BH Interview: Memorabilia Expert on Finding 'Treasure' in the Unlikeliest Places
Memorabilia expert Joe Maddalena says the impulse to pick up the car from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” or the dress Marilyn Monroe wore in “The Seven Year Itch” is the same that motivated the buyer who plunked down $120 million for “The Scream” – “pride of ownership.”
“People go into a museum to see a beautiful exhibit … they’re thoroughly entertained, and then they leave,” Maddalena tells Big Hollywood. “I get in my car and I want one, something resonates with me. That’s what collecting is.”
Maddalena, star of SyFy’s “Hollywood Treasure,” also knows part of his profession involves finding gems in the least likely places.
In the 1970s, several major movie studios sold off their assets, scattering memorabilia all over the world, he says. And then there are the more personal discoveries, like the small-time actor who was given the white linen suit worn by Sydney Greenstreet in “Casablanca” to wear in a play.
Maddalena also met a fellow whose father served as the costume designer for the famed miniseries “Roots.” He had in his possession the shooting script, costume sketches and other vital memorabilia from the iconic program.
“Hollywood Treasure,” which kicks off its second season at 10 p.m. EST tomorrow on SyFy, allows more time to tell these tales. The new season expands the show's format from two half-hour episodes shown back to back to one hour-long program.
“We’re not really transaction based, we’re story based. Our viewers really want to see more of the process,” he says.
The second season opens with a “visit” to Middle Earth, where actor Sean Astin of “Lord of the Rings” fame lets viewers into his personal “LOTR” collection.
Future episodes will look at memorabilia from “The Hunger Games, “The Bodyguard” and "American Horror Story,” plus the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard.” We’ll also meet the next door neighbor of John Chambers, one of the greatest makeup effects experts in Hollywood history who created the iconic mask from the original “Planet of the Apes.”
Maddalena, whose Profiles in History firm has sold classic movie fare like the aforementioned “Seven Year Itch” dress (which fetched $5.2 million), says movie collectors act out of a more distinct need than your typical collector - the desire to revisit their childhood. But today’s memorabilia buyers are getting … younger.
“My parents’ generation isn’t around anymore. It’s changing,” says Maddalena, whose company will be holding an auction for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” memorabilia July 20.
Yet some movies remain hot commodities, like “The Wizard of Oz” and “Citizen Kane.” He simply never knows where he’ll find the next memorabilia golden ticket.
Today’s savvy collectors aren’t just interested in the past. They also have an eye on tomorrow’s treasures, like goodies from the set of “The Hunger Games.”
“Contemporary things you’d never expect to see you’ll see this season,” says Maddalena, who would love to get his hands on one of the Maltese Falcon statuettes used in the film of the same name. But Maddalena is skeptical such modern items will be in demand down the road.
“’The Hunger Games’ craze is huge. Do you think people will care in 10 years? I don’t think so,” he says.