James Dean’s T-shirt on pop-culture block

DALLAS – The white cotton T-shirt with the $15,000 price tag has a Hollywood pedigree, having once hugged the torso of actor James Dean during the filming of “Rebel Without a Cause.”

That makes it a valuable collectible to some of the quarter-million registered customers who can bid on it during online auctions scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

The shirt is one of more than 1,800 items up for sale in the latest pop-culture offering from Heritage Auction Galleries. The Dallas-based auction house specializes in the trivial – from Fred Astaire’s top hat to Dean’s undershirt.

Dean is the star attraction at this auction. An Indiana museum featuring all things Dean closed earlier this year, and Heritage secured the rights to unload the memorabilia.

Heritage’s director of music and entertainment memorabilia said the Dean mystique should help the upcoming auction match or exceed the last sale, which totaled nearly $1.6 million. “This auction, I think, trumps all the other ones,” Doug Norwine said.

The Dean trophies include the mundane and the macabre. The brown suit he wore in “East of Eden” reveals how slight the actor was – just 5 feet, 8 inches. It could fetch $18,000. On the morbid side is a belt buckle-sized piece of the silver Porsche Spyder that Dean, 24, was driving when he collided with a station wagon near rural Cholame, Calif., on Sept. 30, 1955. He died instantly.

The estimated worth of the car fragment is $5,000.

Norwine said some items are inappropriate to sell, such as pieces from the plane crash that killed baseball player Roberto Clemente.

“You do draw the line,” Norwine said. “The big joke is I don’t think I could sell Elvis’ toe tag. I wouldn’t want the plane that Buddy Holly died in.”

In April, Heritage auctioned off the watch Holly was wearing when he died on Feb. 3, 1959, for more than $155,000.

Also on sale: guitars used by Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton and Kurt Cobain; a cane used by Charlie Chaplin; and a night stand used by Marilyn Monroe.

Some items have historical value, such as a reel-to-reel recording of a teenage Bob Dylan singing four original songs with a high school buddy. It’s believed to be the earliest recording of Dylan singing and could fetch a six-figure sale price.

Another featured item is a script of “The Godfather” used by Marlon Brando. His signature is on the inside cover, and his handwritten notations can be seen throughout. Its estimated value is $35,000.

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