James Dean Memorabilia & The Case of the $6,000 White T-Shirt
James Dean Memorabilia
James Dean’s 1955 tragic death at the young age of 24 stunned the world, particularly as Hollywood’s original bad boy was at the height of his fame. Though he only starred in a few films before the tragic California car crash that ended in his death, few stars continue to be shrouded in intrigue as Dean.
In the auction world, James Dean memorabilia is one of the most expensive Hollywood names, and the seemingly ever-appreciating value of James Dean memorabilia has even spurned its own lingo — known as the “James Dean Effect,” or auction-speak describing that phenomenon of when the death of an enduring icon causes values of their memorabilia to appreciate over time.
(Another good example of this effect would be Marilyn Monroe — we recently auctioned a purse worn by Marilyn Monroe for over $25,000!)
Cal Trask was Dean’s first leading role in the 1955 film ”East of Eden” — and it sadly was the only one of his films released during his lifetime. His Academy Award nomination for Best Actor became first posthumous nomination made by the Academy.
We auctioned a brown wool sport coat worn by in ”East of Eden” for an incredible $11,858.40 His pants from the film auctioned for another $11,595.60, and a shirt an additional $11,858.40 — making the star’s screen-worn outfit worth over $30 thousand dollars.
The Screen-worn “East of Eden” shirt has a cool sewn-in Warner Brothers production tag dated 27 May 1954 and marked ”Jim Dean.” (Click on shirt below)
From “East of Eden,” Dean’s career took off as he landed a starring role as troubled Los Angeles teenager Jim Stark in “Rebel Without a Cause.” The film cemented his reputation as a cultural icon, and as a direct result of that movie, t-shirt sales soared in 1955.
We auctioned the original “Rebel Without a Cause” T-shirt Dean wore in the film for a whopping $6,082.80.
The t-shirt, obtained from make-up artist Gordon Bau who did Dean’s make-up in three of his films, personified his bad-boy image — and though it’s just a white t-shirt, the fact that Dean once wore it makes it value worth a whole lot more than the simple cottons threads it’s made of. (Click on photo for item details)