‘Wizard of Oz’ Cowardly Lion costume fetches more than $3 million

Cowardly Lion Costume Fetches $3,077,000 at Auction
One of Bert Lahr’s two known Cowardly Lion costumes from “The Wizard of Oz” sold for $3,077,000 (inclusive of commission) at a Hollywood memorabilia auction organized by Bonhams New York auction house and Turner Classic Movies.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

A Cowardly Lion costume worn by Bert Lahr in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” sold for more than $3 million at a New York City auction of Hollywood memorabilia on Monday, according to the Bonhams New York auction house.

Organized in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies (TCM), the “TCM Presents  ... There’s No Place Like Hollywood” auction apparently moved some serious movie memorabilia, realizing a reported $9.1 million in sales from items such as the “As Time Goes By” piano from Rick’s Cafe in “Casablanca” (who knew it was salmon-colored?), which sold for $3,413,000, and a sword used by Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn in “The Return of the King,” which fetched $437,000. (It should be noted that all prices cited here include a commission to the auction house, a percentage known as the buyer’s premium.) 

There were several items up for bid Monday from “The  Wizard of Oz,” including a blue gingham test dress worn by Judy Garland’s Dorothy for pre-production purposes that sold for $245,000, Bert Lahr’s working script from the film, which sold for $75,000, and the aforementioned costume (made using a real lion hide), which left the auction block for $3,077,000 inclusive of commission.

If something about a Cowardly Lion costume going up for auction sounds faintly familiar, don’t worry that you might have lingered a bit too long in the poppy field; the same costume has gone under the gavel a handful of times over the years, including a 2011 auction organized by Calabasas, Calif.-based Profiles in History at which it failed to meet the minimum asking price. (According to Profiles in History’s founder, Joe Maddalena, this costume is one of just two known to exist -- and his company auctioned off the other one years ago for what now seems a bargain price of $805,000.) 


Collectors take note: Bonhams’ next entertainment memorabilia auction will be held here in Los Angeles in March 2015, with a joint Bonhams/TCM auction later in the year in New York City.

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