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How film memorabilia is hitting the high notes

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Going once: The piano in Casablanca is expected to fetch $1m at auction next week

Going once: The piano in Casablanca is expected to fetch $1m at auction next week

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The original Aston Martin DB5, driven in James Bond films, is on display at the venue of Sotheby's Autumn Sales in Hong Kong.

The original Aston Martin DB5, driven in James Bond films, is on display at the venue of Sotheby's Autumn Sales in Hong Kong.

One of the pairs of ruby slippers from The Wizard Of Oz which have made big bucks.

One of the pairs of ruby slippers from The Wizard Of Oz which have made big bucks.

Hitched: Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch".

Hitched: Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch".

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Going once: The piano in Casablanca is expected to fetch $1m at auction next week

If Sam had known the monetary value of the instrument in front of him, he'd have been rolling it out the door telling Humphrey Bogart where to get off rather than 'playing it again'.

The salmon-coloured piano from Rick's Café used in the iconic 1942 film Casablanca is to go under the hammer next week with collectors expected to pay at least $1m (€800,000) for the famous instrument.

Collectors believe it to be the most iconic piano in Hollywood history - the film's signature tune 'As Time Goes By' was played on it.

It is one of more than 30 items from Casablanca to be put up for auction at Bonhams in New York. Other items include the interior and exterior doors from Rick's Café Américain.

Bids will rain in once the auction opens with collectors from Tokyo to LA offering up millions for the unique coveted items.

Down through the decades, eye-watering amounts of money have changed hands for Hollywood memorabilia, but the standout must be the €4.6m paid for the white ivory cocktail dress Marilyn Monroe worn in the 1955 romantic comedy The Seven Year Itch.

The film contains one of the most iconic images of 20th century film: Marilyn is standing on a subway grate and, as a train passes below, her white halterneck dress is blown up in a very revealing manner.

When actress Debbie Reynolds decided to sell the dress in 2011, along with the rest of her vast Hollywood collection, she expected to get a price of between $1-2m but was amazed when a bidder chipped in with a winning offer of $4.6m (€3.7m).

Any item from the considerable James Bond collection also sets the hearts of collectors racing.

In 2010, the Aston Martin used in both Goldfinger (1964) and Thunderball (1965) fetched a staggering $4.1m (€3.3m) at auction.

The Aston Martin DB5, driven by Sean Connery, still had most of the Bond gadgets intact, like the front wing machine-guns and an ejector-seat button, when sold.

And the pistol featured on the From Russia With Love official poster sold for $437,501 (€350,000) in 2010. Why was the price so high? Well, because it had a back story.

Although the Walther pistol was on the poster for the 1963 James Bond film, it never appeared in a movie. No one had remembered to bring 007's gun to the photoshoot, so instead Sean Connery is shown on the poster with a Walther air pistol that belonged to the shoot's photographer.

Another film brand which attracts frenetic collector attention is the Wizard of Oz (1939) which starred Judy Garland as Dorothy.

Several pairs of ruby slippers were used by Garland in her role as Dorothy and in 2000 one pair fetched a tidy $660,000 (€530,000) at auction.

The lion costume from the same film, made from real animal pelts, sold for $805,000 (€645,000) in 2006 while a blue cotton dress worn by Judy Garland in test shots went for $910,000 (€730,000).

And the black hat belonging to the Wicked Witch of the West sold for $197,400 (€158,000) in 2008.

Three years ago a collector forked out $1.2m (€960,000) for the 1929 Duesenberg Model J car used by Elvis in the 1966 film Spinout.

Other vehicles to have been driven away after a massive cheque has been handed over include the flying car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which a Florida collector bought in 2007 for $505,000 (€403,000). Incidentally, the same Hollywood fanatic also owns a Batmobile for good measure.

And the Dukes of Hazzard '69 Dodge Charger owned by John Schneider, the actor who played Bo Duke, almost sold for $10m (€8m) on eBayMotors.com, but the winner claimed that his account had been hacked and the bid fell through. Schneider ended up selling the four-wheeler for $450,000 (€360,000) in a subsequent auction.

More recent blockbusters have also produced some highly priced memorabilia.

The full-scale T-800, used in the opening scene of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) made $488,750 (€390,000) at auction while the white suit worn by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (1977) was auctioned at Christie's for $145,500 (€116,000) in 1995.

And even here in Ireland, film buffs have been digging deep for their own bit of Hollywood treasures.

In September one collector bought an original poster from the Bond film Goldfinger for €1,900 through Whyte's Auction House in Dublin.

Irish Independent