Collecting Marilyn Monroe
News of the death of Marilyn Monroe was announced on August 5, 1962. In her will, Marilyn Monroe bequeathed her possessions to her acting mentor Lee Strasberg: “I give and bequeath all of my personal effects and clothing to LEE STRASBERG, or if he should predecease me, then to my Executor hereinafter named, it being my desire that he distribute these, in his sole discretion, among my friends, colleagues and those to whom I am devoted.” When Lee Strasberg died in February of 1982, his estate, which included Marilyn’s personal belongings, passed to his third wife Anna Strasberg. His second wife Paula, who was Marilyn’s close friend and acting coach, had died on April 29th, 1966.
In October of 1999, Anna Strasberg sourced Christie’s, the renowned auction company, to sell the bulk of Marilyn’s estate. The auction, which occurred over two days, was labeled “The Sale of The Century,” garnering over $13 million with the sale of nearly 576 lots. Items sold included Marilyn’s clothing, furs and shoes, furniture from her home, film scripts, jewelry, kitchen items, books from her library, cosmetics, awards, and many other items from her private life.
Of note, the dress Marilyn Monroe wore to sing Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy on May 19, 1962, sold at this auction for nearly $1.3 million, and still today holds the record for being the most expensive dress ever sold at auction, a record formerly held by one of Princess Diana’s gowns. Interestingly, the costume Marilyn wore in The Seven Year Itch subway scene sold for $5.6 million in 2011, and this costume now holds the record for the most expensive film costume ever sold at auction. In June of 2005, Anna Strasberg sold another portion of Marilyn Monroe’s estate through Julien’s Auctions, achieving yet another seven-figure result from several hundred auction lots consisting of Marilyn Monroe’s personal property. Many of the items that make up the Marilyn Monroe Collection came directly from Marilyn’s estate.
Today, due to her popularity and longevity, Marilyn Monroe is one of the most sought after celebrities in the world of celebrity property and entertainment memorabilia collecting. Items from her estate continue to sell at auction, and the value of her personal property continues to increase.
To view items sold at the 1999 Christie’s auction, The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe, click here.