NEW YORK, July 25 (Reuters) - A grisly collection of autopsy tools used to prepare Elvis Presley's body has been removed from auction after doubts were raised about their provenance and authenticity.
Chicago-based Leslie Hindman Auctioneers last week said rubber gloves, forceps, lip brushes, a comb, eye liner, needle injectors, and a toe tag, all of which were used on Presley ahead of his funeral in 1977, would go on sale on Aug. 12.
The instruments were said to have been saved for years by an anonymous, retired embalmer at the Memphis Funeral Home. The auctioneer estimated a sale price of up to $14,000.
But Mary Williams, a spokeswoman for the auction house, said the instruments had been withdrawn from auction after the funeral operator laid claim to them.
"Due to questions of ownership, the retired embalmer and his son have decided to turn over the property to the Memphis Funeral Home and its parent company, Service Corporation International (SCI.N), with the intention of donation," Williams said in a statement.
Memphis Funeral Home President E.C. Daves also told The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Tennessee that there was no way to tell whether the items being offered for sale were authentic.
He said the retired embalmer claims he took the items after Presley was embalmed, but another employee told him the equipment was sterilized and used again.
Daves said the funeral home had no plans to take any legal action if the items were returned.
When announcing the sale last week, Williams admitted the auction may be controversial as some people "are going to be disappointed" by the sale of these items.
Elvis memorabilia, however, is always in strong demand with a lock of his hair selling for $18,300 at an auction last year.
Presley died from heart problems after taking a cocktail of prescription drugs on Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42 but he continues to be one of the top earning dead celebrities, bringing in $55 million in 2009 according to Forbes.com.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Dean Goodman