aliens, outlaws, robots and rabbits - here are just a few of our favorite auction lots hitting the block this month...

The Younger Gang family photograph

Cowan's Auctions American History Sale, November 17

Estimate: $4,000 - $6,000

This 19th century photograph may look like any other formal family portrait from the period.

It also just happens to include three of the most feared criminals in the history of the Old West.

This cabinet card photograph, taken in 1889, pictures the Younger family – brothers Bob, Jim and Cole with their sister Henrietta.

Together the brothers had formed part of the notorious James-Younger Gang, alongside legendary outlaws Jesse James and his brother Frank.

The gang terrorized the American mid-west for almost a decade, from 1866 until 1876, robbing banks, trains and stagecoaches, killing several people along the way.

The portrait was taken inside Minnesota State Prison, and Henrietta Younger had to convince the warden to allow the brothers to be photographed in their best suits, rather than their prison uniforms.

The brothers were serving time for their roles in the infamous Northfield raid – a bank robbery in Minnesota in September 1876 which went badly wrong.

Two civilians were killed during the robbery, but the residents of Northfield fought back, killing two gang members and wounding all the others.

Although Jesse and Frank James escaped, the Younger brothers were caught a few days later, following the largest manhunt in US history, and sentenced to life imprisonment for robbery and murder.

This family photograph was taken 13 years into their sentence. Bob Younger died of tuberculosis soon after it was taken, whilst Cole and Jim served 12 more years before being paroled in 1901.

Jim Cole committed suicide soon after his release in 1902, but Cole Younger travelled to Missouri and ended his days performing in a Wild West show alongside fellow former gang member Frank James.

This cabinet card photograph is a reminder that in the Old West, the line between desperate criminals and respectable family men was blurry at best.

It's also a superb piece of history from one of America's most notorious outlaw gangs, and comes with an estimate of $4,000 - $6,000.

Con Air bunny

GWS Auctions Inc. Music & Hollywood Icons sale, November 11

Estimate: $5,000 - $7,000

"Put the bunny back in the box."

If there's a more glorious line in a 90s action movie, we haven't heard it.

Although it was released 20 years ago, Con Air remains one of the craziest, most wildly entertaining action films ever made.

It's a simple set-up: when a prison plane packed with America's most dangerous criminals gets hijacked, it's up to a wrongly convicted passenger to save the day.

It also features John Malkovich holding a stuffed toy bunny at gunpoint – and that isn't even the most ridiculous scene.

In fact, the film is packed with so many over-the-top moments that they somehow balance each other out, creating two hours of bombastic nonsense that actually gets better with age.

Despite its B-movie premise, the film features a murderer's row of A-list talent including John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Ving Ghames, Dave Chapelle, John Cusack and Danny Trejo.

And in the middle of it all is Nicolas Cage playing Cameron Poe, the innocent man who just wants to get home to his family.

Although starring in terrible action movies has become a financial necessity for Cage in recent years, back in the 1990s he was an Oscar-winning character actor who just wanted to kick some on-screen ass.

Not only is Poe an ex-Army Ranger with the ability to outsmart the world's most devious criminal; he also sports one of cinema's finest mullets, a hairstyle so luxurious that it decades later it inspired its own meme.

Throughout the film Poe's aim is to meet his daughter, who was born after he was sent to prison. He even has a toy bunny as a gift for her, and nobody is going to stop him handing it over.

Even if that means the deaths of more than 40 people and the destruction of a major Las Vegas landmark.

We're sure more than a few toy bunnies were battered around during the filming of Con Air, and this is one of them.

So if you, like any other sane person, regards Con Air as a genuine masterpiece of dumb cinema, here's your chance to own a little piece of it.

Now don't move, or the bunny gets it.

Captain Constentius sideshow poster

Potter & Potter Circus, Sideshow & Wild West Sale, November 18

Estimate: $4,000 - $5,000

This highly rare vintage circus poster, dated circa 1876, features one of the first tattooed men to appear on stage in America: Captain Costentenus the Greek Albanian.

George Costentenus was a world-famous circus performer whose entire body was covered head-to-toe in tattoos.

He claimed to be an Albanian prince, who had been tattooed against his will after he was captured during a mining expedition in Asia in 1867.

According to his story, Costentenus and his group had been hunting for gold in Burma when they became involved in a rebellion against the local government. Whilst nine of his team were killed, he and two others were captured and held prisoner for three months.

During this time he claimed he had been held down by four men, and forcibly covered with almost 400 tattoos which included exotic plants and animals, geometric figures and mysterious foreign writing.

Having escaped his captors, Costentenus travelled to Europe, where he was examined by the academic community in Vienna. They discovered that only the soles of his feet and parts of his ears remained free from tattoos.

Some experts doubted his story, which seemed to change every time he told it, although his blue and red tattoos were deemed to be authentic examples of traditional Burmese tattooing.

In reality, Costentenus almost certainly had himself tattooed specifically to become a famous performer, although the artists that did the work remain a mystery.

He exhibited himself in Paris for a while, before heading to America to seek fame and fortune, and soon found it.

By 1876 he was one of the star attractions in P. T. Barnum's New and Greatest Show on Earth, earning up to $1,000 each week.

Throughout the 1880s Costentenus travelled back and forth between the U.S and Europe, always dressed in finery and covered in expensive jewelry.

Having officially become an American citizen in December 1883, he disappeared from the records in 1894 and according to legend willed half of his fortune to the Greek Church of London upon his death.

Nobody really knows who Captain Constentenus was, where he came from, or where he eventually ended up. He remains a strange enigma, and like all great circus performers of the 19th century it's much more fun to believe the legends.

But he was almost certainly the most tattooed man of his era, and this rare colour poster gives a little taste of how amazing he would have appeared to 19th century audiences.

Invasion of the Saucer-Men artwork

Heritage Auctions Movie Posters Signature Auction, November 18-19

Estimate: $20,000 - $40,000

This incredible piece of original movie poster artwork comes from the classic 1957 sci-fi horror comedy Invasion of the Saucer Men.

The painting is by Albert Kallis, creator of some of the most sensation B-movie artwork in cinema history.

In 1955 his first work was spotted by the renowned producer Roger Corman, who hired him as art director for American International Pictures.

It was a match made in heaven, and Kallis soon turned selling lurid exploitation pictures into an art form.

During his time with AIP he produced classic posters for films such as Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Brain Eaters, It Conquered the World, Night of the Blood Beast and The Amazing Colossal Man.

Legend has it that Kallis and his team would often create the posters first, then use them to sell the movies to theatre owners before they ever went into production!

Not only was Albert Kallis one of the most iconic and influential movie poster artists of the 1950s, but he also played another important role in shaping American culture: in 1958 he founded the International House of Pancakes.

Original poster artwork by Kallis is exceedingly rare, particularly from his days with AIP, and this painting represents a unique opportunity for collectors to own a piece of true schlock movie history.

Robbie the Robot

Bonhams TCM presents...Out of this World! sale, November 21

Estimate: millions

From one piece of sci-fi movie memorabilia to... well, probably THE piece of sci-fi movie memorabilia.

There can be few more instantly recognizable props in cinema history than Robby the Robot.

More than 60 years after he made his debut, Robby remains the most famous robot to ever awkwardly shuffle across the silver screen.

The MGM art department spent more than $100,000 creating the suit, which at the time made Robby one of the most expensive film props ever made.

He was originally built for the 1956 classic Forbidden Planet, and starred as the mechanical servant of the mysterious Dr. Morbius.

Despite appearing on the film's famous poster as a monster, Robby was actually one of the film's heroes, complete with a particularly dry sense of humour.

He later appeared in dozens movies and TV shows including The Invisible Boy, Lost in Space, The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone, along with hundreds of toys, model kits, posters and comic books.

In 1970 the original Robby suit was acquired by collector Jim Brucker, and exhibited at the Movie World/Cars of the Stars museum, where it sadly fell into a state of disrepair.

Then in 1979 it was purchased by film director Bill Malone, who spent years restoring it using original spare parts made by MGM in the 1950s.

Having remained in his personal collection for almost 40 years, Malone has now consigned Robby to auction at Bonhams.

There's no current estimate available, but we safely expect the final result to be in the millions.

There are a handful of props which transcend cinema history and become something truly iconic. Marilyn Monroe's white dress. The Maltese Falcon statue. The Casablanca piano.

We'd place Robby the Robot up there with all of them.

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