Home Magazine The Magic of Freddie Mercury: The Memories Auction

The last notes of "We Will Rock You" had barely ceased to resonate when a wave of online and phone bids swept over the World of His Own auction, held at Sotheby's New Bond Street headquarters and dedicated to the collection of the famous Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury. The result? In just over four hours, all 60 lots were sold, and the total proceeds reached £12.2 million.

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World of His Own: The Numbers
The highlight was on September 6th with the Evening Sale, the first of six sales dedicated to Freddie Mercury's personal collection, consisting of over 1,400 items, including precious items, jewelry, artworks, musical instruments, autographed lyrics, and stage costumes. In an atmosphere of great excitement, some of the 400 attendees in the room, many of whom were unfamiliar with auction protocols, even showed up in themed costumes. Online participation was also massive, with over 6,000 fans and collectors from around the world. Over 2,000 registered to place bids, and half of them had never done business with Sotheby's before. The lower-value items, with over 1,000 lots yet to be auctioned, received more than 19,000 online bids. These items were subsequently auctioned in two live sales on September 8th and in three online auctions that continued until September 13th. World of His Own: Mary Austin's Decision Before being put up for sale, the items had been exhibited in a traveling show in New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong, finally arriving in London, where it was visited by 140,000 people during the opening month. Mercury had donated half of the copyright royalties to his dear friend, Mary Austin, along with his collection and Kensington residence, Garden Lodge, which housed a significant portion of it. Over 32 years after his passing, the 72-year-old friend decided to sell Mercury's most cherished items. She did so in a way she believed Freddie would have appreciated, as a portion of the proceeds will go to two foundations dedicated to combating AIDS, the disease that caused the singer's death: the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.


London 34-35 New Bond Street Sotheby's via Wikimedia Commons

World of His Own: The Sales
The start of the auction was marked by an extraordinary item that immediately highlighted the uniqueness of this sale. It was the famous "The Garden Lodge Door," covered over the years with graffiti by the most devoted fans and had always represented the entrance to Freddie Mercury's personal sanctuary. The appearance of the green door triggered a frantic bidding war, and it concluded with the sale of the relic at an incredible price of £412,750, well above the initial estimate of around £16,000. But the most anticipated lot of the evening was certainly the iconic 1973 Yamaha grand piano, a lifelong companion that Freddie Mercury had used to compose some of Queen's greatest hits, including "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Don't Stop Me Now," and "Somebody to Love." The instrument was sold after a six-minute intense bidding battle at a record price of £1.7 million.

Freddie Mercury Autograph via Wikimedia Commons

World of His Own: Autographed Lyrics
Speaking of "Bohemian Rhapsody," the autographed manuscript of the legendary piece turned out to be the most valuable, fetching a staggering £1,379,000. The lyrics of another worldwide hit by the band, "We Are the Champions," reached £317,500. The lyrics of other iconic Queen songs, such as "Somebody To Love," sold for £241,300, "Killer Queen" for £279,400, and "Don't Stop Me Now" for £317,500, also generated great enthusiasm among collectors. World of His Own: Jewelry The silver snake-shaped bracelet worn by Mercury in the famous "Bohemian Rhapsody" music video quickly became an object of desire for collectors worldwide, far surpassing its maximum estimate and setting a new price record at £698,500. This figure exceeded the previous record held by another jewelry item belonging to a rock star: a bead talisman that once belonged to John Lennon. Freddie Mercury's passion for precious items was further evident through the sale of various Cartier jewelry lots. A onyx and diamond ring from the maison, gifted to him by Sir Elton John, sold for a significantly higher amount than its initial estimate of £4,000-6,000, reaching an impressive £273,050. The entire auction price will be donated to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which continues to fight AIDS worldwide. Another Cartier gold pin, known as "Queen Number 1," given by Queen's manager, John Reid, to each band member when "Bohemian Rhapsody" reached number 1 in the UK in 1975, was sold for £165,100.

World of His Own: Stage Costumes
Freddie Mercury's complete costume with a crown and cape worn during his appearances at the end of each performance of The Magic Tour sparked strong competition during the stage costume auction, reaching a price of £635,000, ten times the initial estimate. Additionally, various other concert outfits worn by Freddie Mercury, such as the well-worn Adidas sneakers sold for £127,000, the ballet shoes used in the "We Are The Champions" video, purchased for £190,000, and a satin rainbow-colored jacket decorated with arrows, sold for £203,200, were also auctioned.

World of His Own: Art
Over the years, Mercury had collected a rich assortment of artworks and extraordinary objects inside Garden Lodge. Among them were various pieces of Japanese art, which the frontman had become interested in after Queen's tours in the Land of the Rising Sun. A precious 19th-century woodblock print by Utagawa Hiroshige, titled "Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi Bridge and Atake," was sold for £292,100. Also of interest was the collection of prints by famous Spanish artists, including Picasso's "Jaqueline au Chapeau Noir," which went up for auction alongside works by Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. The last piece acquired, "Types of Beauty," a portrait of Kathleen Newton by James-Jacques Tissot, was sold online for a remarkable £482,600. Among the valuable pieces of artistic glassware, the Tiffany Lily seven-light table lamp dating from around 1910 was awarded for £60,960, and the extraordinary electric blue Alicante Renè Lalique vase from 1927, which had always adorned the windowsill of the Garden Lodge living room, was sold for £82,550. As a grand finale, the lot featuring the extraordinary 1941 Wurlitzer model 850 'Peacock' Jukebox by Paul Fuller, still in working condition, was presented and generated significant interest, ultimately selling for £406,400.

Queen Performing1977 via Wikimedia Commons

World of His Own: Brian May's Words
The auction sparked discussions and controversies, especially following statements from Brian May, Queen's guitarist. On the eve of the sale, on Instagram, May expressed his sadness at the thought of Freddie's personal effects and writings being auctioned and dispersed forever. "I can't look," May wrote. "It's too sad for us, his dearest friends and family." May's words resonated with many Queen fans, many of whom sided against Mary Austin, arguing that the best solution would have been the creation of a "Garden Lodge" museum. 

Regardless of how things turned out, the grandeur of this sale testifies to the enduring attachment to an artist of extraordinary creativity and talent, who has left an indelible mark on the collective imagination.

Cover Image: Queen 1984 via Wikimedia Commons

Written by Kooness

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