Forget about pricey clocks or vintage pianos, the latest trend to sweep the auction house world is historical hair. In recent years, locks of hair from dead celebrities have emerged at more and more auction houses and are selling for up to $50,000, reports the New York Times.
Two blondish locks from George Washington and one clump from John Brown, retrieved after he was executed in 1859, reportedly sold for several thousand dollars each at auctions held in Maryland, North Carolina and Massachusetts. Last September, a single mustache hair pulled from John Dillinger’s death mask was part of a crime artifact lot that brought $5,400 at RR Auction in New Hampshire. A gold pendant containing braided hair from Robert E. Lee sold for $12,500 at Doyle auction house in Manhattan last month. A snarl of Horatio Nelson’s brown hair sold for $12,000 at Sotheby’s in London. And just last week in Dallas, locks from Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant went for $38,837 and $5,975, respectively.
For those itching to twirl their fingers around a snippet of hair from the legendary Edgar Allan Poe, you’re in luck. Tomorrow, the Profiles in History auction house in Calabasas Hills, CA, is selling a boxful of Poe artifacts (estimated at $30,000 to $50,000), including hair stolen directly from his coffin.
“My impression is that this hobby is a relatively small group of people,” said Wes Cowan, who owns Cowan’s Auctions, where a bidder recently paid $5,581.25 for wisps of hair removed from Washington’s corpse while it was being re-interred at Mount Vernon in 1837.
Despite the high price tag, only a few individuals dominate the historical hair market, including John Reznikoff, a manuscripts and documents dealer in Westport, CT. Reznikoff has acquired about 140 locks from historical figures such as Beethoven, Napoleon and Eva Braun, but rarely sells them for profit. “Occasionally I will sell a few strands just to support my habit,” he said in a recent interview. “When they go for a significant price, it just validates what I’ve been doing all these years.”