Elvis Presley’s gleaming white Knabe grand piano, and the coffee-stained upright instrument played by the Beatles and Pink Floyd, are up for sale in separate auctions on either side of the Atlantic next month.
Presley’s piano, which was in the music room at his Graceland home from 1957 to 1969, may fetch more than $1 million at Heritage Auction Galleries’ Memphis sale on Aug. 14. The cigarette-burned Challen, used from the 1960s at Abbey Road Studios in north London, is expected to fetch as much as 150,000 pounds ($231,000) in Bonhams’s “Pioneers of Popular Culture” auction at Goodwood Vintage Festival the following day.
The Knabe was the house piano at Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, where Duke Ellington, Count Basie and others performed, before Pressley bought it and refurbished it in white.
The Challen cost 250 pounds in 1964, according to the book “Recording the Beatles” by Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan. It was probably used by the Beatles in 1966 for the track “Tomorrow Never Knows” on the “Revolver” album and by Paul McCartney for the 1969 song “Old Brown Shoe.”
“It’s a raw piece,” Laurence Fisher, Bonhams’s specialist head of mechanical music, said in an interview. “It’s one of those pianos where you look at it and think, ‘Is that it?’ Then you imagine John Lennon leaning against it, and you go, ‘Wow!’”
This particular model of Challen is known as a ‘jangle box’ or ‘tack’ instrument, owing to the optional tone controlled by a third pedal. It was sold in the 1980s to a family for children to learn to play.
“The children have grown up and it’s been sitting in a corner,” Stephen Maycock, consultant in rock memorabilia at Bonhams, said in an interview.
The piano on which Lennon wrote “Imagine” was bought by the singer George Michael at auction for 1.7 million pounds with fees in October 2000.
A partial set of dentures used by Winston Churchill, the U.K.’s wartime Prime Minister, is being sold this week by an auction house in Norfolk.
The gold-mounted upper false teeth, one of three sets designed to mask a lisp, are being offered by Keys Auctioneers with an estimate of 4,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds on July 29. They have been entered by the son of Derek Cudlipp, the technician who was commissioned to make them, said Keys.
Another set of dentures was buried with Churchill, and a third is in the museum of the U.K.’s Royal College of Surgeons.
The Duke of Devonshire is the latest English aristocrat looking to raise funds by clearing storerooms of his home.
Following the 21.1 million-pound success of the Christie’s International July sale of paintings, furniture and more humble bits and pieces from the Spencer family, the Duke is hoping to raise at least 2.5 million pounds from an auction at Sotheby’s.
The three-day Chatsworth attic sale, scheduled for Oct. 5-7, includes furnishings from various properties that have been stored at the Devonshires’ ancestral house in Derbyshire.
“When we moved into Chatsworth several years ago we found the attics filled with the contents of other family homes from generations past,” the Duke of Devonshire said in an e-mail. “The proceeds will be used to further some projects both at Chatsworth and on our other estates.”
The sale will include some of the William Kent-designed fittings from Devonshire House, an early 18th-century mansion in London’s Piccadilly that was demolished in the 1920s. A George II white marble chimneypiece may fetch as much as 300,000 pounds.
The event, in classic attic-auction style, will also feature lots such as ceramics and glass temptingly valued at as little as 20 pounds.
For those who aren’t content with the stars’ pianos, a Duke’s chimneypiece or Churchill’s teeth, how about a dinosaur’s bones?
Sotheby’s is to offer the Allosaurus remains in a Paris sale on Oct. 5. The skeleton is 33 feet (10 meters) in length and is estimated to fetch about 800,000 euros ($1.02 million), the U.S.-based auction house said in an e-mail last night.
(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)