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Memorabilia moves into the realms of priceless

A CRYSTAL-STUDDED shirt worn onstage by Michael Jackson: US$52,500. A young Jackson's painting of Mickey Mouse: US$25,000. Owning a piece of a pop icon who died before his time: Priceless. Or, at least, very expensive.

Twenty-one items once owned by Jackson sold at auction on Friday for a total of US$205,000, dwarfing the auction house's early conservative estimate of US$6,000 for the collection.

The estimate was made before Jackson died unexpectedly on Thursday. On Friday, the items took on new meaning, and likely new value, as collectors and a few fans gathered at the Planet Hollywood hotel-casino with the hope of walking away with a piece of the late King of Pop.

"I grew up with him," said Larry Edwards, a 55-year-old Tina Turner impersonator from Las Vegas who came to the auction aiming to buy the primary-colored depiction of an African-American Mickey Mouse, signed by "Mike Jackson."

"It's so unique, and it means even more to me that it's so soon after his passing," he said.

Edwards said he was prepared to spend US$1,000 but was elbowed out at the get-go by an opening bid of US$1,500. The painting sold for US$20,000, plus a 25 percent commission for the celebrity auction house, Julien's Auctions.

The biggest ticket item went to Glenn Johnson, a real estate developer and amateur collector from Houston.

After a fast-paced bidding war under the glare of television news cameras, Johnson edged out another bidder to take home a Swarovski crystal-beaded shirt worn by Jackson during his 1984 Victory tour.

Johnson said another king was on his mind as the price climbed.

"I see Elvis Presley costumes go for a quarter of a million these days," Johnson said. "I'm hoping this will be an investment."

The items for sale on Friday came from a collection owned by David Gest, the producer and promoter once married to Liza Minnelli. Jackson introduced the couple and was best man at their wedding.

Among the lots were handwritten lyrics of Jackson's hit song "Bad," an album cover signed by each member of the Jackson 5, and a handwritten note from Jackson to an unidentified "Greg."

The celebrity sale was scheduled for months, said organizer Darren Julien. "I thought about pulling the lots, but we have people bidding from all over the world," he said. "Everything we did was to honor Michael Jackson."


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