There was a joyful mood inside New York City's Hard Rock Café where a giant collection of Prince's belongs was being sold off as part of Julien's Auctions' presentation Music Icons: Property From the Life and Career of Prince on Friday. When a ceramic Mardi Gras–style doll that was featured as a prop in Purple Rain went up, it was expected to fetch between $2,000 and $4,000. But a bidding war quickly broke out.
"It's the only one I've ever seen," says auctioneer Daniel Kruse, "don't lose it." He's sitting at a podium in front of a red curtain with monitors to either side of him, a few rock artifacts surrounding him on the stage. There's a small audience of in-person bidders and online-proxy bidders on either side of them, as a few Times Square tourists munch on mozzarella sticks in the back, taking it all in.
The doll quickly moves up to $5,000 and $6,000. "Where are you gonna see another one?" he baits the crowd. $10,000. "Quit clowning around and buy this thing." And then it hit $12,500 to a round of applause from the three dozen or so people gathered, including a table of hardcore Prince fans. Nobody else raises their star-shaped bidding paddles and Kruse bangs his gavel down and congratulates the winning bidder, who got it for $12,500. "What an awesome buy," the auctioneer exclaims.
Such was the scene many times over. A purple, stage-worn jumpsuit, from the collection of Prince's ex Mayté Garcia, was expected to get between $6,000 and $8,000 but went for $27,500, again to applause, and a dark-purple tunic Prince wore in 1996 that was estimated to go for the same went for $25,000. A white Schecter "cloud" guitar that was sitting to the right of Kruse (one of the few items actually on display) went for $30,000. The audience clapped as if Prince had just finished playing it.
The auction's most noteworthy item, Prince's custom-made yellow "cloud" guitar, sold for $225,000, well over its $60,000-$80,000 estimate. Bidding on Prince's wardrobe from the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards also exceeded six digits, landing a winning bid of over $108,000, more than $30,000 its pre-auction estimate.
The pace continued to be fast, as Kruse zipped through the 158 items in the Julien's catalogue (minus a few items such as an unreleased Dale Bozzio demo tape that Prince helped out on and some recording reels that were withdrawn from bidding at the last minute.) A raspberry beret with a love-symbol pin went for $1,750. A Sign 'O' the Times platinum record went for $1,750 (a little over its $800 - $1,200 estimate). An outfit Prince wore in his critically maligned movie Under the Cherry Moon went for double its estimate, landing $40,000, to the ooh's and applause from the audience.
"You're looking at your watch," Kruse tells someone in the crowd. "It's time to bid."