Freddie Mercury bangle sets record for rock star jewelry in auction of his prized possessions
LONDON (AP) — A Victorian-style silver snake bangle Freddie Mercury wore with an ivory satin catsuit in the “Bohemian Rhapsody” video sold for the highest price ever paid for a piece of jewelry owned by a rock star, Sotheby’s said Wednesday.
The bracelet went for 698,500 pounds ($881,000) — 100 times its estimated low price — as the late Queen star’s most prized possessions, including flamboyant stage costumes, handwritten drafts to hits such as “We are the Champions” and the baby grand piano he composed Queen’s greatest hits on went up for sale.
It broke a record set when John Lennon’s leather and bead talisman sold for 295,000 pounds ($368,000) in 2008, Sotheby’s said.
The auction opened rapidly with the sale of the graffiti-tagged door to the garden of Mercury’s home quickly blowing past the high estimate of 25,000 pounds ($31,250) projected before the sale. The green door covered in hand-painted love notes from fans who made a pilgrimage to the house in the tony Kensington section of London sold for an eye-popping 412,750 pounds ($521,000) that included a buyer’s premium.
The collection was amassed by Mercury after Queen’s glam-rock produced an avalanche of hits that allowed the singer to achieve his dream of living a Victorian life “surrounded by exquisite clutter.”
More than 1,400 items are being sold by Mercury’s close friend, Mary Austin, to whom he left his house and all its possessions when he died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1991 at 45.
Some of the proceeds from three live auctions and three online sales were to go to charities. All of the proceeds of the sale of a Cartier onyx and diamond ring given to Mercury by Elton John that sold for 273,000 pounds ($344,000) were to go to the “Rocket Man” singer’s AIDS charity.
Among the items sold at auction were prints by Pablo Picasso (190,500 pounds; $240,000), Salvador Dali (48,260 pounds; $60,900); and Marc Chagall (63,500; $80,000), antique furniture and numerous cat figurines.
Sotheby’s devoted all 15 of its galleries to display Mercury’s eclectic collection in a tribute that was like a museum exhibit that it opened to the public for free, drawing more than 140,000 visitors in just over a month.
People from around the world visited “Freddie Mercury: A World of his Own,” and the publicity drove up bidding for online auctions that began last month and close next week.
Even the items that had seemed in reach for some buyers, quickly eclipsed estimates in online auctions.
A collection of chopsticks that was estimated to fetch 40-60 British pounds had a current bid 1,200 pounds ($1,500).
One of the quirkier items, a silver moustache comb from Tiffany & Co, that had been expected to set a buyer back 400 to 600 pounds ($500—750) had a bid at 35,000 pounds ($43,750).
The Yamaha baby grand piano was expected to reach bids as high as 3 million pounds ($3.75 million). Other items likely to be treasured by Queen fans were Mercury’s draft lyrics hits “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “We Are the Champions” and ”Somebody to Love.”
The handwritten draft of “Bohemian Rhapsody” — scratched on stationery from the defunct British Midland Airways showed Mercury originally named the song “Mongolian Rhapsody” but crossed it out. It is expected to fetch 800,000 to 1.2 million pounds ($1 million to $1.5 million.)