At auction, collectibles from E (Elvis) to B (Beatles)


NEW YORK -- Lou Iacobelli is no acid rocker. But there he was yesterday morning, sitting on the edge of his folding seat in the second row of the Guernsey's auction house sale of collectibles from "40 Years of Rock & Roll," waiting expectantly through offerings of Elvis record acetates, Elvis lipstick and the Elvis library card, for bidding to begin on a bathroom sink.

Actually, it was John Lennon's bathroom sink from the Dakota apartment building on Central Park West, but it had sat in Mr. Iacobelli's basement since the remodeling job at the Lennon apartment in the mid-1970s.

No rock souvenir-saver he, the 65-year-old carpenter from Mill Basin, Brooklyn, said: "I asked my foreman for it and brought it home; just figured I could use it." Fortunately, Mr. Iacobelli's daughter, Lucille, just figured, "This could be worth something," he said.

And so, with a notarized letter attesting to the celebrity status of the sink, there was Mr. Iacobelli in the Puck Building on Lafayette Street in lower Manhattan, waiting for the E (for Elvis) lot to finish and the B (Beatles) lot to begin.

Fielding phone calls and administrative details from the dais as the auctioneer called for bids, Guernsey's President Arlan Ettinger said he hoped to bring in $2 million from the 4,000 items to be placed on the block during the four-day auction that ends today. "But that's a guess," he said. "So many things are unprecedented."

Like the first seat taken from the Apollo Theater when it was remodeled; the metal sign from the entrance to Max Yasgur's farm -- "site of Woodstock, of course," Mr. Ettinger explained.

Then there was Ringo Starr's customized 1957 Chevy Bel Air coupe; the exterior sign from the legendary Fillmore East theater, Bob Dylan's Gibson guitar and Isaac Hayes' hand-painted cape.

Among the items sold during the morning were two minutes of an 8 mm home movie of Elvis Presley playing before 25 people in 1955, bought by Greg Bines, who works for a movie production company, for $12,000; Elvis' high school library card, bought for $650 by Terry Stewart, the president of Marvel Comics; and an Elvis record acetate, "Crying in the Chapel," bought by Dolores Eyerne, a real estate agent from Brooklyn, for $250.

Sean O'Neal, 29, a medical office manager who came from St. Louis for the auction, said he started collecting after he "saw Elvis in concert in June of '77 and kept the program and ticket stubs."

Mr. O'Neal said he had his eye on a tube of Elvis lipstick.

"It's hard to find," he said. "It's very rare and it comes with a color chart with all the colors named after Elvis songs -- like Tutti Frutti Pink."

Mr. O'Neal said the lipstick, which will probably sell for between $500 and $750, cost $1.98 in 1956.

And Conan O'Brien, the late-night talk show host, was at the auction, "doing a remote." But, he said, "maybe I'll buy Elvis' electric shaver." Seized by the entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. O'Brien said: "I'll open it up and look for stubble and then auction it off, hair by hair. Yeah, $500 for the shaver and $5,000 for each piece of stubble."

Some of the numbers were not going over well.

One of the most touted items, Lot E247, the "Earliest Known Elvis Acetate," according to the catalog, was expected to bring in from $200,000 to $500,000.

As the auctioneer, Joanne Grant, beckoned for a bid, saying, "It was the acetate that brought Elvis to the attention of Sun Records and led to his career," the 400 people in the crowd just sat on their hands.

"Any interest in this at $10,000," Ms. Grant piped into the microphone. "Is there any interest?" There was not.

Elvis' sunglasses, with an opening price of $5,000, also got no takers.

And that John Lennon sink?

The opening bid was set at $6,000. Mr. Iacobelli's daughter was hoping it would fetch "maybe $20,000 to $25,000."

Mr. Iacobelli said he had heard Lennon loved cats. "If I get something, I will give some of it to some animal group," he said.

But the sink went for only $450, and Mr. Iacobelli said, "I wish I held on to it."

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