At last weekend’s Julien’s auction in Beverly Hills, California, featuring memorabilia from the Beatles, Madonna and Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson reigns supreme.

The King of Pop’s red and black calfskin ‘Thriller’ jacket sold for $1.8 million. The late pop star wore the jacket in a scene with a troupe of zombies who rise from their graves and break into a dance routine in his 1983 zombie-ridden “Thriller” video. The 14-minute clip is considered one of the most influential music videos ever made.

The calfskin jacket worn by Michael Jackson in his Thriller video (Photo Credit: Matt Sayles/Associated Press)

Michael Jackson in a scene from the music video "Thriller"

The winning price was exponentially above the pre-auction estimate of $200,000 to $400,000. A portion of the proceeds will go to actress Tippi Hedren's Roar Foundation. The pop star's Bengal tigers, Thriller and Sabu, have been living at the foundation's Shambala Preserve since Jackson left Neverland Ranch in 2006.

The jacket was designed by Deborah Landis, the wife of "Thriller" director John Landis. It was given by Jackson, who died on the 25th of June 2009, to his longtime costume designers Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush. The inside lining is inscribed "To Bush and Dennis, All My Love, Michael Jackson," and the sleeve is signed "Love Michael Jackson."

Michael Jackson's Thriller jacket sold for $1.8 million

Its sale came exactly two years after the then 50-year-old Jackson was killed by a surgical anesthetic called Propofol, which a Los Angeles coroner ruled killed the singer in combination with several sedatives found in his blood.

Darren Julien, president and CEO of Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, Callifornia, said the jacket was purchased by Milton Verret, a commodities trader and philanthropist from Austin, Texas.

Verret, who also owns the jacket Jackson wore during his Bad tour, revealed that the jacket will be put on display at Dell Children's Hospital in Austin, before sending it around the world to display as a fundraising tool for children's charities in the spirit of Jackson.

Verret has a history of making pop-culture purchases to benefit the less fortunate. He paid $120,000 at auction for a $20,000 2009 motorcycle signed by Jay Leno to benefit a New York children's charity. He spent another $120,000 on eight "Big Guitars" during the 2009 GuitarTown charitable auction in Austin, donating the pieces to the city afterward.

"It is one of the most important pieces of rock 'n' roll memorabilia in history," Verret said.

The jacket wasn't the only piece of memorabilia from the late King of Pop that was part of the auction. The signature fedora Jackson wore during his Bad Tour was sold for $16,250, his handwritten note to Elizabeth Taylor went for $5,625 and a signed pillowcase fetched $3,584. And a bidder paid out $330,000 -- more than 10 times what Julien's had expected to get -- for one of the famous, shiny, crystal-covered gloves that Jackson wore during the 1980s.

Other pieces of history, from other members of music royalty, were also featured at the auction. While gold records and instruments were common items, others were more practical -- like Frank Sinatra's boots (selling for $2,500) and his 1986 Jaguar car ($19,000) as well as the U.S. Army-issued sewing kit of Elvis Presley's that went for $1,536.

The King of Pop's closest competition at the auction was the Beatles, which had a number of items for sale. A signed postcard from Liverpool's finest sold for $5,504 and Paul McCartney's bass guitar fetched $14,080. But oft-diminished drummer Ringo may have gotten the last laugh, with the cape he wore in the movie "Help!" selling for $37,500 -- about five times the estimate.

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The only surviving authenticated portrait of Billy the Kid, the infamous 19th-century Wild West gunslinger outlaw, was sold for $2.3m on Saturday at Brian Lebel’s 22nd Annual Old West Show & Auction in Denver.

The only authenticated photograph of outlaw Billy the Kid sold for $2.3 million

William Koch, son of Wichita founder Fred C. Koch and the brother of prominent conservative political donors David and Charles Koch, won with the top bid. Koch lives in Florida and has extensive land holdings in the central mountain state of Colorado. Although he has donated money to Republican causes, he has separated himself from the support his wealthy brothers give to ultra-conservative “Tea Party” movement. He is an energy company executive and well-known collector of art and American West artifacts.

William Koch with some of his art collections (Photo Credit:AP)

Auctioneer Brian Lebel said the bidding, mainly between William Koch and an unidentified bidder from New Mexico, went on about 10 minutes. Koch’s bid of $2 million won out. A 15 percent “buyer’s premium” was added to the winning bid, making the selling price $2.3 million. Organizers had expected it could fetch between $300,000 and $400,000 at an auction preview.

Brian Lebel

The two-by-three-inch tintype of a smirking Billy the Kid, dressed in a rumpled sombrero hat and layers of clothes topped with a bulky sweater, was taken outside a Fort Sumner, New Mexico  saloon in late 1879 or 1880 with the notorious outlaw resting his right hand on a Winchester carbine and a Colt revolver holstered on his left side.

The tintype was auctioned off along with more than 400 other Western-themed items, including documents from Buffalo Bill’s aborted divorce, Native American antiquities, and a painting from Andy Warhol’s “Cowboys and Indians” series depicting a Navajo woman with a baby on her back.

The gunman, who according to legend shot dead 21 people — one for each year of his life — was himself gunned down by a town sheriff in New Mexico in July 1881.

At least two photographic portraits were taken of Bonney as a school child in Silver City, New Mexico. He also appears in the background of a photograph of a half dozen cowboys at a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico.

Bonney was about 20 when he had his portrait taken at a saloon in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and received four identical images on a thin metal plate that was eventually cut into quarters. The other three images have been lost.

The remaining image was given by Billy the Kid to his cattle rustling partner rustler, Dan Dedrick, who passed it on to his grand-nephew, Frank Upham, who in turn willed it to his sons, Stephen and Art Upham of California and Arizona.

The Uphams let a museum in Lincoln, New Mexico, display the picture for several years in the 1980s. Since then it has been kept in a nitrogen-filled envelope.

Koch told Reuters after the auction that he plans to allow some small museums to display the piece, and after that he will “just enjoy” the iconic piece.

“I love the old West,” he said. “This is a part of American history.”

Born Henry McCarty (also known as Henry Antrim), but known in New Mexico as William Bonney, the Kid was shot dead at age 21 by lawman Pat Garrett in 1881, months after a jailbreak in which Bonney reportedly killed two deputies. Billy the Kid had grown into a legend because the governor of New Mexico had put a price on his head for killing up to 21 people.

In the 130 years since his death and burial in Fort Summer, New Mexico, Billy the Kid has been depicted, with varying degrees of accuracy, in scores of popular culture movies and books.

Brian Lebel said he was pleased that the photo wasn’t sold to an overseas buyer.

“I’m happy that it will stay in this country and will be shared with the public,” he said.

Tintypes were an early form of photography that used metal plates. They are reverse images, and the Billy the Kid tintype led to the mistaken belief that Billy the Kid was a lefty. The myth inspired the 1958 movie “The Left Handed Gun”, starring Paul Newman as Billy.

Paul Newman as Billy the Kid in The Left Handed Gun

Auction spokeswoman Melissa McCracken said the image was the most expensive piece ever sold at the event.

“There’s only one photo of Billy the Kid, and I think that’s why it captivates people’s imagination,” McCracken said before Saturday’s auction.

“It’s recognisable around the world as a classic image of the Old West.”

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A rare Antonio Stradivarius violin, known as the “Lady Blunt” Stradivarius of 1721, has smashed the world record for violin after selling for over Ł9 million at a London auction.

An anonymous buyer at the Tarisio auction house won with his bid of Ł9,808,000 for the 1721 “Lady Blunt” Stradivarius, more than four times the previous auction record for a Stradivari violin.

The exquisite instrument was owned for 30 years by Lady Anne Blunt, granddaughter of the celebrated English poet Lord Byron, and is “in much the same condition as when it left its maker’s hands,” expert W.E. Hill said.

The Lady Blunt Stradivarius of 1792, front

The 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius of 1721, back

The 'Lady Blunt' bears no neck mortise and the top edge remains uncut. he neck is original and has been re-angled at the heel by J.B. Vuillaume during the "modernization" of the violin sometime around 1864. Both unique features are evidence of careful conservation.

The tailpiece by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume depicting St. Cecil, patron-saint of music.

The tuning pegs by J.B. Vuillaume.

The original label.

Confronted by the tragic events of the 11 March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and resulting nuclear crisis, The Nippon Music Foundation has made an extraordinary offer to assist in the recovery efforts of their native Japan.

In a gesture of profound generosity they have decided to sell what is considered the finest violin of their collection, the ‘Lady Blunt’ Stradivarius of 1721, and have pledged the entire proceeds of the sale to The Nippon Foundation’s Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

The violin, acquired by the foundation in 2008, was one of 21 string instruments held by the foundation, which loans instruments free of charge to top class musicians around the world.

It is estimated that about 600 violins made by Italian master craftsman Antonio Stradivari are still in existence.

“The Nippon Music Foundation sees the instruments in its care as irreplaceably important,” the group said before the sale.

“However, it has decided that the extremity of the disaster in northeastern Japan is something that overrides such feelings and is therefore selling the instrument to aid the people of that area,” it said.

For more detailed info and photos of the violin,  go to this site.

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The iconic white “subway dress” seen billowing under Marilyn Monroe as she stood on a subway vent in the 1955 movie “The Seven Year Itch”  has sold at a Profiles in History auction in Los Angeles last Saturday for $4.6 million (or $5,520,000, with added fees) shattering pre-auction estimates of between one and two million dollars.

Signed by the American designer William Travilla, the pleated ivory dress was part of Marilyn Monroe’s most breathtaking movie moment, solidifying Monroe’s enduring image as one of the most celebrated 20th Century sex symbol. The sexy white halterneck outfit has been voted the most iconic movie dress of all time. The image of Monroe in the white dress standing above a subway grating blowing her skirt has been described as one of the iconic images of the entire 20th century.

The entire auction, part of a collection of Hollywood memorabilia held by actress Debbie Reynolds, was valued at $22.8 million with some 700 pieces going under the hammer, according to Nancy Seltzer, a spokeswoman for auction house Profiles in History.

The breezy white halter “subway”dress was the highest value feature of the auction and the star of Reynolds’ collection. Some of the other pieces are just as famously known, including Judy Garland’s costume from The Wizard of Oz, the dresses Monroe wore in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “The River of No Return”, Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress from My Fair Lady, costumes from classic Hollywood staples “Gone With the Wind,” “The Sound of Music,” “Cleopatra,” and “Ben-Hur,” and Barbara Streisand’s gold sleeveless gown from Hello, Dolly — which is thought to be the most expensive dress ever made for a film.

The $4.6 Million Dollar Dress

79-year-old Reynolds, a singer, dancer and actress whose greatest role came in “Singin’ in the Rain,” began collecting Hollywood memorabilia in the 1970s when MGM Studios liquidated its assets. Her immense collection includes over 3,500 costumes, 20,000 photographs and hundreds of props and other film artifacts.

Reynolds has expressed her sadness over the need to break up her collection, as multiple attempts to showcase it in its entirety have fallen through.

“To keep them stored another 50 years didn’t make sense,” Reynolds told Reuters. “I hope in the end they all find happy homes, that they will be shown, and that they might even land in museums.”

After the death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962, Travilla kept the dress locked up with many of the costumes he had made over the years for the actress to the point that for years there was talk of a “Lost Collection”.

Only after his own death in 1990, were the clothes put on display by Bill Sarris, a colleague of Travilla. It joined the private collection of Hollywood memorabilia owned by Debbie Reynolds at the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum.

Marilyn Monroe...one of the most celebrated bombshells of the 20th Century

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A self-portrait of celebrated photographer Cindy Sherman taken in 1982, Untitled #96, was sold for a whopping US$3.89 millions at a Christie’s auction last week,  breaking the US$3.35 millions record for the most expensive photograph that has been held by Andreas Gursky’s 99 Cent II Diptychon since 2006.

Cindy Sherman's Untitled #96

The artwork 99 Cent II Diptychon from 2001 is a two part photograph made by Andreas Gursky probably in 1999, as the work is sometimes called “99 cent.1999″. The work depicts an interior of a supermarket with numerous aisles depicting goods resulting in a colorful work. The work is digitally altered to reduce perspective. The photograph is a chromogenic color print or c-print. It is a two part work, also called a diptych. There were 6 sets made and mounted on acrylic glass. The photographs have a size of 207 by 337 centimeters.

Andreas Gursky's 99 Cent II Diptychon

The work became famous as being the most expensive photograph in the world when it was auctioned at Sotheby’s on February 7 in 2007 for a price of US$3.34 million. Another auction in New York in May 2006 fetched $2.25 million for a second print, and a third print sold for $2.48 million in November 2006 at a New York gallery.

Sherman’s Untitled #96 , which was estimated to be worth up to $2 million, was sold to New York art dealer Philippe Segalot, a former head of contemporary art for Christie’s, now a private advisor to some of the world’s richest art collectors.

Why is a photo of a girl lying on the floor worth so much money?

David Ross, former director of the Whitney and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, says that mainly, it’s a result of two people wanting the same thing:

“What matters to most of those collectors is winning. When art becomes a competitive sport,” Ross said.

“All it takes to win is the guts and the money to go further than anyone else, and then, voila, you win. And winning feels really good.”

There doesn’t even seem to be anything special about Cindy Sherman to have hiked the price of her work up to sky-high proportions – she’s not dead and she’s still making art.

“We’re living in a world of funny money,” Ross added.

“And money is not really a measure of anything anymore because … it’s thrown around in such unpredictable ways.”

Last year, Sherman’s Untitled #153, featuring her as a mudcaked corpse, was sold for US$2.7mil.

Cindy Sherman's Untitled #153

Sherman (born January 19, 1954) grew up as the youngest of five children in the town of Huntington, Long Island.  She is an American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits. Sherman currently lives and works in New York City.

She has been awarded the Guild Hall Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award for Visual Arts, American Academy of Arts and Sciences Award and the Jewish Museum’s Man Ray Award. In 1995, she was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She is represented by Sprüth Magers Berlin London in Europe and Metro Pictures gallery in New York.

Sherman became interested in the visual arts at Buffalo State College, where she started out with painting. Frustrated with what she saw as the medium’s limitations, she abandoned the form and took up photography. She spent the rest of her college career focused on photography.

Cindy Sherman has built a name as one of the most respected photographers of the late twentieth century. Although the majority of her photographs are pictures of her,  these photographs are most definitely not self-portraits. Instead, Sherman uses herself as a vehicle for commentary on a variety of issues of the modern world: the role of the woman, the role of the artist and many more.

Cindy Sherman' s Untitled Film Still # 58

Through these ambiguous and eclectic photographs, Sherman has developed a distinct signature style and has raised challenging and important questions about the role and representation of women in society, the media and the nature of the creation of art.

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An UK man who  bought a 4 feet by 3 feet painting caked in dust and dirt at a junk shop for Ł100 six years ago as he liked the ornate  frame might have the jackpot as it is now believed that the painting could be a Ł40million masterpiece.

Art experts say the piece – showing a house with an orange roof next to a river, surrounded by trees –  might be the earliest known work of French artist Paul Cezanne.

This painting could be the earliest work of post-impressionist Paul Cezanne

After  removing the canvas from the frame and cleaning decades of dirt, the man noticed an intriguing signature in one corner.

‘I bought a book on post-impressionism and checked the signature and it looks exactly the same as on some of his other paintings,’ he said.

‘The canvas was curled up tightly at the edges so I carefully unravelled it to see the markings. I realised I could be looking at the first-ever Cezanne painting. To say I’m excited would be an understatement. I just bought it for the frame.’

He took it to auction house Wilfords of Wellingborough on Monday. Owner Tim Conrad said: ‘When people come in and say they’ve got a Cezanne, you tend to think, “Of course you do”, but when I saw the brushwork on this painting, I knew it was very skilful.

Auctioneer Tim Conrad with the painting

‘The strokes look like Cezanne’s early works, which were of rural scenes like this, and it was usual for him to use a variety of signature styles.

‘I advised the buyer to see an expert as soon as possible. It’s a very accomplished painting, and if it is the real thing, the impact would be enormous.

‘We are talking about Ł40million if not more, it would be a major event in the art world.’

Experts said the brush strokes on the painting resembled those used by Cezanne

Now the man is enduring an agonising wait to learn whether his find is actually a masterpiece by the French artist Cezanne – and worth Ł40million.

Under the scrawled name is the date 1854. If authentic, it will be the earliest known work by the post-impressionist artist who would have been a 15-year-old art pupil at the time.

The buyer, a man in his thirties from Northamptonshire who does not want to be named, said : “I’m not trying to think about what to do with the money yet – I won’t tempt fate.”

Paul Cézanne ( 19 January 1839 – 22 October 1906) was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism and the early 20th century’s new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. The line attributed to both Matisse and Picasso that Cézanne “is the father of us all” cannot be easily dismissed.

Cézanne’s work demonstrates a mastery of design, colour, tone, composition and draughtsmanship. His often repetitive, sensitive and exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields, at once both a direct expression of the sensations of the observing eye and an abstraction from observed nature. The paintings convey Cézanne’s intense study of his subjects, a searching gaze and a dogged struggle to deal with the complexity of human visual perception.

Cezanne’s 1893 painting Rideau, Cruchon et Competier (Still Life With Curtain, Pitcher And Bowl Of Fruit) is one of the ten most expensive paintings ever sold and the most expensive still life ever sold at auction, going for over $60 million at Sotheby’s, New York in May 1999.

Still Life With Curtain, Pitcher And Bowl Of Fruit - The most expensive still life ever sold

The owner said he bought the painting in 2007 from a Northampton second-hand shop but forgot all about it until a year ago when he bought a digital camera and decided to take some close-up photos of it to send to an auctioneer.

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Kate Middleton’s see-through black dress, which she wore at a charity fashion show at St Andrews University, has been sold for a staggering 65,000 pounds plus 13,000 pounds buyer’s fees at a Kerry Taylor Auctions.

London auctioneer Kerry Taylor had estimated the knitted dress would fetch between 8,000 pounds and 10,000 pounds.

Her fiancee Prince William was in the audience when Middleton hit the catwalk wearing the dress with black lingerie at the university in Fife in 2002. Kate Middleton has her see-through black dress to thank for catching Prince William’s eye and winning him over. It was the barely-there dress that helped make royal history.

Kate Middleton in the black see-thru dress with black lingerie that caught the attention of Prince Williams

A representative of the mystery buyer at the auction bought the dress on behalf of an individual he would only name as “Nick from Jersey”.

He said of the buyer: “He thinks it’s an iconic piece and is very happy with the purchase.”

Charlotte Todd, who designed the once-30 pounds dress while studying fashion design at the University of the West of England in 2000, sold the dress.

Todd, rather ironically, didn’t end up working in fashion, but at an aquarium. She has kept the outfit ever since it was returned to her. Good for her as she has now hit the jackpot!

“It’s definitely a showstopping dress. I’d like to think I played my part in history and in fashion history,” Todd said.

harlotte Todd stands next to the dress she designed, and was worn by Kate Middleton during a St Andrew's University charity fashion show in 2002

Three to four bidders were competing for the Charlotte Todd-designed dress, which was actually supposed to be a skirt, but Middleton wore it instead as a dress, with black underwear beneath. As for

One of the bidders, Carole Lieberman, the U.S. talk show host and psychiatrist, believes that Middleton’s revealing number was proof positive that she was prepared to go the extra mile to snag one of the world’s most eligible bachelors.

Lieberman already owns the likes of nightdresses that belonged to Wallis Simpson (the American divorcee who infamously snared King Edward VIII, see The King’s Speech for more!) and the reason she wanted the dress was because Middleton was “the quintessential good girl who used bad girl secrets to catch her prince.”

Auctioneer Kerry Taylor said the huge interest reflected the ‘Kate-mania’ sweeping the world.

“I have sold all kinds of things in my life: the Union Jack dress that Geri Halliwell wore as a Spice Girl, which was iconic at the time; Robbie Williams’ tiger underpants,” said Taylor.

The Union Jack dress that Geri Halliwell wore as a Spice Girl

“I have sold some quite bizarre things. But this combines the complete ‘Kate-mania’ with the love story, the romance of it all, it’s just a very special unique thing,” she added.

Kerry Taylor conducting the auction of Kate Middleton's black see-through dress

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For all Twilight fans of vampires and Dracula, this eBay auction should pique your interest. It is too late for you to bid on it as the auction closed on December 13.

The box containig the mummified heart and stake

The auction was for the mummified heart of the vampire Auguste Delagrange. Before his destruction in 1912, Delagrange was responsible for the deaths of over forty people during one of the worst outbreaks of vampirism in the United States.  He was eventually identified and hunted down by a Roman Catholic priest and a Voodoo Hougan. The pair began systematically destroying nests and minions, forcing Delagrange to take refuge in an abandoned farmhouse on the outskirts of a small town in Louisiana. It was there that a stake was driven through his heart and his body destroyed. All that remains is the heart you see before you.

Mummified vampire heart

The vampire’s desiccated heart and the stake that destroyed him are stored in an oak box that measures approximately 5″ high, 8″ wide, and 11″ long.  The plaque on top of the box notes the day Delagrange was destroyed and appears to be hand lettered, consistent with the time period.

Mummified vampire heart

This realistic prop was constructed with the traditional techniques used for sideshow gaffs and goes quite a bit beyond what’s commonly available.

The “flesh” of the heart is very firm, but slightly yielding, consistent with a human heart that’s been mummified and preserved using early 20th century technology. It feels like the texture of very dry beef jerky with a protective coating of wax. The large hole in the left auricle is where the oak stake that decimated this particular vampire entered the heart. Along the top of the heart can be seen the stubs of the major vessels (pulmonary artery, aorta, superior and inferior vena cava) from when the heart was cut from the creature’s chest.

Close-up view of the mummified vampire heart

The stake is turned oak and measures approximately 8.5″ in length.  It has a sharp point and slender shaft so it can slip between the ribs of the chest cavity like a dagger with just one or two blows from a small hammer. The packing material is genuine excelsior made from wood shavings, appropriate for the period.

The mummified heart and the stake

The typewritten back story provided with the heart is based on actual events involving an alleged cult and a series of gruesome mass murders.

Just to satisfy your curiosity, the mummified vampire heart was sold for $320.10.

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A woman who claims to have had a fling with Ashton Kutcher has advertised a sweater on eBay, saying that it belonged to the Hollywood actor.

Star Magazine's report on the Ashton Kutcher affair with Brittney Jones

E! Online reports that Brittney Jones has put the item on the auction site which she alleges is proof of their close encounter.

Ebay auction of Ashton Kutcher's sweater by Brittney Jones

Brittney describes the item in the listing as “Sweater owned by Ashton Kutcher given to me personally” – alongside a picture of herself wearing the garment.

“This sweater was given to me after spending the night with Ashton. I no longer have any attachment to this sweater and I am hoping someone else will enjoy it,” she writes.

The auction will close in slightly over 3 days from the time that I am writing this and there are currently 42 bids. The bidding has reached US$20,200.00.

The Ashton camp has yet to comment on the matter. I wonder how Ashton’s wife, Demi Moore,  is reacting to this. It must be pretty hard on her.

Ashton Kutcher & wife Demi Moore

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The 7th U.S. Cavalry flag – known as a “guidon” for its swallow-tailed shape – was sold for $2.2 million by Sotheby’s in New York on behalf of the Detroit Institute of Arts, which bought the flag for just $54 in 1895.

It is the only flag that was not captured or lost out of the 5 guidons that accompanied Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry 134 years ago during Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

The flag was sold to an unidentified American private collector, Sotheby’s said. Two bidders vied for the banner.

Auctioneer and Sotheby's Vice Chairman David Redden conducts bidding for the flag

Frayed, torn, and with possible bloodstains, the flag from one of America’s hallmark military engagements had been valued before its sale at up to $5 million.

Custer's Last Flag

“We’ll be using the auction proceeds to strengthen our collection of Native American art, which has a rather nice irony to it I think,” said the museum’s director, Graham Beal.

Custer’s last battle was part of the United States government’s 1876-77 campaign to retake the Black Hills region, ceded in perpetuity by an 1868 treaty to the Lakota. But when gold was discovered in the area, the army was sent to push the aboriginal Americans to a reservation set up for them.

On June 25,1876 the 7th Cavalry, comprising of more than 200 troopers and scouts from the Crow Tribe, surprised the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors camped on the river banks, but Custer vastly underestimated their number and his entire cavalry were killed.

Of the five guidons carried by Custer’s troopers, only the one sold on Friday was immediately recovered. It was found pinned beneath the body of Cpl. John Foley by a burial party that arrived three days after the battle was over. All the other flags under Custer’s command were believed captured by the victorious Indians.

The flag is tattered and fragile, measures 27˝ by 33 inches and may be stained with blood. It was found three days after the Battle of Little Bighorn — or the Battle of Greasy Grass Creek, as the victors called it — beneath the body of one of Custer’s men killed in the battle.

Sgt. Ferdinand Culbertson, a member of the burial detail assigned to retrieve the remains of the 7th Cavalry, found the Cavalry guidon, or swallow-tail flag, that was used by cavalry companies. The design reduced wind drag as the soldiers advanced. The recovered flag later became known as the Culbertson Guidon, after Sgt. Ferdinand Culbertson. Made of silk, it measures 33 inches by 27 inches, and features 34 gold stars.

According to testimonials from Indians involved in the fight, the trooper, Cpl. John Foley, was attempting to escape on horseback — and had almost succeeded — when he shot himself in the head.

While Custer’s reputation has risen and fallen over the years — once considered a hero, he’s regarded by some contemporary scholars as an inept leader and savage American Indian killer — the guidon has emerged as the stuff of legend.

“It’s more than just a museum object or textile. It’s a piece of Americana,” said John Doerner, Chief Historian at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in southeastern Montana.

For most of the last century the flag was hidden from public view, kept in storage first at the museum and later, after a period on display in Montana, in a National Park Service facility in Harpers Ferry, W.V., according to Beal, the museum director.

Sealed in a custom-made Plexiglas case by the Detroit museum since its return from the Park Service in 1982, the flag has several holes and the red of some its stripes has run into the white stripes. Its once-sharp swallow tail tips are now tattered and torn.

Culbertson’s Guidon is missing a star and a section of striping about 9 inches wide and 6 inches high – apparently cut away as a souvenir before its acquisition by the museum. Yet on the auction block, even what’s missing is worth a story.

“I’m sure Culbertson let other men take small snippets for themselves,” Sotheby’s vice chairman David Redden said.

Beal added that he was “very pleased” with Friday’s sale price: “We had a couple of people comment to us that we would be lucky to get a million for it.”

The $2.2 million included commissions. Before the gavel went down, Sotheby’s estimated the flag might go for between $2 million and $5 million.

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