'Maltese Falcon' statuette sells for nearly $4.1 million in N.Y. auction

The iconic lead statuette of the Maltese Falcon from the 1941 film of the same name with approx. dimensions: 11 7/8 in x 4 1/2 in x 5 in (30.16 cm x 11.43 cm x 12.7 cm) is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of Bonhams. REUTERS/Bonhams/Handout

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The bird statuette that was the central prop in the classic 1941 detective thriller “The Maltese Falcon” sold for nearly $4.1 million at a New York auction, Bonhams auction house said.

The statuette, a 45-pound (20-kg), 12-inch (30-cm) tall lead figurine featured in the Humphrey Bogart film, was the top lot in the Bonhams sale on Monday.

“The spectacular price achieved reflects the statuette’s tremendous significance. The Maltese falcon is arguably the most important movie prop ever and is central to the history of cinema,” Catherine Williamson, director of entertainment memorabilia at Bonhams, said in a statement.

The seller was a private individual who bought the prop in the 1980s but whose identity was not disclosed.

The statue is the only one confirmed as having appeared in the film and is distinguished by a bent tail feather, Bonhams said. During filming actress Lee Patrick dropped the prop while handing it to Bogart. The damage is visible at the end of the film.

The film’s plot revolves around Bogart playing detective Sam Spade investigating a case in which three criminals are pursuing a priceless jewel-encrusted falcon statuette.

Other notable items in sale that totaled just under $6 million include a 1940 Buick Phaeton from the movie “Casablanca,” which fetched $461,000, and a Givenchy hat worn by actress Audrey Hepburn in the film “Funny Face” that reached $87,500, four times higher than its estimate.

Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Cynthia Osterman