Van Eaton Galleries Celebrates 65 Years of Disneyland with its Latest Auction

Nazia Safi
Published on

The exhibit and two-day auction offer memorabilia and souvenirs from Disneyland and Walt Disney World

When Walt Disney’s daughters were very young, he would take them for rides at Griffith Park every Saturday. One Saturday, as his daughters enjoyed their ride, Walt sat on a bench, eating peanuts. Suddenly, it dawned on him that there should be a family park where parents and children alike could have fun. Walt Disney nurtured the idea of a theme park for years before finally opening the gates to Disneyland, “The Happiest Place on Earth,” in Anaheim, California, on July 17th, 1955.

Walt Disney on the Opening Day of Disneyland. (Photo courtesy of Disney Parks)
Walt Disney on the Opening Day of Disneyland. (Photo courtesy of Disney Parks)

This August, over 1,100 pieces tracing Disneyland’s history from its inception to the present day will cross the auction block in a Van Eaton Galleries sale. The auction will also feature several items from Walt Disney World, Disneyland Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong. Online, phone, and absentee bidding will occur on Saturday, August 15th, and Sunday, August 16th.

Several notable items will make their first appearance, including an entrance sign from Don DeFore’s original Silver Banjo Barbeque, an opening-day restaurant (USD 50,000 – $70,000).

Silver Banjo Barbecue Entrance Sign (Photo courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries)
Silver Banjo Barbecue Entrance Sign (Photo courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries)

DeFore, a close friend of Walt and a stage and screen star of the 1950s and 1960s, on the invitation of Walt Disney, opened a restaurant called Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo Barbecue in Frontierland in 1957. Even though the restaurant closed in 1962, the original sign with hand-painted lettering and a metal body was displayed in DeFore’s home for years. This sign comes from the collection of Disneyland historian and author of Growing Up in Disneyland Ron DeFore, Don DeFore’s son.

Also coming from Anaheim Park is a Gold VIP ticket to Disneyland’s opening day ($3,000 – $5,000).

Gold VIP ticket to Disneyland (Photo courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries)
Gold VIP ticket to Disneyland (Photo courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries)

According to Van Eaton Galleries, as Disneyland’s opening day events were being broadcast on live TV, Walt Disney issued timed tickets for steady coverage. The gold tickets were only issued to VIPs and, in this case, Tom Caton, editor of the Los Angeles Herald-Express.

Beyond ephemera, Disney collectors will also find several lots of original Disneyland concept drawings and paintings. Among them is a hand-painted canvas portrait from the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom ($80,000 – $100,000). Disney’s The Haunted Mansion opened its doors in August 1969. In both Disneyland and Disney World, the famous Stretching Room paved the way for the actual Haunted Mansion ride, where portraits of the Mansion’s inhabitants stretch to reveal their unfortunate fates.

Original Haunted Mansion Stretching Portrait. (Photo courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries)
Original Haunted Mansion Stretching Portrait. (Photo courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries)

Designed by Imagineer Marc Davis, one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men,” the stretching portraits are some of the most well-known and popular aspects of the attraction. As explained by the L.A. Times, “Davis painted small masters for each portrait. Over time, the paintings became worn from repeatedly unfurling. Disneyland replaced them as necessary, and Davis’ team painted new, original portraits each time.” The portrait features an old lady clutching a rose, perched on her late husband’s tombstone.

Rounding out the featured lots available from Disneyland and Walt Disney World is a Disneyland cast member I.D. badge created for Milt Albright ($6,000 – $8,000). Each cast member was assigned a metal badge with a number. Walt Disney was number 1, and each subsequent employee was numbered sequentially higher. Designated as employee number 10, Albright was one of the park’s first employees. 

Initially hired as the manager of accounting, Albright moved on to manage the short-lived Holidayland, among other roles. Later, he was promoted to manager of Guest Communications, a position he held until retiring. Upon his retirement in 1992, Milt said, “I had the enormous good fortune to be hired by the finest entertainment company in the world. I believed it then, and I believe it still.” Included with the badge is a letter of provenance written and signed by Albright’s son.

Milt Albright's Metal Disneyland ID Badge (Photo Courtesy: Van Eaton Galleries)
Milt Albright’s Metal Disneyland ID Badge (Photo Courtesy: Van Eaton Galleries)

These and other Disney memorabilia lots will come to auction on Saturday, August 15th, and Sunday, August 16th, at 10:00 AM PDT. Interested bidders can view each lot and register to bid on the Van Eaton Galleries’ website.