Marilyn Monroe on Antiques Roadshow: Three Strikes and You’re Out

Antiques Roadshow is one of those shows I really love to watch.  Nothing greater than seeing an item that was picked up at a garage sale for a buck or two be valued a several thousand dollars for insurance purposes! Unfortunately, appraisers aren’t always right. Below are a few strikes related to Marilyn memorabilia.

Strike One: 1999, a woman visits the Roadshow with an autographed Marilyn Monroe photo. The appraiser, who states he’s “handled” Marilyn before, explains that an autograph of Marilyn’s in black or blue is most definitely a secretarial signature. However, as the photo being appraised had a signature in red, that most likely meant it was authentic because that’s the color Marilyn always used.

In reality, analysis of Monroe signatures authentic and secretarial shows that, more often than not, secretaries signed photos in red ink. Regardless of the ink color, simply comparing the signature on this photograph with authentic signatures of Monroe clearly indicates it wasn’t signed by her. The photo appraised is below, along with a Marilyn Monroe authentic signed check and a Marilyn Monroe authentic signed note.

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Visit the Antiques Roadshow website for more information on this appraisal here.

Strike Two: June 19, 1999, a man visits the Roadshow with a collection of Marilyn Monroe owned items, consisting of photos of Marilyn, a 1942 University High School Chieftain Yearbook, and a child’s doll.

The collector states that all of the items were owned by Marilyn.

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The Photos: The appraiser states that the photos were from a private collection, originating from Marilyn’s business manager. He’s likely referring to Inez Melson, who was Monroe’s business manager from the early ’50s until the time of Monroe’s passing. It’s possible the photos could have been purchased from Melson. It’s now well known that Melson had in her possession at the time of her death two filing cabinets full of Monroe documents and objects. It’s speculated that she sold and gave away items from the cabinets. The photos may have actually been owned by Marilyn, and they may have come from Melson.

The Yearbook:
As Marilyn dropped out of school mid-year, it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that this was actually her personal yearbook. Traditionally, yearbooks are printed after the end of the school year. Unfortunately, there is no discussion in this appraisal as to the origin or provenance of the yearbook. A simple look inside would have told viewers a number of things:

(1) Signatures? Were there signatures and messages inside? If so, were they written to Norma Jeane? If there were signatures in the yearbook, yet addressed to another student, it obviously wasn’t Marilyn’s.

(2) No Signatures? As Marilyn dropped out mid-year, it’s unlikely she would have gathered signatures and notes in the yearbook from classmates. However, even in the absence of signatures, it’s still questionable as to whether or not it actually belonged to her. Again, what’s the provenance?

Note that a 1942 University High School Yearbook sold at auction in 2008 for $6,250.00. Regardless of whether or not it was Marilyn owned, this yearbook is a highly coveted collectible.

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The Doll: It’s reported during the appraisal that this doll was given to Marilyn when she was a young child by her Aunt Anna. It has a letter of authenticity signed by Marilyn’s foster sister, Bebe Goddard. While it probably wasn’t known at the time of this appraisal in 1999, it’s well known today in the Marilyn Monroe collecting community that Bebe Goddard, in an attempt to generate income, sold items alleging they belonged to Marilyn Monroe, when in fact they were fakes.

Visit the Antiques Roadshow website to watch this appraisal here.

Strike Three?: The June 7, 2008 appraisal of a dress that was allegedly worn by Monroe in what the American Film Institute has labeled the funniest film of all time: “Some Like It Hot.”

slih-10The transcript from the appraisal is below:

GUEST: It’s from Marilyn Monroe, and she wore it in the film Some Like It Hot. A friend of mine, Don Feld, who was a costume designer in Hollywood, gave it to me.

APPRAISER: Do you have any idea where Don got it?

GUEST: I don’t know, but I assume he probably got it from Western Costume Company.

APPRAISER: You’ve brought some photographs of Marilyn actually wearing this dress in Some Like It Hot. The dress was actually created by Orry-Kelly, the Oscar-winning costume designer. He did a lot of clothing for Marilyn. He created the dresses specifically for her. And he would often actually sew her into the dresses to make them fit just right, to get that really sexy look. It’s in black peau de soie, a material that’s very similar to satin, with this wonderful fringe that gave her all the movement that she needed for her action roles. It’s really amazing looking at this dress at how small it is.

GUEST: Yes.

APPRAISER: I think most of us don’t realize that Marilyn was such a small person.

GUEST: Right– I was surprised to see how small she was, myself.

APPRAISER: We have some identifying material on here. This seems to be the label from his collection, because it says “Don Feld” and it identifies the dress as having been worn in the movie. And then we have a label here with Marilyn’s name on it. And with the pictures, you can easily see Marilyn in action, where she’s wearing this dress and it’s really fabulous on her. It’s hard to believe that in the film, she danced around in this dress, because it was so tight on her…

GUEST: Right.

APPRAISER:…you couldn’t believe she could dance around in it. Well, this is an iconic dress from an iconic film…

GUEST: Yes.

APPRAISER:…worn by one of the greatest sex symbols of the 20th century. In an auction, I would not be surprised at all if it went for somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000.

GUEST: Oh, my g… Whoa!

APPRAISER: And actually, with the unpredictability of the market for this type of item, it would not surprise me at all if it went much higher.

GUEST: Wow.

APPRAISER: I’m just going to be conservative here, because I don’t want to get you too excited.

GUEST: I’m about ready to fall over.

APPRAISER: Oh, well, please don’t.

GUEST: Oh, you made me very happy. I mean, it’s great.

APPRAISER: Well, great.

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Here are the questionable areas from this appraisal:

GUEST: It’s from Marilyn Monroe, and she wore it in the film Some Like It Hot. A friend of mine, Don Feld, who was a costume designer in Hollywood, gave it to me.

APPRAISER: Do you have any idea where Don got it?

GUEST: I don’t know, but I assume he probably got it from Western Costume Company.

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Don Feld

Don Feld (Donald Lee Feld, July 3, 1934-February 3, 2007) was a Hollywood costume designer nominated for four Academy Awards for costume design for: Days of Wine and Roses (1962), They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), Tom Sawyer (1973) and Prizzi’s Honor (1985).

While the dress may have been gifted by an Oscar nominated designer, not knowing the costume’s ownership trail prior to his possession is enough to make one stop and pause. With SLIH being from 1959, this dress looks pretty darn new.

Visit the Antiques Roadshow website to watch this appraisal here.