Workers pulled glittery suits and platinum records out of cardboard boxes Sunday ahead of what’s being called the largest auction of Jackson family memorabilia ever.
Auction staff unpacked and displayed more than 1,100 lots including rhinestone-studded costumes, faded documents and other mementoes at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The items are expected to fetch millions of dollars from bidders from around the globe Wednesday and Thursday.
“This really is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence,” said Arlan Ettinger, president of auction house Guernsey’s. “I cannot imagine that somewhere down the road some other collection could come out of the woodwork and rival this. It’s not going to happen.”
There’s a Bill Whitten-designed militaristic red coat with gold rope that belonged to Michael Jackson, and a 1987 contract detailing his $30 million purchase of the California ranch that became the infamous “Neverland.”
There’s also a frilly pink “Mae West” dress worn by Janet Jackson at age 8 during family performances at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 1974.
In a worn telegram from July 6, 1984, Marlon Brando encourages Michael Jackson before a show: “Please try not to make an (expletive) of yourself and please for God’s sakes don’t fall in the orchestra pit.”
The items are to go on sale following a protracted court battle that ended two weeks ago when Michael Jackson’s lawyers reached a confidential settlement and dropped an effort to block the auction.
Richard Altomare, chief executive of Universal Express Inc., the Boca Raton, Fla., luggage transportation company that owns the items, said Jackson’s lawyers settled when they were convinced they had no legal claim to the goods.
“Despite his emotional attachment he had to accept he didn’t have it,” Altomare said.
As part of the settlement, Jackson was formally invited to attend, although it was unclear if he planned to do so.
Jackson, 48, has been living in Las Vegas planning his comeback after his 2005 acquittal in California on child molestation charges.
The collection’s former owner, New Jersey businessman Henry Vaccaro, took possession of the memorabilia in 2002 after a failed business venture wound up in bankruptcy court.
Universal bought the items from Vaccaro for $5 million and spent more than $2 million transporting the goods from New Jersey to Las Vegas, Altomare said. The goods were insured by Lloyd’s of London for more than $100 million, he said.
Ettinger would not speculate on how much the sale would net, although he said his company has fielded inquiries from as far away as Europe and the Far East. Bidders can participate through liveauctioneers.com and eBay’s live auction site.