Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Restricted Access (SIA Only)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Ann-Marie Richard

Second Advisor

Eric Wolf


This thesis aims to explore the contemporary obsession with celebrities and the public’s desire to establish a personal connection to them. Single owner sales are an excellent setting for bidders to acquire objects directly from the collection of a celebrity. Small, everyday objects that lack high intrinsic worth, but that have achieved massive hammer prices in single owner sales are examined. Examples of mundane, personal objects that were low-value but achieved exorbitant amounts above their presale estimates occurred in Christie’s 2018 New York sale of The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, Christie’s 1999 New York sale of the Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe, and Sotheby’s 2010 London sale of the Exceptional Jewels and Precious Objects Formerly in the Collection of the Duchess of Windsor. Coupled with psychological influences on consumer behavior at auction, marketing approaches designed to increase sale returns of single owner sales are discussed. Factors associated particularly with the individual objects such as engravings, anecdotes provided in the catalogue, or promotional photographs depicting the object were considered. Each small, personal object soared above the presale estimate, with at least one of the three additional factors present. This thesis demonstrates the unquestionable influence of a celebrity provenance on low-valued objects and their hammer prices at auction. Collectors and auction houses alike will benefit from information uncovered in this study.