Just before performing his first moonwalk - the dance step he immortalized - Michael Jackson threw his hat to the side of the stage: this headgear was sold 40 years later at auction in Paris. It was March 25, 1983 during the 25th anniversary of the famous Motown label, on his song Billie Jean. The sequence will be broadcast on May 16, 1983 by the American channel NBC.
This hat, a Fedora, will be the attraction of a sale dispersing some 200 rock objects at the Hôtel Drouot, the main Parisian auction house, on September 26. It is estimated between 60,000 and 100,000 euros. The event is organized by the Artpèges gallery and the Lemon Auction auction house which, last year, caused a sensation with Noel Gallagher's guitar, smashed on the evening of the separation of Oasis, sold for 385,500 euros with costs.
“It's a certain Adam Kelly, whose badge we have for the show on March 25, 1983, who collected the hat that day, thinking that the singer's staff was going to come and collect it, but no,” explains the AFP Arthur Perault, general director and co-founder of Artpèges. “Adam Kelly kept it for several years before selling it to an American collector. This hat then reappeared in a European collection and is now in our hands,” he continues. “It’s the very first Fedora” worn by the “King of Pop” (1958-2009) during a performance, underlines Arthur Perault.
The hat's estimate is below another piece on sale that day, a guitar by bluesman T-Bone Walker (1910-1975), a major influence on B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton. This six-string, produced in only 22 copies in 1949, is valued between 100,000 and 150,000 euros.
“The market for vintage guitars is high and the market for Michael Jackson has been slowed down due to several factors, such as the sale of fakes and the accusations against him,” explains the co-founder of Artpèges. Documentaries, contested by his heirs, regularly revive accusations of child abuse against the singer, which he always denied during his lifetime.
Recently, a series of auctions of thousands of items that belonged to Freddie Mercury reached 46.5 million euros, a record for a collection of this kind, according to the auction house Sotheby's. Bidders came from 76 countries in Europe, North America and Latin America and buyers from 50 countries.
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For Michael Jackson's Fedora, Arthur Perault is “very optimistic” and expects an “international clientele. Even if we must always remain cautious, we are in a movement which only goes upwards for rock memorabilia (memories). It’s a market that is maturing, certain objects are compared to Picassos, like Paul McCartney’s Höfner bass, which disappeared 54 years ago,” he explains.
More unusual, there will also be a section of the wall of the Bus Palladium, a Parisian club (opened in 1965 and closed in 2022), signed among others by Carl Barât, Pete Doherty (The Libertines), Jean-Benoît Dunckel (Air), The Dandy Warhols, Beth Ditto (Gossip), estimated between 5,000 and 8,000 euros. “Very personally, I hope that this wall will remain in France, it is a trace of our heritage, for all lovers of music and rock,” concludes Arthur Perault.