Auction Review: Oddities and Collectibles From the Guinness World Records Museum
On February 12th, 2021, Ripley Auctions sold over 100 items from the now-closed Guinness World Records Museum in Niagara Falls, Canada. The sale enjoyed a 99% sell-through rate. Announced shortly after the museum permanently closed in September of 2020, the auction offered life-sized versions of record holders, various visual displays, and several authentic items. Bidding took place online with a live-streaming option.
“It’s our understanding that no one’s really ever tried this before,” Steve Blaney, the Manager of Development at the Niagara Clifton Group, told WGRZ before the auction. “In reaching out, looking for auction companies that were open to basically auctioning off a museum… no one’s ever heard of it.”
The top lot of the auction was a vintage Atari pinball machine that holds the record for the World’s Largest Pinball. It measures over seven feet long. The machine sold for CAD 10,000 (USD 7,875) against an estimate of CAD 1,500 to $2,500 (USD 1,180 – $1,970). Made in 1979, the game is Hercules-themed. The winning bidder also received several custom museum signs with the game, including facts about the fastest time to clear two pool tables (one minute and 33 seconds) and the most successful coin-operated arcade game (Pac-Man).
A Wurlitzer vinyl jukebox also gathered bids earlier this month. The museum acquired this One More Time (OMT) replica jukebox for a Pop and Rock display in the mid-1980s. Designed in 1946, collectors consider the Wurlitzer OMT one of the most iconic jukeboxes of the post-war era. The museum replica sold for CAD 8,000 (USD 6,300).
Collectors also took an interest in the World’s Smallest Bicycle, which measures just six inches high. Performer Charly Charles built it for his act at the Circus Circus Hotel in Las Vegas. It reached CAD 3,800 (USD 3,000) against an estimate of CAD 500 to $1,000 (USD 400 – $790).
Various oddities and museum displays performed well, including a coin-op mock electric chair that sold for CAD 3,600 (USD 2,840). The catalog boasted replicas of the World’s Smallest Woman, the World’s Most Tattooed Lady, and the World’s Oldest Man. Individual letters from the Guinness World Records Museum sign were also available. Bidders preferred two versions of the letter ‘G,’ each of which sold for CAD 1,000 (USD 790). The other letters were less popular, reaching an average of CAD 550 (USD 430) each.
Guinness World Records, formerly known in the United States as The Guinness Book of World Records, was created in 1955. A managing director at the Guinness Breweries in Ireland got into an argument about the fastest game bird in Europe while at a shooting party. From that disagreement came the now-famous reference book of world records. Now in its 66th edition, Guinness World Records remains the best-selling copyrighted book of all time.
The Guinness World Records Museum opened in Niagara Falls, Canada, in 1978 to great fanfare. A series of live attractions helped draw crowds on opening day, including a dive from famous showman Henri LaMothe from a 40-foot platform into 15 inches of water. Over time, the museum became a fixture of the local Niagara community. The management also regularly initiated renovations and additions to keep the museum’s contents fresh.
According to the St. Catharines Standard, the decision to close the Guinness World Records Museum in Niagara was not related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, record-seekers were not able to view the exhibits before the closing due to shelter-in-place orders. Other Guinness World Records franchise museums are still in operation across North America.
Looking for more unusual auction items? Auction Daily recently explored KGB artifacts at Julien’s Auctions.