Mary Pickford's autograph book up for auction

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - H.G. Wells wrote that Mary Pickford was “his life-long devotion”, Thomas Edison dedicated his entry to “the sweetheart of the Americas” and Benito Mussolini simply signed his name and the date, May 10, 1926.

Slideshow ( 3 images )

More than 120 famous names from 1926 to 1981 signed the silent film star’s personal autograph book, which is among more than 750 lots from the Pickford estate going up for auction for the first time in November.

“These books contain the Who’s Who of the 1920s and 1930s,” said auctioneer Darren Julien of the autograph book and two leather bound guest books signed by visitors to the Pickfair mansion in Beverly Hills shared by Pickford and actor Douglas Fairbanks.

Pickford’s autograph book, which also includes dedications from playwright George Bernard Shaw, aviator Amelia Earhart, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and car maker Henry Ford, carries a pre-sale estimate of $6,000-8,000.

But Julien said he thought the book could fetch five times that much at the November 22-23 auction.

“These people came to Pickfair and when Mary traveled she would take the book with her to get autographed. Those books are probably the most valuable and rare autograph books that I’ve ever seen come up for auction,” Julien told Reuters.

He said that in 2006, a collection of 20 love letters written by Fairbanks to Pickford were sold for almost $30,000.

Dinnerware from parties thrown by the Hollywood couple for royalty and the leading minds of the times are also up for sale along with paintings that once graced the walls of Pickfair, as well as furniture, photos and jewelry.

Julien said the auction contained the biggest collection to date from the Pickfair estate, where the screen star of Hollywood’s Golden Age lived with Fairbanks and later her third husband, musician Buddy Rogers, for more than 50 years before her death in 1979.

The Pickfair estate, which has changed hands several times since Pickford’s death and was rebuilt in the 1990s, was put up for sale in September with a $60 million asking price.

The items in the November auction come from the collection of Buddy Rogers which was passed to his heirs. It is expected to raise a total of $400,000-$600,000.

“Even though these are difficult times, a lot of our investors look at these as better investments than stocks or Wall Street right now.

“Collectors know Pickford’s place in history. Before now, nobody was able to come in and pull these items out,” Julien said.

Before the auction, which will be held live, televised and online by Julien’s Auctions, highlights of the sale will go on public exhibit at the Beverly Hilton hotel from Nov 17-21.

Edited by Bob Tourtellotte