Time is now to invest in Marilyn memorabilia

Time is now to invest in Marilyn memorabilia
05 August 2012

FIFTY years ago today – on 5 August 1962 – Marilyn Monroe was found dead in the bedroom of her California home, the result of an overdose. It was a moment that shook the world. But if commentators at the time thought Marilyn would be just another actress set to fade into obscurity over the coming years, they were wrong.

On the 50th anniversary of her passing, which will see a week of events in Hollywood, now is the time to invest in her collectibles, as interest in her life and memorabilia reaches new levels.

“Her image is experiencing something of a cultural moment, even by ageless icon standards,” the New York Times said recently.

In fact, she stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to the memorabilia of Hollywood’s leading ladies, thanks to her simmering sex appeal, effervescent personality and the fascination surrounding her life that endures to this day – a direct result of her tragic and premature passing.

World record results

Recent auction results are testament to the upward trend in the market, with dresses from some of Marilyn’s most iconic moments leading the way.

The ‘subway’ dress she wore in 1955 film The Seven Year Itch sold for $5.6 million in June 2011 – a world record for a piece of film memorabilia. The dress had last auctioned in 1971 for $400, which represents a 27% per year rise in value over 40 years.

The figure-hugging gown Marilyn wore the night she sang Happy Birthday for President (and rumoured-to-be lover) John F Kennedy in 1962 made $1.26m in 1999. A programme from that evening achieved $115,000 at the same sale, 666.6% up on its $15,000 estimate.

Such is the interest in her memorabilia that even more unusual pieces are selling for stunning sums. In June 2010, three X-rays of Marilyn’s chest made a combined $45,000 at a US sale, 1,400% above the $3,000 estimate, while the crypt space directly above hers sold for $4.6m in 2009.

Where next for the Monroe market?

Love for Hollywood’s golden age is at an all-time high. The stars of the 1950s are held in a regard that today’s stars can only dream of, with Marilyn leading the way.

In addition to the 50th anniversary events, demand for Marilyn’s memorabilia will be boosted by three main factors over the coming years:

1. Baby boomers

Those born between 1946 and 1964 own an estimated 80% of the world’s wealth and are a key player in the market. Many grew up watching Marilyn’s films as they were released and remember her fondly. They have the money and the inclination to purchase Marilyn memorabilia.

2. Far East collectors

Far East collectors, too, are entering the market. Marilyn is a big name in China. According to the 2012 World Wealth Report, produced by Capgemini and the RBC Wealth Management, the Asia-Pacific region has more high-net worth individuals than any other region – and they’re not afraid to display that wealth.

3. Investors

A growing body of global investors are turning to collectibles as part of their investment strategy, and cultural icons are among the most reliable forms of income in the sector.

How to invest

Any item once worn by Marilyn has immediate and lasting appeal with collectors, and those employed during her appearances on the silver screen garner the biggest bucks.

However, one of the more accessible ways to capitalise on the Monroe market is her autograph, which has risen at a sharp rate over the past years but could still be deemed 'entry level'.

The average value of a Monroe autograph grew by 7.82% per year between 2000 and 2011, from £2,950 ($4,555) to £6,750 ($10,420), according to the industry’s PFC40 Autograph Index.

Contrast her with the autograph values of other leading film stars (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers £1,600, Audrey Hepburn £1,750, Charlie Chaplin £3,950), and you realise that Marilyn memorabilia is in an exalted position which only James Dean, whose autograph is valued at £12,500, can rival.

The brevity of Marilyn’s life has ensured that her memorabilia is a scarce commodity. Allied with an anticipated growing demand, values should soar over the coming years.

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