Going, Going, Gone

Marilyn Monroe Auctions: JFK Dress, Photos, Piano, Movie Gown, & More

Images from Norma Jeane’s first photo shoot will soon be auctioned off. See Monroe’s costliest items ever sold!

See the costliest Marilyn Monroe items ever sold!

Joseph Jasgur / AP Photos

First Photo Shoot Images: $352,000

As one of the 20th century’s most elusive characters, Marilyn Monroe continues to be the subject of fascination almost 50 years after her death. But before she was Marilyn, she was Norma Jeane Dougherty. A recovered collection of Joseph Jasgur’s photographs depicting a 19-year-old Dougherty at her first photo shoot in 1946 were auctioned off in Beverly Hills last December and fetched a total haul of $352,000. "These are probably the most significant images of Marilyn that are available because they're so early, from the first part of her career," said the chief of Julien's Auctions, which sold the trove. Collectors have been willing to shell out big bucks for a piece of Monroe. Here’s a look at some of the most expensive Marilyn Monroe items ever sold.

George S. Zimbel / Getty Images

The Seven Year Itch Dress: $5.6 Million

There are few images more iconic than that of Marilyn Monroe standing over a New York City subway grate as a gust of wind blows up her dress in The Seven Year Itch. So it’s no surprise that auction attendees were willing to spend big bucks to get their hands on the legendary white pleated dress. Actress Debbie Reynolds sold Monroe’s costume for $5.6 million, just one piece of her personal Hollywood memorabilia collection, including the headdress Elizabeth Taylor wore as Cleopatra and ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland during a screen test for The Wizard of Oz. Reynolds auctioned off her prized goods after the extensive cost of maintaining them had driven her into debt.

Getty Images (left); Bebeto Matthews / AP Photos

Happy Birthday, Mr. President Gown: $1,267,500

One of the most memorable Marilyn moments was when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in Madison Square Garden in 1962 for his 45th birthday. For the now-ubiquitous serenade, Monroe wore a jewel-encrusted, nude dress that she was rumored to have been sewn into. In 1999, the widow of Monroe’s former acting coach, Lee Strasberg, put the dress up for auction. A Manhattan-based collectible company Gotta Have It! paid $1,267,500 for the one-of-a-kind gown. Gotta Have It! president Robert Schargen told reporters at the time that he would have paid twice that amount.

AP Photos

Wedding Band from Joe DiMaggio: $772,500

Two years after Monroe started dating famous Yankee Joe DiMaggio, the two married in San Francisco on January 14, 1954. After their wedding, he gave her a platinum eternity band with thirty-five baguette-cut diamonds, which sold at a Christie’s in 1999 for $772,500. Though their notoriously tumultuous marriage didn’t last, the diamonds certainly are forever.

Rick Maiman, Sygma / Corbis; insets from left: Jemal Countess / Getty Images; AP Photos

Baby Grand Piano: $662,500

It took years of searching for Monroe to track down the white piano belonging to her mother, Gladys. After her mother, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, was institutionalized, most of the family’s belongings were sold, including the sentimental piano. “My happiest hours as a little girl were around that piano,” the actress once said, according to The New York Times. “Even when I didn’t have enough money to eat, I borrowed money to keep that piano in storage.” In 1999, Mariah Carey purchased this piano from Christie’s for $662,500. “I had to fight for it,” Carey told Playboy of the piano in 2007. “I know it was expensive, but it was important to me. It's in my will that if anything should happen to me, the piano goes to a museum, which is where I think it should have gone in the first place.” Carey even recently named her baby Monroe after the late actress.

Sunset Boulevard / Corbis

“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” Gown: $319,000

The pink satin dress Monroe donned for her performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes didn’t rake in quite as much dough as the “Happy Birthday” dress, but it did exceed its own expected price. At a Hollywood memorabilia sale in 2010, the gown sold for $319,000, which was $149,000 more than predicted.


Makeup Case: $266,500

No one looks as good as Marilyn Monroe without the help of a little makeup. Monroe’s 5-drawer travel makeup case, filled with cosmetics—some of which were still in their original boxes—was auctioned off at Christies in 1999 for $266,500. The case included lipsticks, eyeliner, nail polish, paper fans and a small collection of matchbooks from restaurants like long-running NYC theater district hotspot Sardi’s.

Ernst Haas / Getty Images (inset): christies.com

Temporary License: $145,500

Someone paid a whopping $145,000 in a 1999 Christie’s auction for a driver’s license, but avoided the DMV. The high bidder shelled out the impressive amount for a temporary driver’s license issue to Monroe in 1956 in California, just a few months before she wed playwright Arthur Miller.


Bathrobe: $120,000

In 1999, Monroe’s bathrobe sold for $6,000 at Christie’s in New York. But a decade later, it was auctioned off for $120,000 in Las Vegas in 2009. The short, white, terrycloth robe is believed to be the last thing the actress wore before she died in 1962.

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images (inset): juliensauctions.com

Three Chest X-Rays: $45,000

A set of three chest x-rays under the name Marilyn Di Maggio sold for $45,000 at a Las Vegas auction in 2010. The x-rays were from a 1954 visit to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Florida when Monroe was in the midst of divorce proceedings from Joe DiMaggio. Monroe was rumored to have been pregnant at the time of the hospital visit and discovered that she’d had a miscarriage.

Bettmann / Corbis (left); christies.com

Musical Menorah: $19,540

Monroe married Arthur Miller in June 1956, but that wasn’t their only wedding. A few days later, she converted and they had a Jewish wedding. The actress even got a musical menorah that played Hatikvah—Israel’s national anthem—as a gift. In 1999, that melodious menorah fetched $19,540 at a Christie’s auction. Sadly, their marriage was less harmonious and the two divorced in 1961.