Rebecca Armstrong: Why do bidders go bonkers for celebrity ephemera?

FreeView from the editors at i

Share

Earplugs for sale. One careful owner. It's not quite Ernest Hemingway's famous, poignant six-word story ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn") but when the owner in question is Sir Winston Churchill, there's a strange level of excitement about auctioning a set of sleeping aids. The wax pellets in question were sold in an auction on Friday for the prime-ministerial sum of £1,650, having had a reserve price of £2,000.

OK, so it wasn't just the beeswax, cotton and lanolin plugs that made up Lot 1317 (there were some spooky casts of Churchill's ears, too), and the money raised has gone to charity, but I'm still baffled as to why anyone would want to own any of it. Yes, our wartime leader was a famous cat-napper, and – who knows? – maybe a pair of these very lughole blockers could have helped a well-rested Winnie win the war. But no: the set for sale was unused. Box-fresh as they are, I can think of hundreds of thousands of things I'd rather splash out on, including a fridge, as mine has had one rather careless owner: me.

What is it with flogging the ephemera of the famous? Actually, given that in the past month, real, live people have happily purchased at auction a three-year-old chicken nugget that looks like George Washington for $8,100 and Justin Bieber's pet boa constrictor, the question should be, what's with the buying of it?

Michael Bennett, whose Cornish café houses the bizarre-as-it-sounds Museum of Celebrity Leftovers, was the subject of a short BBC film earlier this year. He explains that "it's about trying to own a small part of that celebrity, be part of their life, buy into it". His selection of partly eaten comestibles that show the knife-styles of the rich and famous (including Michael Winner's and David Bailey's crumbs) is part art installation and part eccentric seaside fun.

Rather more po-faced (but under the unassailable all-in-a-good-cause umbrella) is charitybuzz.com, where celebrities auction off their time (lunch with fashion designer Vera Wang! A day out with Bill Clinton!). Or there's celebrity.ebay.com where you can bid for your very own Christina Aguilera or George Clooney. No, wait, you can't do that – but you can donate to good causes they support and see what kind of thing they say they buy. Which is less fun, but also less stalkerish.

I don't have any desire to follow Christina's lead in shopping for modern art on eBay, I'm not in the market for a pop star's pre-loved reptile and I like my earplugs first- hand. But if anyone hears of an A-lister auctioning off their fridge, do give me a shout.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - Kent - £43,000

£35000 - £43000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: C# and .Net Developer - n...

Guru Careers: Digital Marketing Exec / Online Marketing Executive

£35 - 40k: Guru Careers: Our client has a new role for a Digital Marketing Exe...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Facebook lights up the London Eye with the nation's general election conversations.The London Eye showed the top five most discussed political topics on Facebook. (Colours: Economy - white; Health - purple; Tax - yellow; Europe and Immigration - blue; Crime - red) in London  

Election 2015: Why each party's share of the vote could really matter

Matt Dathan
 

How the French stay so slim while we British balloon can’t ever be reconciled

Rosie Millard
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'