Shades of Elvis

“When they’re trying to figure out what made our civilization kick, Elvis will be thought of,” said Doug Norwine, a specialist in music and entertainment memorabilia at Heritage Galleries. On Aug. 14, in Memphis, Heritage will auction off 270 items owned by or related to the singer, including the white piano that graced Elvis’ Graceland home.

Estimated at a cool $1 million, the William Knabe & Co. grand piano comes with its original white vinyl-cushioned bench on gold legs (make that gold-colored metal). The sale also includes a pair of 14-karat lightning-bolt-design sunglasses he favored (bidding starts at $10,000), consigned by his optician, one of the many rings off his fingers, and a number of belts. Elvis’s address and phone book, dating back to the 1950s, can be bought, plus a love letter he wrote his girlfriend, Anita Wood, when he was at war. In it, he writes, ever the romantic, that it will be a “blue Christmas.”

Held in a ballroom in the Peabody Hotel, the same Memphis hotel that housed Elvis’s preferred haberdasher, the auction is expected to draw fans from all over the world. As the singer (allegedly) died on Aug. 16, 1977, many fans traditionally come to Memphis that week for vigils and other events.

Authenticity is always a tricky issue with celebrity items. Pieces like the piano are being sold with letters of authenticity from a piano technician and from two of Elvis’ friends. But Heritage also matched photographs of Elvis in front of the piano to the instrument (serial number 70545) to verify it was the correct piece, according to Mr. Norwine. “We never take the word of the consigner,” he said. “In the Elvis world, the top collectors know everything.”


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