It was a long day—more than nine hours by Brandon Alinger’s estimate. But in the end, all 417 make-up effects pieces in the Rick Baker auction sold. And when all the winning bids were totaled, proceeds topped $1 million.
“We were very pleased with the sale results,” said Alinger, Chief Operations Officer of the Los Angeles Prop Store, the memorabilia company that coordinated the auction with Baker. “Rick was happy. All the collectors I’ve talked to were very happy about the pieces they acquired, and that’s what it is all about.”
Held on May 29, 2015 at the Hilton Universal City in Los Angeles, the auction attracted more than 600 online and phone bidders from 17 countries. Though the crowd varied in size throughout the day, at any one time, about 50 bidders were vying for collectibles onsite. Baker himself was on hand to watch the action. “There was a lot of press coverage in the run-up to the sale,” continued Alinger. “People seemed to pick up on the story that Rick was retiring.”
The Prop Store and Baker began putting the auction together last May. Items had to be chosen, organized and photographed. A few needed restoration. Then a catalog had to be created. The collection was so enormous, the Prop Store’s facility wasn’t big enough and another location had to be found. The Prop Store even created some short videos (appropriately, a Baker’s dozen) about the process for its YouTube channel.
Some of the hot items included the full-size Big Joe head skin, chest, arms and hands from 1998’s Mighty Joe Young; the winning bid was $27,500. The insert head with controls for the title character of 1987’s Harry and the Hendersons fetched $14,000. Michael Jackson’s lifecast molds, created for the 1988 Moonwalker film, went for $11,000.
But the day’s biggest take was for Men in Black’s Mikey, which sold for $32,500. “We had that on the cover of the auction catalog,” continues Alinger. “The display is 7-and-a-half feet tall. The actual costume was worn in the film, then Rick mounted it on a body cast. He had it in his showroom at Cinovation for years.”
Though confidentiality agreements prevent Alinger from revealing buyer’s names, he did offer some hints as to who bid. “I’ll simply say we sold to individuals, to businesses and to museums around the world,” he said.
All the buyers seemed to have one thing in common—enthusiasm. “People were into it and that’s part of the fun,” Alinger says, pointing out that he knows of one bidder who bought around 30 items. “One guy had a binder laid out on his lap. He had notes on every single lot. And he had a whole strategy: ‘If I get this, I’m going to go for that. If I don’t get this, I’m going to go for that one.’”
Alinger believes that’s exactly why Baker decided to let go of his collection through an auction. “I think he really liked the idea that the final resting place for these pieces would be with people who love them—that they would live on and be preserved,” he says. “And we saw that at the auction. There was so much excitement in the air. Some people couldn’t believe that they were going to have a piece of Rick Baker’s work in their house.”
“I bid on a bunch of items but did not win any of them,” said KNB EFX Group co-founder Howard Berger later. “Greg [Nicotero, of KNB] won one of the Joe arms. Anything Rick Baker is gold to me. I really wanted one of the Harry heads, since I worked for Rick on that film. I also went for everything gorilla.”
Added make-up effects artist Steve LaPorte: “I did attend the auction, bid and was outbid on a few items and came away with only a catalog and memories. I actually stayed for seven hours, watching a memory lane of Rick’s career flash before me.”