Over 500 celebrities were in Lapeer County earlier this month, well, their autographs were.
It was the 23nd annual Celebrity Autographs Auction for 4-H.
What do Ken Burns, Brigitte Bardot, Dustin Hoffman and Lou Whitaker all have in common? Besides the fact they are all rich and famous – their autographs were sold earlier this month at the 4-H celebrity auction in Lapeer county.
Pick a celebrity and I could probably tell you their autograph was there. Nancy Sinatra, Alan Jackson, and Martin Sheen items were casually sprawled out on tables.
“Why am I here? To buy things.”
That’s Mike Smith – he’s a Lapeer resident. He wasn’t looking for anything, or anyone, in particular. I met him on the sports side of the table.
“I like football and baseball, sports stuff basically I guess.”
Organizers say sports always does exceptionally well. Hockey sticks signed and used by Steve Yzerman and Kris Draper both went for over two-hundred dollars.
The presidents also went well.
Dawn Howe of Lapeer talked to me before the bidding started. She was browsing through the signed book section.
“There was like the presidents Jimmy Carter, and George Bush senior and some of the christian authors.”
The books from Carter and Bush went for over 80 dollars each.
The average cost of items was about 40 dollars, and anything over that received a lot of love from the crowd.
So how do you pit James Gandolfini against Julia Louis-Dreyfus, or Bono against Red Green, or Sarah Palin against Justin Trudeau?
Like in any auction, it’s up to the crowd to decide.
And sometimes, like Howe, they had their celebrity wish list in tow.
“You know we got the sheet of paper from the paper that had all all of the items listed so I kinda picked out which ones I was looking for.”
Howe ended the night with seven items. Rose Marie Clooney, James Dobson and The Gaithers were among her steals.
If this seems all too “A List” to be true, I had the same thoughts… I mean how often can you find YoYoMa, Jerry Seinfeld and John Glenn be in the same room?
“So how do you know if things are authentic or not if someone brings them in? Good question.”
I spoke with Dyle Henning, an organizer of the auction. He said they keep about 500 items stored away, ready to sell every year. And they’re constantly replenishing the supply.
“We have ratings system, where we get them in person, a volunteer or somebody we know actually gets the autograph we give it 5 stars. If they send us something and they put a letter in and say this is autographed by John Travolta, yes okay we’ll give that 4 stars. And if it comes from the agent or the celebrity we’ll give it 3 stars meaning we’re pretty sure.”
So after a night of searching, bargaining and bidding, only 20 were left. The likes of Barry Gibb and Hilary Duff, they didn’t get bid on at all.
Neither did Bill Cosby.
Organizers say Cosby sent three signed copies of a book close to 20 years ago, well before he was accused of any crimes. Two books were bought many years ago. They pulled the last one out of the closet this year. It wasn’t touched.
Henning said the auction leftovers, including Cosby’s unwanted book could resurface in future years, and may well sell.
“One year they don’t sell and the next year, I can remember times where it didn’t sell and the next year it made significant money.”
The highlight of the night, and the biggest sale item went for over 600 dollars.
It was an Apollo 14 crew patch actually carried into orbit and later signed by Captain Edgar Mitchell.
The auction ended up bringing in 4,500 dollars for Lapeer county 4-H, a fairly typical year.
Celebrities, they’re just like you and me – except no one pays for our autographs. Here’s to hoping that maybe someday they will.