The Spookiest Items Coming to Auction This Halloween

Liz Catalano
Published on

Halloween may look different during a public health crisis, but many auction houses are still bringing the spirit of the season to bidders. Auction Daily surveyed the offerings to find the spookiest lots.

Ghosts at Morton Subastas 

October 29th, 2020 at 8:00 PM EDT

Mariana Yampolsky, La novia fantasma, 1999. Image from Morton Subastas.
Mariana Yampolsky, La novia fantasma, 1999. Image from Morton Subastas.

A towering figure of 20th-century Mexican photography, Mariana Yampolsky drew inspiration from the social and class-based issues plaguing Indigenous Mexican communities. The artist, who long felt that it was “more important to be authentic than fashionable,” was known to roam the streets in search of everyday melancholy. In 1999, just three years before her own death, Yampolsky captured La novia fantasma or The Ghost Bride. A flowing bridal gown is shown hanging from a tree, complete with a masked face and draped veil. Morton Subastas will offer a gelatin silver print of Yampolsky’s composition with an estimate of USD 1,307 to $1,587. 

“Blinkey” Tutti-Frutti Gum Machine at Morphy Auctions

October 29th – 31st, 2020 starting at 10:00 AM EDT

1¢ “Blinkey” Tutti-Frutti gum vending machine. Image from Morphy Auctions.
1¢ “Blinkey” Tutti-Frutti gum vending machine. Image from Morphy Auctions.

Collectors building a more historical collection can consider this “Blinkey” Tutti-Frutti gum machine from 1907 ($15,000 – $25,000). Still in workable condition, the face on this machine blinks after a coin is inserted. There is nothing supernatural about their operation, but these machines were designed to unnerve. Some had interchangeable clown faces and were produced while the circus genre was taking hold in the United States. In the early 20th century, the American public was already familiar with the darkness of clowns.

“[T]he clown’s art is now rather terrifying and full of anxiety and apprehension… their monstrous gesticulations and frenzied mimicry reminding one of the courtyard of a lunatic asylum,” Edmond de Goncourt, a French literary critic, wrote in 1876. Clowns were understood to be outwardly-humorous characters with a darker essence underneath. “Blinkey,” however, concealed nothing but chewing gum. 

Frankenstein’s Monster at Kings Auctions Inc. 

October 30th, 2020 at 9:00 AM EDT

Frankenstein - Teaser Hollywood poster. Image from King’s Auctions Inc.
Frankenstein – Teaser Hollywood poster. Image from King’s Auctions Inc.

James Whale’s Frankenstein debuted in 1931. The film was an instant commercial success, as American audiences descended on Mary Shelley’s story of an ambitious scientist and the monster he created. Boris Karloff played the role of the monster, shown with the now-iconic flat head and neck bolts. The origin of the bolts can be traced back to the concept art for Frankenstein’s monster, completed by Hungarian-American illustrator Karoly Grosz.

While working at Universal Pictures, Grosz produced the promotional posters for classic horror films ranging from Dracula and The Mummy to Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Invisible Man. A 1991 lithograph of Grosz’s red-tinted 1931 poster design for Frankenstein will be offered by Kings Auctions Inc. this month ($100 – $1,000).

Nauman’s Malice at Bonhams

October 30th, 2020 at 1:00 PM EDT

Bruce Nauman, Malice, 1980. Image from Bonhams.
Bruce Nauman, Malice, 1980. Image from Bonhams.

American artist Bruce Nauman has spent over 50 years breaking artistic rules. He has not confined himself to one particular medium, instead frequently switching between styles to convey his meaning. Malice, for example, was made by scraping out white space from a layer of thick black ink. This technique adds to the dark theme of the work. Before being shown normally, the word “malice” is reflected and spelled backward. “That is its intent- the malice of the situation- to make it hard to read,” the artist said. The word is written plainly, but something more disturbing lurks beneath. 

A lithograph of Malice will be offered by Bonhams with an estimate of $8,000 to $10,000. It is numbered 73/75. 

Vanishing Skull at Potter & Potter Auctions

October 31st, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT

Skull transposition illusion props. Image from Potter & Potter Auctions.
Skull transposition illusion props. Image from Potter & Potter Auctions.

Those seeking a thrill this Halloween can consider various pieces of magic memorabilia and props in Potter & Potter Auctions’ upcoming event. Of particular interest is this intricate skull transposition set. The skilled magician covers a faux skull in an orange cloth to begin the illusion. After removing the cloth, the skull vanishes and appears on a nickel-plated swing before appearing again in a clear glass box. The set, complete with the skull, cloth, swing, box, and chair, carries an estimate of $3,000 to $5,000. 

This set was designed after German magician Friedrich W. Conradi’s original. Active in the late 1890s and early 20th century, Conradi mass-produced magical props and performed over 6,000 shows.

Spirits at Sotheby’s

October 31st, 2020 at 6:00 AM EDT

The Macallan Red Collection with exclusive labels by Javi Aznarez. Image from Sotheby’s.
The Macallan Red Collection with exclusive labels by Javi Aznarez. Image from Sotheby’s.

All Hallows’ Eve has its pleasures for adults as well as children. Sotheby’s will celebrate with its inaugural Halloween spirits sale in London. Whisky collectors will find six bottles from The Macallan in the catalog. The youngest malt in the set is 40 years old, while another has matured for 78 years. According to the auction house, that is the oldest bottle released by The Macallan and the oldest statement whisky ever brought to auction. The bottles are offered with an estimate of GBP 200,000 to £800,000 (USD 262,800 – $1,050,000).

Beyond their deep red color, these whiskies are notable for their exclusive labels from Spanish painter and illustrator Javi Aznarez. The illustrations tie into The Macallan’s history, telling stories of its founder, Alexander Reid, and other figures who defined the brand. They also tap into an autumnal mood with the artist’s signature dark palette and expressive characters. One other edition of these labels will be held in The Macallan’s archives. Sotheby’s hopes the sale of this second set will support the burgeoning spirits market and set a precedent for Halloweens to come.

Looking for more spooky lots? Find additional sales on Auction Daily’s auction calendar.