Freddie Mercury collection goes up for auction. How to take home a piece of your idol


Going up for auction at Sotheby's is the collection of Freddie Mercury, the unforgettable Queen frontman. There are many rare and valuable pieces worth hundreds of thousands of euros, but there are also hundreds of pieces you can take away with relatively little expense. Here's what's in the six auctions, and how to take home a piece from your idol.

Sotheby’s, the famous London auction house, is calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or one of those once-in-a-lifetime occasions: we’re talking about the big auction that puts up for sale the estate of Freddie Mercury (Stone Town, 1946 - London, 1991), the historic lead singer and frontman of Queen, one of the most beloved rock groups of all time. Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own, that’s the title of the auction, divided into several rounds, has already sent fans around the world into raptures ready to fight to grab memorabilia of the great rock band’s lead singer , from the most affordable to unique pieces valued in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. For those unable or unwilling to purchase anything, however, the sale will remain a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the public and private realm of a music superstar, a rock icon who, far from the stages, has always cultivated a passion for collecting.

Freddie Mercury’s collection includes art, fashion, musical instruments, photographs, furniture, jewelry, all accumulated over the course of fifty years. Personal papers, notes, notebooks, and autograph sheets are also added to the holdings. The collection has been meticulously preserved in the beloved Garden Lodge home in London for more than three decades and shows a variety that can testify not only to the eclecticism of Freddie Mercury’s passions, but also to his style, his artistic talent,his brilliant mind.

The series of auctions will start the second week of September: first, from August 4 to September 5, Sotheby’s headquarters on New Bond Street in London will host the exhibition of the collection (which has so far attracted more than a hundred thousand visitors, the British auction house reports), which is free and open without reservations, accompanied for the occasion by two restaurants (with the singer’s favorite dishes on the menu!) and temporary shops inspired by Freddie Mercury’s flair and where the public can find themed items and gadgets for sale, all open during the opening hours of the exhibition (the store, by the way, only accepts card payments)

Freddie Mercury at Wembley Stadium in 1986. Photo: Denis O'Regan
Freddie Mercury at Wembley Stadium in 1986. Photo: Denis O’Regan
Sotheby's headquarters in London decorated for the occasion with Freddie Mercury's mustache at the entrance
Sotheby’s headquarters in London decorated for the occasion with Freddie Mercury’s mustache at the entrance
The Japanese room in Freddie Mercury's house.
The Japanese room at Freddie Mercury’s home
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There are a total of six auctions that will allow the public to immerse themselves in the world of Freddie Mercury, and the lucky ones to take home a piece. Three of these are timed auctions (i.e., one bids in advance over a defined period by a deadline date, whoever will have bid the most by the deadline wins, of course with a chance to raise during the auction if one’s bid is exceeded), which have already begun, all on August 11: these are In Love With Japan, Crazy Little Things 1 and Crazy Little Things 2, which will close on September 11, 12 and 13, respectively, with bidding deadlines on all three occasions at 10 a.m. (London time, 11 a.m. here). The first auction reflects Freddie Mercury’s passion for Japanese art : for sale are several ukiyo-e prints as well as items from the Land of the Rising Sun, but also catalogs of Japanese art exhibitions printed between 1979 and 1991, Freddie Mercury’s personal books on Japan (books on Japanese culture but also several manga, the Japanese comics), photographs of the Japanese stages of the 1976 A Night at the Opera world tour, and then clothes such as kimonos and jackets in the style. This is an affordable auction: the top lots are a valuable nineteenth-century print by Kitagawa Utamaro, depicting a mother nursing her child, and a shodana (a writing instrument cabinet ) from the Showa period (20th century), both estimated at between 10 and 20 thousand pounds (11,600-23,200 euros), and both currently with no bids. Prints are plentiful and are being carried away at low figures (there are ukiyo-e by Utamaro that are around 3,000, about 3.500 euros), while there is also little demand for a lot of 17 Japanese art catalogs (50-100 pounds, or 58-116 euros, although there is currently a bid of 550, about 640 euros) and for many ceramics valued at around 3-400 pounds (350-465 euros): it is assumed, however, that for the less valuable items, competition will be fierce and prices will rise far above the real value of the pieces, just because they belonged to one of the most beloved singers in history. Less fierce would seem to be the auction for items of somewhat higher value than the cheaper ones (prints, for example, for now have bids in line with estimates).

The two auctions Crazy Little Things 1 and 2, whose name echoes Queen’s famous song from the 1979 album The Game , are the ones reserved for the largest audience of fans since they offer miscellaneous items and memorabilia for sale at low figures: suffice it to say that at the first auction the top lot has an estimate of only three to five thousand pounds (3,500 to 5,800 euros), and it is a series of eleven portraits of Freddie Mercury’s cats by Ann Ortman. Then there is an important lot valued at just 1,00-1,500 pounds (1,160-1,750 euros), since the intrinsic economic value of the lot is little, but for fans it has a very high sentimental value since it is Freddie Mercury’s personal record collection , which numbers some 275 pieces that offer a very interesting insight into the singer’s musical tastes . They range from Led Zeppelin to David Bowie, Aretha Franklin to Kate Bush, Go West to Spandau Ballet, Prince to Stevie Wonder, Madonna to A-Ha, Tina Turner to Phil Collins, Cutting Crew to Eric Clapton, Chaka Khan to Whitney Houston, Eurythmics to George Michael, Michael Jackson to Simply Red, Billy Ocean to Culture Club, in short, all the best of pop music from the 1970s and 1980s. And there will be a battle to get Freddie Mercury’s records, since, when there are still almost two weeks left until the auction deadline, bids have already exceeded 5 thousand pounds (5,800 euros).

The two auctions offer everything from a vast collection of 400 Queen and Freddie Mercury records through books from Freddie Mercury’s personal library (the topics: music, fairy tales, novels, fitness, and even a curious section entirely of 29 volumes dedicated to cats, animals the rock star adored), from posters to the most extravagant trinkets. Just by way of example, there are collections of paperweights, a model of the Santa María (Columbus’ caravel), matryoshkas, pocket flasks, German beer mugs, a collection of board games, statues and paintings of cats of all shapes and sizes (including a replica of an Egyptian cat worth a derisory 50-80 (58-93 euros), which, however, has already surpassed 1,500, or 1,750 euros, in bids).

The second part of the Crazy Little Things auction, on the other hand, sees as its top lot a collection of 19 photographic specimens (6-8 thousand pounds), sold on the condition that no commercial editions are made from them. The real cult item for Freddie Mercury fans, however, is the silver mustache comb, branded Tiffany & Co, with which we imagine the singer tidying up his iconic mustachios: the value is only 4-600 pounds (465-700 pounds), but the bids (exceeded 50) have already touched 26 thousand (about 30 thousand euros), moreover surprising the same experts at Sotheby’s. There are also suitcases that belonged to the leader of Queen, a plastic Seiko watch with typical Eighties shapes (value 3-500 pounds, bids that have exceeded 6 thousand), the various silver and gold records that Freddie Mercury received in his career, certificates and certificates of various kinds, the T-shirts that the singer wore to do sports activities, even his swimsuits, and then a wide selection of clothing, from casual to formal outfits. Bids have already exceeded 1,000 pounds for virtually all such items.

Kitagawa Utamaro, Mother nursing child (19th century; woodcut, 360 x 241 mm)
Kitagawa Utamaro, Mother nursing child (19th century; woodcut, 360 x 241 mm)
Furisode of the Showa period (ca. 1960-1970)
Furisode (long-sleeved kimono for girl) from the Showa period (ca. 1960-1970)
Freddie Mercury's cat portraits executed by Ann Ortman
Freddie Mercury’s cat portraits executed by Ann Ortman
Freddie Mercury's record collection
Freddie Mercury’s record collection
Books that belonged to Freddie Mercury
Books belonging to Freddie Mercury
Books about cats
Books about cats
Cat sculptures
Cat sculptures
Mick Rock, Collection of 19 auditions (1973-1974)
Mick Rock, Collection of 19 auditions (1973-1974)
Tiffany & Co. mustache comb.
Tiffany & Co. mustache comb
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Sportswear
Sportswear
Sportswear
Sportswear
Shirts that belonged to Freddie Mercury
Shirts that belonged to Freddie Mercury
Formal doublet from the 1980s that belonged to Freddie Mercury
Formal doublet from the 1980s that belonged to Freddie Mercury

The highlight auction, however, will be held on September 6 at 5 p.m. in London (6 p.m. in Italy): it will be the Evening Sale that will put up the most valuable lots, 59 in all, and it will be a classic mode auction, meaning buyers will compete in real time to the last bid. The highest estimate (2-3 million pounds, or 2.33-3.49 million euros) is for the Yamaha model G2 piano that belonged to the singer, presented by Sotheby’s as “the instrument used to compose some of the greatest songs of the 20th century.” Next comes the autograph draft of Bohemian Rhapsody (800,000-1.2 million) and a painting from the artist’s collection, the Portrait of Kathleen Newton by French naturalist painter James Tissot. Autograph drafts then include those for We are the champions (200-300 thousand pounds), Somebody to love (150-200 thousand pounds, 175-232 thousand euros), Don’t stop me now (120-180 thousand pounds, 140-210 thousand euros) and others.

Beyond the Tissot painting, the artworks are actually few in number, and not particularly interesting. For sale are a painting by the 19th-century Italian-Austrian painter Eugen von Blaas, A Rose, with estimate 70-80 thousand pounds (80-93 thousand euros), purchased at auction by Christie’s in 1991. (Probably Freddie Mercury’s only real monographic interest in the visual arts was in this artist, as his collection includes other interesting works of his: his passions, however, were for art of the second half of the 19th century and, as it turned out, forJapanese art), and then a print by Picasso, Jaqueline au chapeau noir (50-70k, ?58-81k), a specimen of Hiroshige’s very famous woodcut of Rain on the Bridge (30-50k, ?35-58k), a marble and bronze bust of Diana by Henri Weigele (25-35k, ?29-40k), a lithograph by Marc Chagall (8-12k, ?9-14k), aaquatint by Henri Matisse(Masque blanc sur fond noir, 3-5 thousand pounds, 3.500-4,300 euros). And there is also a Fabergé watch from 1908-1917, estimate 30-50 thousand pounds (35-58 thousand euros). Also sold at the Evening Sale will be the famous Adidas shoes worn many times by Freddie Mercury, estimate 3-5 thousand pounds (3,500-4.300 euros), as well as some particularly famous stage costumes, such as the Mercury Wing costume designed by Wendy de Smet (40-60 thousand pounds, 47-70 thousand euros) worn in the Bohemian Rhapsody video and for the 1975-1976 tour, and the very famous crown worn for the 1986 Magic Tour (60-80 thousand pounds, 70-93 thousand euros).

The Sept. 7 sale, titled On stage (10 a.m. London time, 11 a.m. in Italy), on the other hand, sells items related to Freddie Mercury’s presence on stage. The top lot is a notebook with lyrics for songs dating back to the early 1970s (120-180,000 pounds, 140-210,000 euros), and again several sketches, manuscripts, stage costumes, and musical instruments go up for auction. Among the costumes are the leather jacket from Crazy Little Thing Called Love (23-26 thousand pounds, 27-30 thousand euros), or the cat costume from the 1976-1977 tour (15-20 thousand pounds, 17.5-23 thousand euros), or the cowhide print one from the I want to break free video (8-12 thousand pounds, 9-14 thousand euros). Also of note are Freddie Mercury’s Ray-Ban aviators sold as a single lot with a pair of star-shaped sunglasses, estimate 2-4 thousand (2,300-4,600 euros).

Last up, onSept. 8 , also at 10 a.m. London time, is the At Home auction, which literally lets fans into Freddie Mercury’s home: in fact, paintings, furniture and objects that decorated his Garden Lodge abode are for sale. The top lot is a painting by Eugen von Blaas, The Water Bearer, estimated 50-70 thousand pounds (58-81 thousand euros), followed by a Chinese-style lacquered piano (40-60 thousand pounds, 46.5-70 thousand euros) and a painting by Neapolitan verista painter Adriano Bonifazi, An Attentive Audience, a tasty genre skit depicting a little girl intent on listening to a child play, estimated 30-50 thousand pounds (35-58 thousand euros). The auction includes other paintings by Eugen von Blaas, paintings by William Russell Flint, a Scottish watercolorist known for his female subjects, a series of etchings by Salvador Dalí, Les Amours de Cassandre (6-8 thousand, 7-9.300 euros) and also by Dalí a series of ten engravings on the Divine Comedy (4-6 thousand pounds, 4.6-7,000 euros) and a Cat on the Balustrade by Théophile Steinlen, estimate 2-3 thousand pounds (2,300-3,500 euros). This is followed by a vast theory of prints, drawings, mainly oriental porcelain, early 20th-century furniture, and Art Nouveau lamps. Also of note is a watercolor by Erté, pseudonym of naturalized French Russian costume designer Romain de Tirtoff (of which the singer owned several sheets, many for sale), depicting a character in oriental attire, and reportedly given to Freddie Mercury by Elton John (estimate 3-4 thousand).

Freddie Mercury's Yamaha Piano
Freddie Mercury’s Yamaha piano
The autograph manuscript of Bohemian Rhapsody (ca. 1974)
The autograph manuscript of Bohemian Rhapsody (circa 1974)
James Tissot, Portrait of Kathleen Newton (oil on canvas, 59.5 x 45.7 cm)
James Tissot, Portrait of Kathleen Newton (oil on canvas, 59.5 x 45.7 cm)
Autograph manuscript of Don't stop me now (circa 1974)
Autograph manuscript of Don’t stop me now (ca. 1974)
Eugen von Blaas, A Rose (oil on canvas, 100 x 73 cm)
Eugen von Blaas, A Rose (oil on canvas, 100 x 73 cm)
Wendy De Smet's 1975-1976 Mercury Wing costume.
Wendy De Smet’s 1975-1976 Mercury Wing costume
The crown of the Magic Tour
The crown of the Magic Tour
Pablo Picasso, Jacqueline au chapeau noir (1962; lithograph, 520 x 640 mm, ed. 3/50)
Pablo Picasso, Jacqueline au chapeau noir (1962; lithograph, 520 x 640 mm, ed. 3/50)
Utagawa Hiroshige, Sudden Rain on Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake (19th century; woodcut, 495 x 345 mm)
Utagawa Hiroshige, Sudden Rain on the Shin-Ohashi and Atake Bridge (19th century; woodcut, 495 x 345 mm)
Henri Matisse, Masque blanc sur fond noir (1949-1950 [1966]; aquatint, 315 x 250 mm)
Henri Matisse, Masque blanc sur fond noir (1949-1950 [1966]; aquatint, 315 x 250 mm)
Fabergé clock, executed by Henrik Wigström (1908-1917)
Fabergé clock, executed by Henrik Wigström (1908-1917)
Notebook with words for songs
Notebook with words for songs
Leather Jacket by Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Leather jacket from Crazy Little Thing Called Love
The 1976-1977 cat costume
Cat costume from 1976-1977
Eugen von Blaas, Water Bearer (1886; oil on canvas, 100 x 65 cm)
Eugen von Blaas, Water Bearer (1886; oil on canvas, 100 x 65 cm)
Adriano Bonifazi, An Attentive Audience (1876; oil on canvas, 61 x 107 cm)
Adriano Bonifazi, An Attentive Audience (1876; oil on canvas, 61 x 107 cm)
William Russell Flint, Cecilia Poses as Poet Robert Herrick's Julia (1964; watercolor, 100 x 240 mm)
William Russell Flint, Cecilia Poses as Poet Robert Herrick’s Julia (1964; watercolor, 100 x 240 mm)
One of the plates from Salvador Dalí's Divine Comedy.
One of the plates from Salvador Dalí’s Divine Comedy
Erté, Chang-Ti (gouache on paper, 281 x 361 mm). Donated to Freddie Mercury by Elton John
Erté, Chang-Ti (gouache on paper, 281 x 361 mm). Donated to Freddie Mercury by Elton John
Théophile-Alexandre Steinlne, L'été, chat sur une balustrade (1909; lithograph on paper, 489 x 585 mm)
Théophile-Alexandre Steinlne, L’été, chat sur une balustrade (1909; lithograph on paper, 489 x 585 mm)

The pieces on which it is assumed there will be the tightest battle will be autograph manuscripts, which are the spearhead of sales because of their rarity. “Thanks to the emergence of this extraordinary group of early handwritten texts,” said Gabriel Heaton, book and manuscript specialist at Sotheby’s, "we can now fully appreciate his absolute skill as a lyricist. Early drafts like these are easily lost or discarded, so the rare survival of these manuscripts gives us fascinating insights into how his songs were developed and put together, reminding us of their complexity and musical sophistication... Quite unlike anything that had been released before, Bohemian Rhapsody was the band’s biggest risk, quickly becoming their biggest hit."

What to do to bring home a piece that belonged to Freddie Mercury without paying crazy amounts of money? Of course, at an auction like this, one does not participate for the intrinsic value of the item itself, unless one wants to compete for the rarest pieces, because there is a serious risk of taking home pieces of little value and paying an exaggerated amount for them simply because they belonged to Freddie Mercury. In short, an auction like this one teaches that fetishism pays. If anything, to get a better deal, one should focus on mid-range items (e.g., prints or Japanese vases), which, in timed auctions, have not yet reached absurd bids and are still traveling at values in line with the estimate. More difficult, on the other hand, is to grab one of the cheaper items at figures that reflect their intrinsic value: in this case, one will have to put in a share to pay for just touching a figurine, sheet or photograph that has passed through the hands of one’s favorite singer. For those who want to try, you can also participate in the auctions from your own home: just log on to the appropriate section on Sotheby’s website, follow the instructions and place your bid, hoping it turns out to be the best!