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Elton John Auctions Off His Belongings

September 7, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ Rock star Elton John threw a high-class garage sale of his treasures at the world’s richest art auction house Tuesday and cleared nearly $2 million on the first day.

Sotheby’s, the auctioneers, said the opening batch of memorabilia fetched double their estimated worth, and an evening sale of mostly art deco jewelry also fetched more.

″I’m absolutely thrilled,″ John said in the United States after hearing the result of the sale, Sotheby’s reported.

Three more days of sales will see off John’s art collection, antiques and furniture.

The gemstuff on Tuesday sold for $1.2 million - $200,000 over estimate - to make a total for the day of $1,975,290.

After the daytime rock fans, a smart evening crowd - but lacking celebrities - crowded in to watch glamorous models showing off rings, bracelets, brooches and pendants worn by John. There were also boxes and miniature clocks by famous makers like Faberge and Cartier.

Top price of the evening was $42,700 paid by Seibu, a Japanese department store for a Cartier 1923 emerald, onyx and diamond lapel watch.

John, 41, who says he has run out of room for new things at his mansion, was in Miami, preparing a U.S. tour. But plenty of fans turned up to bid for his glitzy eyeglasses, zany hats and costumes, diamante-soled platform shoes, pinball machines, Rembrandt etchings and jukeboxes.

Prices soared two, three and four times above estimate for items some art critics have dismissed as junk.

″Buyers were coming out of the woodwork - most of them we had never heard of,″ said Sotheby’s spokeswoman Susy Robinson.

The top price of the day was $29,744 for a Wurlitzer jukebox made in 1940 and originally offered for $11,830.

A camisole worn by Judy Garland in the movie ″Meet Me in St. Louis″ sold for $3,346, more than three times the top estimate.

Three signed photographs of the American Apollo 15 astronauts dedicated to the ″Rocket Man,″ one of John’s biggest hits, sold for $3,350, when only $300 had been expected.

The outrageous eyeglasses of the pianist-singer-composer were the biggest draw. And the biggest buyer appeared to be Warwick Stone, bidding by telephone from Los Angeles, who spent about $118,000 on items for his Hard Rock Cafe.

The restaurant chain paid the top price of $5,948 for a pair of glasses with blue and yellow lenses in mother-of-pearl frames embelished with rhinestones.

Stone also bought platform boots, a presentation gold disc and a boater with a model of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on top.

The 54-inch-high fiberglass boots worn by John as the Pinball Wizard in the rock movie ″Tommy″ went to British businessman Stephen Griggs for $20,200.

″We thought they would be the ideal thing for the company to use in exhibitions,″ said Griggs, a boot and shoemaker.

An ordinary straw boater of John’s from Dobbs of Fifth Avenue, size 7 1/8 inches, sold for $1,400.

Shirley Cowdrey, a British fan, said after paying $8,900 for the rock star’s ″Yellow Brick Road″ cream canvas stage suit, embroidered with album song titles: ″This costume is so Elton John I just had to have it. I’ll wear it myself if it fits.″

The first of the 290 lots to go was a pencil sketch of comedians Laurel and Hardy, which went for $1,100, against an estimate of $670.

″I knew then it was going to be a good day,″ said auctioneer Hilary Kay, who was on the rostrum for more than five hours, while the sale raked in $711,803.

″It’s all such fun. It’s attracting interest from people who have never dreamed of going to a sale before,″ said Marcus Linell, the Sotheby’s director who organized the auction.

But arts reporter Godfrey Barker of London’s Daily Telegraph sniffed that Sotheby’s ″looks more like a Miami Beach department store than an art auction house... Art as excellence is quite demode.″

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