Elvis collectibles is something I never thought I’d write about in this space. This is, after all, Elvis-History-Blog.com, and I started it to deal with the man’s history, not peripheral subjects like collectibles. It would be different if Elvis had been a collector, but he wasn’t. What about the cars and the jewelry, you say? Elvis was an accumulator of those items, not a collector. He accumulated cars and rings, got tired of them, and just gave them away.
Recently, however, I came across a catalog that listed three high-end Elvis items for sale at a live auction. The nature of the items speaks to the kind of person Elvis was, and so falls within the subject of Elvis “history,” to which this blog is devoted. With that disclaimer, let’s enter the world of pricey Elvis collectibles.
The catalog listing the Elvis items was issued by Kruse International for its “18th Annual Spring Motorfair Auction” on May 28-31, 2009, in Auburn, Indiana. The catalog listed hundreds of vintage automobiles and a handful of jewelry items, but I was intrigued by just one listing in the auction—lot #752.1—“Elvis Presley Memorabilia, Sold as a Set of Three.”
• Elvis’ Gold Eldorado up for auction, bullet hole and all
The lead item in the set was a 1968 “Gold” Fleetwood Eldorado. The listing claimed “Elvis owned this car longer than any other, then gave it to his father-in-law.” Of course, that would be Priscilla Presley’s stepfather, Paul Beaulieu. I last read about the 80+-year-old retired Air Force colonel four years ago, when he and his wife were living in Brentwood, California. It could be, then, that Beaulieu put Elvis’ Eldorado up for auction, but it’s more likely that it’s had other owners since Elvis first disposed of it.
What makes this particular automobile more desirable to collectors than other vehicles the King owned is that Elvis left his mark on the car. The catalog explained: “This rare car was personally shot by Elvis one day when it would not start and still shows the bullet hole in the vehicle.” Sure enough, a close look at the photo of the car in the auction catalog reveals a hole in the front fender on the passenger side. I can almost hear Elvis say, “Stand back boys. I’ll learn this son-of-a-bitch not to start when I turn the key!” I wonder if the bullet is still lodged somewhere in the engine block.
The second item in the lot was a “1962 Lockheed Jetstar JT 12-5,” described as “Elvis’ last owned private jet.” The catalog’s photo of the plane seems to show it surrounded by weeds on an abandoned runway somewhere. Apparently it hasn’t been flown in years. Finally, the lot included an Elvis ring, said to have been “worn during shows.” The bauble appears to have 23 diamonds of varying sizes crammed into a circular setting.
• Where to park an old private jet with clipped wings?
When I first saw that the three items were being sold as a lot, I couldn’t imagine that anyone would make a bid that would meet the reserve (minimum bid) that surely must have been placed on the lot. I could see someone wanting the car and the ring, but what would anyone do with an old private jet that doesn’t fly? I doubt that neighbors would approve of it being permanently parked in the owner’s driveway.
When I checked the auction results a few days later, however, I was surprised to find the lot had indeed sold. I was even more surprised to see that there was no minimum bid required on the Elvis lot. That means you and I could have thrown in together and bid $3.75 or so, and if no one else bid, the car, jet, and ring would have been ours. The winning bid was much higher—$600,000. The name of winning bidder was not revealed.
Now, I’m not qualified to say whether or not the buyer got a good deal for his $600,000. I would suspect he or she did in this ailing economy. Interestingly enough, I saw another Elvis automobile for sale on eBay. It was a 1974 Cadillac, described as follows on its eBay profile:
“This one of a kind automobile that was originally purchased buy Elvis Presley for his personal use. He and his special family and friends used drove the vehicle for pleasure and local tours in the Memphis area. This 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham only 17,000 original miles and has all the Cadillac special options. Specifically It’s many options include: Elvis’s choice of Special white leather interior, custom sunroof, custom front grill and hood ornament and safety/security features. Adding to its singular distinction among celebrity auto, it was used in Elvis’s funeral motorcade, as seen in video of that memorable passing.”
(From the grammar and mechanics of that paragraph, I’m guessing the seller is a former member of the Memphis Mafia.)
• Every Elvis Car is a piece of the American Dream
Although the car was valued at over $1 million dollars, according to the seller, you could have had it on eBay for the giveaway price of only $599,000. That couldn’t be much of a bargain, though, considering the buyer of Elvis’ 1968 Eldorado at auction got the car, plus a private jet and a big, honkin’ diamond ring, for only $1,000 more. And let’s not forget the added value to the car of that bullet hole.
When you think about it, Elvis-related cars are not rare. He surely owned dozens of cars during his lifetime. Then there were dozens of other cars he purchased for friends, family, and even strangers. So what are you really getting if you have the long green it takes to buy an Elvis car these days? I suppose you could drive it around town, but who would do that? No one would recognize it as an Elvis car, unless you put a sign on the roof. And just imagine the cost of insurance to operate on the road a car valued at $600,000.
No, it’s really more than just a vintage automobile. It’s also a symbol of the American Dream. Growing up poor, Elvis dreamed of owning a nice car but never really believed it would happen. But the dream came true for him, not just once, but dozens of times. However, in addition to the bright side, there’s also a dark side to the American Dream. In 1956 Elvis sat by the side of the road and sadly watched as his first Cadillac burned up. I’m betting that none of the other cars he owned in his lifetime was as special to him as that first one. Certainly not that 1968 Eldorado that he pumped a bullet into just because it wouldn’t start.— Alan Hanson | © June 2009
"Although the car was valued at over $1 million dollars, according to the seller, you could have had it on eBay for the giveaway price of only $599,000."