Freddie Mercury’s beloved piano, used to write “Bohemian Rhapsody” and other Queen hits, is among the late singer’s extensive collection of lavish clothing, art and record-breaking The piano sold for more than $2 million at Handwriting Auction.
Items related to the band’s most famous hit “Rhapsody” were among the most coveted at auction Wednesday night, including the song’s handwritten lyrics, which sold for about $1.4 million. sterling ($1.7 million) and a gold Cartier brooch reading “Queen” “No. 1,” a gift from the band’s manager to each member after the song topped the charts, sold for £165,000 ($208,000).
Long before MTV, Mercury set a record for the highest price ever paid for a rock star jewelry piece at auction, wearing a silver, Victorian-style snake bracelet when paired with an ivory satin suit in the video for the song. Auction organizer Sotheby’s.
The bracelet sold for £698,500 ($881,000), 100 times more than its low estimate. Sotheby’s said the item broke the record set by a leather and beaded John Lennon amulet, which sold for 295,000 pounds ($368,000) in 2008.
After Queen’s glam rock spawned a deluge of hits, Mercury’s collection of eclectic memorabilia enabled the singer to live out the singer’s dream of a Victorian life “surrounded by refined chaos”.
When Mercury died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1991 at age 45, Mercury left his house and possessions to her close friend, Mary Austin, who decided to sell everything: more than 1,400 items.
Just 59 items from the “scratch” sold for £12.2 million ($15.4 million), including buyer’s premium, exceeding their estimate during the four-and-a-half-hour auction. Bidders from 61 countries participated in person, online and by phone.
Wealthy fans poured out ever-larger fortunes for a piece of clothing, prizes and original handwritten drafts of the late singer’s songs, which included classic songs like “Killer Queen” and “We Are the Champions.”
Depending on how you look at it, the night’s winner could be Sotheby’s, Austin Auction House or some charity to which he has pledged to donate an undisclosed portion of the proceeds.
Or, the winner could be the person who purchases a unique souvenir. A man who paid £635,000 ($801,500) for the rhinestone crown and red faux fur cape that Queen wears on stage at the end of every show in her finals raised his hands above his head and hugged the person sitting next to him woman. 1986 tour.
The auction, which began with the sale of a graffitied garden gate from Mercury’s home, quickly surpassed its pre-auction estimate of £25,000 ($31,250) and sparked a bidding war that lasted nearly 20 minutes.
The green door, with love written all over it as fans made pilgrimages to the singer’s home in London’s trendy Kensington district, sold for a whopping £412,750 ($521,000).
An onyx and diamond Cartier ring Mercury received from his friend Elton John sold for £273,000 ($344,000). All proceeds from the ring will be donated to the “Rocketman” singer’s AIDS charity.
Artworks sold at the auction included prints by Pablo Picasso (£190,500; $240,000), prints by Salvador Dalí (£48,260; $60,900); and prints by Marc Summers Marc Chagall ($63,500; $80,000), antique furniture and numerous cat figurines.
Over the past month, Mercury fans who can’t afford such prices (or just want to see one of his Adidas sneakers, diamond brooches or sequined jackets) have been able to view free works at Sotheby’s galleries. More than 140,000 visitors from around the world lined up to view the exhibition in the elegant auction house.
Advertisements for the show, called “Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own,” boosted bids in an online auction that started last month and will end next week.
Even some of the online sales that seemed within reach of the average shopper were dwarfed by pre-sale estimates.
A batch of chopsticks previously estimated to sell for between 40 pounds and 60 pounds ($50 to $75) had a bid of 1,200 pounds ($1,500) on Wednesday.
One of the more extravagant items was a silver Tiffany beard comb, which buyers expected to sell for between £400 and £600 ($500 to $750). The actual bid was £35,000 ($43,750).
The Yamaha baby grand piano on which Mercury composed some of Queen’s biggest hits was one of the few items to sell for less than its estimate, but it nonetheless sold for top dollar.
It was expected to sell for up to £3 million ($3.75 million), but the actual sale price was £1.7 million ($2.2 million). Sotheby’s said it was the highest price ever paid for the composer’s piano, but did not provide information on previous records.
Other items treasured by fans include Mercury’s draft lyrics to “Somebody to Love” (£241,000; $304,000), “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “We Are the Champions”, which sold for the same price. Price: £317,500, $400,700.
Drafts show the songs in their infancy, with “Bohemian Rhapsody” scrawled on a piece of paper from the defunct British Midland Airways. The song was originally called “Mongol Rhapsody.”
The rock song ends with: “Nothing really matters to me,” which doesn’t apply to what Mercury (and some of his wealthy fans) thought of his fortune.