In the early days of film, most of the studios and film set organizers were unaware of the goldmines they were sitting on. They never clued in that people would be interested in buying props or memorabilia from famous films, so they usually just tossed them out, repurposed them or burned them. We hear the odd story about a keen collector from the early days who was lucky enough to nab certain pieces before they were trashed or some lucky fan winning a prize in a giveaway contest.
This practice of wasting props changed in 1970 as part of a money-making/cost-saving venture by MGM. The studio planned to sell off many of the props that had been taking up valuable space and earn some money at the same time. They sold much of their goods to auction houses and private investors. Actress Debbie Reynolds, for instance, purchased $180,000 worth of memorabilia for her own collection.
Since then, many studios have continued to sell off props at auction or to collectible dealers. Sometimes this is done for charity, sometimes profit, while others simply do it to generate some buzz for the films. You would think that the dilution of the film industry would have lessened the value of props, but the market for old or iconic movie memorabilia has only increased the numbers on the price tags. As with most collectibles, the older and rarer the item, the more valuable. Over the years, we've seen some pieces sell for astronomical prices, but we've also lost contact with some of the most valuable pieces. We want to go through and identify the most valuable movie memorabilia that have gone missing at some point in time. Some have been found since, but there is still plenty out there, still missing. Maybe you will be the lucky one to find these items. Definitely not, but maybe. Here are 15 pieces of insanely valued movie memorabilia gone missing.
15 Aston Martin, $4M – Goldfinger
14 Peter Jackson Film Props, $500K – The Hobbit/LOTR
13 The Maltese Falcon, $400K – The Maltese Falcon
The Maltese Falcon in the film, The Maltese Falcon, is an artifact that continues to be stolen throughout the ages. The film focusses on one detective trying to track down this bird statue. The prop designers for the film made two statues out of lead. The shoot carried on for a while with these two statues until the star, Humphrey Bogart, complained about the excessive 50-lb weight of the birds. Pshh. What a wuss. The prop team then made some plastic replicas. In 1994, one of the two lead statues sold at auction for just under $400,000. One of the men who bid and lost out on that item was John Konstin, the owner of John's Grill, a century-old restaurant that houses a small museum dedicated to the author of the original Maltese Falcon book, Dashiell Hammett. The restaurant even had a scene from the film shot in it. In 1995, one of the actors from the film, Elisha Cook Jr., donated his own personal replica statue to the restaurant. It sat there for 12 years until it was stolen in 2007. It still remains missing to this day.
12 Golden Gun, $100K - The Man with the Golden Gun
In the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, the villain, Scaramanga (played by Christopher Lee), had a very strange golden gun. One shot from it was all that was needed to kill any enemy. He just needed several minutes to assemble it from a cigarette case, a lighter and a pen. This gun was not ideal in a pinch. For a long time, the gun was stored at Elsetree Studios, a prop storage facility. No one knows when it first went missing because the theft wasn't discovered until a crewmember of the film Kick-Ass was being shown around. The value of the gun is unknown, but it's assumed to be in anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000, potentially even more now that the legendary Christopher Lee has passed.
11 Maria Robot, $10M – Metropolis
10 Sankara Stone Prop, $50 – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
9 Spider-Man Suits, $25K – Spider-Man
8 Motorcycle, $60K - Happy Days
7 7. Wardrobe, $150K - Star Trek
6 Captain America Bike, $1.6M – Easy Rider
5 Handgun, $300K - Blade Runner
4 Vincent's Car, $10K – Pulp Fiction
3 Anduril, Aragorn's Sword, $400k – Lord of the Rings
2 Loch Ness Monster, Value Unknown - The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
Early in 2016, a team of scientists took out a robotic submarine to scour the depths of the Scotland's Loch Ness. What they found was amazing. It was Nessie, the legendary monster of those fabled waters discovered finally found. Unfortunately, it was only a fake. In 1969, the team behind the film, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, starring Christopher Lee, needed to create a massive Loch Ness monster prop for the film. The shot was meant to be short, but the monster needed to be large and lifelike. The prop designers built it and showed it to the director. He hated it. It had humps and that was something that needed to be eliminated immediately. The prop designers suggested that, without the humps, the monster would not float. Still, the director remained less than enthusiastic about them, so they gave in and shaved them off. On the day of shooting, the monster went in the water, they got their shot, but the thing sank shortly after.
1 Ruby Slippers, $1M – The Wizard of Oz
When the MGM studio sale went down in 1970, some of the most sought after items were the three of the original four pairs of ruby slippers that were available from The Wizard of Oz. These items have remained one of the most iconic props in cinematic history since the film was released in 1939. Today, we still know where three of those original four are. One is at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. This pair was anonymously donated to the museum back in 1979. Another pair was awarded as a prize in a radio contest in 1939. This pair has remained in a private collection for many years, even changing hands a couple of times since the 80s. Today the pair is owned by David Elkouby, an investor who has plans to open a memorabilia museum in Hollywood. He paid $666,000 for the shoes in 2000. The third pair was sought out and purchased by a group of investors led by Leonardo DiCaprio in 2012. This pair is the cream of the crop, the shoes considered the most valuable by far. DiCaprio and his team (including Steven Spielberg) donated the slippers to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for their new exhibit.
The reported value of those ruby slippers was around $3 million. The fourth pair was stolen in 2005 from The Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota. They have not been found and, in 2015, a $1 million reward was offered to anyone who has information of their whereabouts.
Sources: MentalFloss; AVClub; LATimes; WashingtonPost
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