An incredible collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia worth up to £275,000 is going up for auction this weekend to coincide with the release of director Baz Luhrmann’s new blockbuster film Elvis. The items include a gold watch Elvis wore on stage at the very start of his career as well as a pair of his leather boots, a diamond and gold ring, cufflinks and early recording contracts.
A lot of the items date to around 1956, a pivotal year in Elvis’ career when he was catapulted into Hollywood stardom. The star item however is the 14 carat gold-filled Lord Elgin timepiece that was seen on Elvis’ wrist during several stage and TV shows – including his very first national TV appearance, The Dorsey Brothers ‘Stage Show’, in January 1956. It is now being sold for £150,000.
A rare and historical contract the legendary singer signed in March 1956 to appear on the famous Milton Berle TV show in April 1956 is also in the auction for £32,000. The document shows Elvis was paid $3,500 (£2,800) for the guest appearance and had to pay his three musicians out of the fee. He wowed millions of TV viewers with his songs Shake Rattle and Roll, Heartbreak Hotel and Blue Suede Shoes.
The auction, taking place this Saturday (June 25) is being led by British-based collector of Elvis memorabilia at Henry Aldridge & Son Auctioneers of Devizes, Wiltshire.
A letter dated February 23, 1956, to Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker who is played by Tom Hanks in the forthcoming biopic, shows how the rising star was still relatively unknown. It related to a draft advert for Elvis due to go in Billboard and Variety magazines but had his name misspelt.
One of the most fascinating items in the sale is Elvis’ own copy of the spiritual book Leaves of Gold. The deeply-religious star personally notated in the margins and underlined many of the passages that clearly inspired him. He gifted it to his then girlfriend Sheila Ryan and inscribed and signed the inside page for her. The book is valued at £25,000.
After he shot to fame and became extremely rich Elvis was known to be incredibly generous to those people around him. The sale contains items of jewellery and clothing that he gave away, including a pair of white leather boots he wore on stage during his first concerts at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.
He gave the size 13 boots to his friend and stage director Charlie Hodge. They are now worth £25,000. He also gave Hodge a microphone with his name engraved on that he used for rehearsals and live performances. It is valued at £14,000.
Elvis gave his hairdresser Homer ‘Gil’ Gilleland a pair of his gold cufflinks monogrammed with the initial ‘E’. They are estimated to sell for £3,000. The lots in the sale were once kept in the Elvis Presley Museum at Graceland that opened in 1978, the year after his death. They belong to a British-based collector who has acquired them over the years.
Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: “The reason he is selling these items now is to coincide with the release of the movie Elvis. What makes a lot of these items special is that they relate to this genesis period in Elvis’ career when he was on the verge of stardom.
“For example, the Lord Elgin watch was a nice watch but it wasn’t a Rolex or a Patek. The story behind him giving it away is just fabulous. You can almost picture him sat around a hotel swimming pool and leaning over the table to give it to his guitarist because he noticed he didn’t have one.
“Elvis was a very generous man and he gave away so many things. In my opinion, the Leaves of Gold book is arguably the most fascinating item in the sale. He underlined between 15 and 20 quotes that resonated with his own thoughts and beliefs. It does show a much deeper side to him.”