and Their Private Collections
We live in a time where there is a widespread fascination with fame and celebrity. To some, this enchantment with the personal lives of famous people borders on the obsessive. In the tabloid media, we are daily treated to a litany of personal celebrity details that, more often than not, are scandalous in nature. Other times, when celebrities are doing promotional tours for their latest project, we usually get the canned publicity presentations intended to sell the product. Every once in a while, we catch a personal glimpse of a celebrity that allows us to see them simply as regular people, with human interests to which anyone of us can relate.
One of the ways we can share common ground with the celebrities we enjoy is through the hobby of collecting. Nowadays, virtually anything is of collectible interest to someone. Of course there are the obvious items likes sports or entertainment memorabilia, antique books, cars, art or coins. But, these are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In the past decade or so, collecting in general has exploded. Today, collecting Beanie Babies or Hot Wheels cars is considered as serious a pursuit as collecting Picasso or Tiffany. All of these and more have found their way into the private collections of many of today’s top celebrities.
Taking Their Collections Public
|It is endlessly intriguing to discover what types of things different people collect. It is even more fascinating to find out what celebrities collect, especially if you find out that you share a common interest. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone to know that Dick Clark, the “world’s oldest teenager,” has a vast collection of music memorabilia, a large portion of which serves as decorations for his American Bandstand Grille restaurant chain. Clark’s restaurants aren’t the only chain to use entertainment memorabilia collections as a lure to entice customers. Worldwide chains like Hard Rock Café and Planet Hollywood are some of the biggest collectors of all, as they constantly search for items to adorn their theme restaurants. These kinds of businesses, which serve as specialized museums, give the larger public opportunities to see a wide range of collectible items they might otherwise never get to experience.
Still, despite the public nature of these shared collections, collecting is still largely a very private and personal pursuit, which speaks volumes about individuals, oftentimes in very unexpected ways. For example, did you know that award-winning actor Nicholas Cage has been an avid collector of comic books since he was a kid? He even took his stage name from Hero For Hire comic book character, Luke Cage. A short while ago, Cage parted with some of his favorite comic book collectibles at auction selling 141 lots for a total of $1.68 million. In addition to his vast comic book collection, Cage is also an avid collector of European sports cars.
Academy Award winning actor, Nicolas Cage has been a long-time collector of rare and vintage comic books and European sports cars.
Collectors consider the E-T ype Jaguar XKE a work of art as it combined elegance and vintage racing technologies in a sophisticated design.
|Speaking of cars (and motorcycles), Tonight Show host Jay Leno has one of the most extensive private car collections going and is widely known as an authority on the subject of cars. His collection includes, among many others, a Lamborghini Miura, a Jaguar XKE, a Shelby Mustang GT 350, Bugattis and Dusenbergs. In a Robb Report article Leno stated, “Car collecting is something I enjoy doing.” With over 100 cars and counting in his collection, which is housed in a converted airplane hangar, it seems Jay may be understating his passion just a touch.|
Collectible Celebrities and Some Collection Surprises
|Some celebrities themselves have even become quite collectible with entire industries growing up around the perpetuation of their legend. For example, is there any celebrity more popular and collectible today than Elvis Presley? More than thirty years after his death, his estate still generates more dollars year after year than when he was alive from a vast array of items bearing his likeness. And how about Marilyn Monroe? One would be hard-pressed to identify a more iconic image than Marilyn and the world is still enamored with her more than forty years after her untimely passing. Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Bob Marley, James Dean, former President John F. Kennedy and even Albert Einstein; all of these and more, whose lives and images continue to fascinate collectors all over the world many years after their lives ended. It continues to surprise us how deep and wide is the passion for collecting.
It is not a big stretch of the imagination to know that rock guitar god Eric Clapton is a big collector of, well, guitars. Or, that famed movie critic Leonard Maltin has an extensive collection of movie memorabilia. But would you have guessed that Incredible Hulk TV star Lou Ferrigno shares a collecting interest with Patty Duke? Would you believe Beanie Babies? Strange, but true. Even stranger, swashbuckling movie star Johnny Depp collects rare insects and “Dollywood” entrepreneur Dolly Parton collects rare butterflies. Insects and butterflies? Some people will collect anything.
The Elvis Presley estate continues to earn millions each year from collectible items bearing his image.
Academy Award winner, Angelina Jolie has been collecting antique knives since she was a teenager.
|Several years ago, when Angelina Jolie was having public relations issues in the wake of her divorce from Billy Bob Thornton, it became public knowledge that she had an extensive collection of antique knives. The initial media spin fed the growing perception that Jolie was weird beyond belief. After all, she was the same woman who wore a vial of Billy Bob’s blood around her neck. The collection of antique knives fueled the fires of her weirdness.
However, after Angelina began an earnest public relations campaign to repair her damaged reputation, she revealed to Barbara Walters on ABC’s 20/20 that her fascination with knives began as a young girl after attending a Renaissance fair. Seems her interest in knives was symbolic of her deeper interest in the history of older cultures. In the Walters interview, she stressed that her collection was kept under lock and key so that her young son could not get to them. So, maybe she’s not so crazy after all. But, we wonder if Brad knows where she keeps the key.
Celebrities Who Collect Coins
|In this day and age of reality TV shows, if Dancing With the Stars can be a big hit, why not Coin Collecting With the Stars? We wonder if we can get a meeting with a TV executive to pitch the idea. Perhaps not. But, it is a fact that many famous people have gone public with their fascination and love for collecting coins. The list includes actors, actresses, singers, athletes and many other celebrities who at one time or another were household names across America and even around the world.
Take Buddy Ebsen, for example. Best remembered today as Jed Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies, Ebsen had a long and successful career on stage and screen. He famously lost the role of the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz because of an illness he developed caused by a reaction to aluminum dust in his makeup. Still, Buddy Ebsen went on to great success as one of America’s best loved actors, and subsequently became an avid and especially knowledgeable coin collector. Ebsen was fond of United States gold coins in particular and accumulated a complete gold type set, a set of the Panama-Pacific commemorative coins in their original copper frame and a gem proof 1879 coiled hair Stella, among other notable coins. In 1987, Ebsen sold his collection at a major public auction and then, perhaps to show he wasn’t abandoning the hobby, he co-founded the Beverly Hills Coin Club with a younger actor, Chris Aable.
Ice hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky is one of many sports stars and celebrities who collect coins.
Sports fans from all around the world remember the venerable personality of sportscaster Chris Schenkel. For several decades, Schenkel covered a wide range of sporting events, from Olympic Games to professional bowling, during a distinguished career that literally took him around the world as the voice of ABC-TV’s Wide World of Sports. Off camera, Schenkel spent much of his private time pursuing a personal passion collecting coins. Over the course of his life, he assembled an impressive collection, including an exceptional set of early U.S. quarters. In fact, his collection was so vast that it included enough desirable coinage to help fill a 436-page catalog of 3,404 lots when it went on the auction block in 1990.
Going all the way back to the first half of the 20th century, famed American composer Jerome Kern built one of the finest private coin collections of that time. Kern, who penned hundreds of hit songs including such standards as “Ol’ Man River” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” among others, also had a keen eye for “hit” coins. Among the many treasures in his collection were an ultra-high-relief 1907 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle and a gem proof 1842 small-date Liberty Seated quarter. Five years after his death, famous Texas coin dealer B. Max Mehl sold Kern’s collection at a glittering auction in 1950.
The list of celebrity coin collectors is long and varied. Many became so enamored of the hobby’s excitement, they persevered to become confirmed numismatists. From the entertainment world alone, the list includes many famous figures past and present, including the legendary Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, “Stardust” songwriter Hoagy Carmichael, Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman, Emmy-winning actor John Larroquette, actress-director Penny Marshall and famed talk-show host Bruce Williams.
Williams hosts a widely syndicated radio talk show covering financial lifestyle issues. His radio program is so popular, he is second only to Rush Limbaugh in terms of audience. In 2002, Talkers magazine selected him as the #6 Greatest Radio and Talk Show Host of All-Time. In his private life, he is an eclectic collector of all sorts of things, including rare coins and Disney memorabilia. Bruce has commented that he collects what he likes without regard to cost. For example, he has a little bird for which he paid a total of eight cents and individual coins he has purchased for over $30,000. He prizes each of them equally and claims he is not likely to part with any of the things he has collected.
From the world of sports, famous coin collectors include ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, baseball slugger Andre Dawson and fierce basketball rebounder Dennis Rodman. Once known as the “hobby of kings,” coin collecting has had its share of enthusiasts among the ranks of world leaders. In times past, France’s “Sun King,” Louis XIV, found such pleasure in the French Royal Coin Collection that he visited it daily and confided that he could “always find something new to learn.”
Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III was more than just a collector; he was a true numismatic scholar who considered coins the great passion of his life. Upon his abdication in 1946, he donated his collection – more than 100,000 coins from ancient times to modern – to the people of Italy. He also left a magnificent gift to future generations of collectors: a 20-volume catalog of Italian coinage through the centuries, which took him 12 years to write. Egypt’s King Farouk was more of a voracious accumulator than a serious collector, but some of his coin acquisitions were spectacular – including a 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle which currently ranks as the highest-priced coin ever sold. It brought $7.59 million at a New York City auction in 2002. Other world leaders known for their coin collecting interest have included U.S. presidents John Quincy Adams and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was also widely known as a stamp collector; Israeli military leader and foreign minister Moshe Dayan; and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
While it may have formerly been known as the “hobby of kings,” today it has become the “king of hobbies”. Whereas in earlier times it was pursued primarily by noblemen with ample resources, in present days, coin collecting enjoys a wide following of enthusiastic collectors at all levels of society. In fact, due to a groundswell of new collectors in the past ten years, the U.S. Mint recently estimated the number of coin collectors in America alone to now be upwards of 140 million. Still, notwithstanding the more democratic incarnation of contemporary coin collecting, it is reassuring and more than a little fascinating to see that this endlessly engrossing hobby still holds great appeal for the rich and famous.
Some Celebrities Will Collect Anything...and Everything!
Just about anything is collectible these days. All that is required is for someone to have an interest in accumulating certain items and someone else who has those same items. Everything from stamps and fine art to beer cans and Coca-Cola memorabilia is suitable for collecting. There is no telling what someone may find of interest. Some times the items are intrinsically valuable, some times they are merely sentimental to the collector. No matter, to collectors the items they collect are valuable period. In her book, What Celebrities Collect, author Michelle Karl chronicles the collecting habits of famous celebrities. Here is a sampling of some of their collections.
Harry Connick Jr.
Jamie Lee Curtis
Garfield Memorabilia & Wine
Insects and Rare Books
Toy Soldiers / Faberge Eggs
Dolls & Vintage Clothing