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Easy come, easy go. Auction of Freddie Mercury’s ‘clutter’ nets more than $20M

Freddie Mercury’s prized piano that he used to compose Bohemian Rhapsody Hits by Queen and others sold for nearly $3 million on Wednesday as the late singer’s vast collection of stage costumes, fine art and original lyrics went up for record-breaking auction.

Opera enabled stuff Bohemian Rhapsodythe group’s most reliable hit, the song with handwritten lyrics fetched a premium, selling for around £1.4 million ($2.4 million Cdn) and a gold Cartier brooch with the words “Queen number 1” given to each band member by themselves. manager after the song topped the charts, selling £165,000 ($282,000 Cdn).

A Victorian-style silver snake bracelet Mercury wore in an ivory satin suit in a music video long before the days of MTV has set a record for the highest price ever paid for a piece of jewelry owned by a rock star at auction. Sotheby’s said:

The bracelet went for £698,500 ($1.2 million Cdn), 100 times the asking price. The item set a record when a John Lennon leather and beaded talisman sold for £295,000 ($505,000 Cdn) in 2008, Sotheby’s said.

The eclectic collection of objects was collected by Mercury after Queen’s glam-rock produced an avalanche of hits that allowed the singer to achieve her dream of living a Victorian life “surrounded by refined clutter”.

Gold necklace with descriptive words
One of only four made by Cartier, the Queen Number 1 gold brooch is on display at Sotheby’s. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

Clothes, prizes, original words on the block

Mercury’s close friend Mary Austin, to whom he left his home and possessions when he died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1991 at the age of 45, is selling it all, more than 1,400 items.

Just 59 items from that “mess” sold for £12.2 million ($20.9 million Cdn), including buyer’s premium, shattering estimates at the four-and-a-half-hour auction. Applicants from 61 countries participated in person, online and by phone.

Mercury wrote: “Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?” in Rhapsodyand the answer to well-heeled fans seemed to be “No,” as they bid ever-greater fortunes to acquire classics from the late singer’s clothes, awards, and one-of-a-kind designs; Killer Queen and: We are champions.

Depending on how you look at it, the night’s champs could be Sotheby’s or Austin or several charities to which he has pledged to donate an undisclosed portion of the proceeds.

Or it could have been the buyers of unique souvenirs who won out.

A man raised his arms above his head in victory and hugged the woman sitting next to him after bidding 635,000 pounds ($1 million) because Mercury wore a crown and a red, faux-fur cape on stage at the end of each show. During Queen’s last tour in 1986

A broken crown standing next to a photo of Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury’s trademark crown was worn on the Magic tour. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

Some proceeds to charity

Bidding opened with the sale of a graffiti-covered door to the garden of Mercury House, which quickly surpassed its pre-sale estimate of £25,000 ($43,000 Cdn) and led to a bidding war that lasted about 20 minutes.

A green door covered in hand-painted love notes from fans who made the pilgrimage to London’s Kensington home sold for an eye-popping £412,750 ($706,000 Cdn).

All proceeds from the sale of a Cartier onyx and diamond ring given to Mercury by her friend Elton John, which sold for £273,000 ($467,000 Cdn) were to be donated Rocket Man the singer’s AIDS charity.

Art sold at auction included prints by Pablo Picasso (£190,500, $326,000 Cdn), Salvador Dali (£48,260, $82,500). and Marc Chagall (63,500; $108,500 Cdn), antique furniture and numerous cat figurines.

various statues, pictures and figurines of cats
Some of Freddie Mercury’s cat memorabilia. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

140,000 fans lined up to see the items

For the past month, Mercury fans who couldn’t afford such prices, or simply wanted to see his high-end Adidas, diamond brooches or sequin jacket, could view them for free at Sotheby’s gallery. More than 140,000 visitors from around the world lined up outside the elegant auction house to take a tour.

“Freddie Mercury. Publicity for A World of Own prompted a bid for online auctions that began last month and close next week.

Even products sold online that looked like they might be within reach of some average buyers are eclipsing presale estimates.

One of the more outlandish items, a Tiffany & Co. silver mustache comb that was expected to set a buyer back £400-£600 ($685-$1,000 Cdn) for £35,000 ($59,000 Cdn).

A small comb in front of the face
A Sotheby’s employee shows off a mustache comb that sold for much more than expected. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

The piano is underplayed

The Yamaha baby grand piano on which Mercury wrote Queen’s greatest hits was one of the few items to sell for less than its estimated value, although it still fetched the most money.

It was expected to sell for up to £3 million (Cdn$5 million) but sold for £1.7 million (Cdn$2.9 million). Sotheby’s said it was the highest price ever paid for a piano by the composer, but they did not provide information on a previous recording.

Other items appreciated by fans were Mercury’s draft lyrics Someone to love (£241,000; $412,000 Cdn), and Don’t stop me now! and: We are champions, which both fetched the same final prices of £317,500; $543,000 Cdn.

Handwritten texts
Freddie Mercury’s working lyrics for Bohemian Rhapsody. (Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)

The drafts showed songs at their beginnings, backwards Bohemian Rhapsody from defunct British Midland Airways on scratched stationery. The song was originally named Mongolian rhapsody before that was crucified.

The song ends with the words, “Nothing really matters to me,” a line that certainly didn’t apply to Mercury’s myriad possessions.

Colorful jacket with pictures of cats
Silk vest with portraits of Mercury’s six cats, painted by Nerissa Ratcliffe. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

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