EXCLUDED – Auction of celebrity items: interview with Fabien Lecoeuvre, sales expert

02 June 2024 / Jerome Goulon

A major current trend in the world of music, auctions of personal items belonging to artists are increasing. Immersion in this true cultural phenomenon from the USA and imported to France, by the song specialist, Fabien Lecoeuvre, who speaks to us exclusively about this fascinating business, following the auction which took place yesterday afternoon, Saturday 1st June, at the Hotel Drouot, in Paris, for an auction dedicated to French and international song….

Jérôme Goulon: You are an expert on auction sales of objects that belonged to stars. Tell us what this work involves?
Fabien Lecoeuvre: One of my many activities related to song today consists of intervening in numerous estates of personalities to appraise and authenticate stage costumes, manuscripts, gold records and even unusual objects that belonged to celebrities of the world of music. 

Give us examples…
I appraised and evaluated Charles Aznavour's latest Mercedes, Serge Gainsbourg's SACEM entrance exam dated 1er July 1954, Joséphine Baker's stage underwear from 1926, the first model of Jean-Jacques Goldman's first album that all the record companies had refused in 1980, locks of hair from Claude François, Johnny Hallyday or Juliette Greco, and even Mistinguett's sex toy in beech wood that Maurice Chevalier had given him in 1915 when he was leaving for the war.

When and where do these sales take place?
Sales organized by different auctioneers such as the Coutau-Bégarie study, the Crait-Muller study, or the Debussy study, take place regularly throughout France, notably at the Drouot hotel in Paris, in Cannes, in Rennes, in Charenton...Events which attract more and more people each year, indoors, but also by telephone and on the Internet, where they are broadcast live.

Where do the objects come from?
Mainly from various estates. Disappeared artists, former directors of record labels and radio stations, former dressers, press officers and artistic directors, former companions of deceased artists or fans who had significant collections. 

Are they the ones contacting you?
Yes, I am regularly contacted by all these people to advise them on the value of things and especially to direct them to auctioneers. I remember being put in contact with the son of one of Mike Brant's companions, who had found several of the singer's suits and shirts among his missing mother's belongings. Also, a young Limousin whose deceased mother had won a Claude François costume in her youth in a competition organized by the Podium newspaper. Also, a former dresser to whom Johnny Hallyday had given some costumes and gold records. Finally, many estates for which I am an expert such as Juliette Greco, Charles Aznavour or the former announcer Jacqueline Caurat, the former director of RTL Roger Kreicher and soon Patrick Juvet who left us on 1er April 2021. 

How do you ensure the items are authentic? 
My role is to trace an object, that is to say, with the help of testimonies or photos, to prove that this item of clothing or this trophy really belonged to a celebrity. In addition, I conduct research with former collaborators. If I have the slightest doubt, I immediately discard the object. For American stars, I take advice from my colleagues in New York and Los Angeles, which was the case for moccasins signed in silver felt, which Michael Jackson wore during rehearsals at Madison Square Garden in New York on the 7th. September 2001. 

What objects struck you the most? 
The most striking objects are the locks of hair, which carry within them the DNA of an artist…. I'm thinking of that of Johnny Hallyday, brought to me one day by one of his former hairdressers from the Salon Jacques Dessange in Paris, and who wanted to part with it to finance his son's engineering studies. Also, a fan of Claude François who had carefully preserved several locks of the singer's hair in small dated envelopes. For the anecdote, an envelope was dated Tuesday February 3, 1976, the day I went to Claude François' office to submit an application for a company internship. That day, his colleague Nicole Gruyer asked me to come back, because Cloclo was not present and was at his hairdresser Catherine Martinez, rue Boissy-d'Anglas in Paris! 

What is the price range for these items? Is there something for everyone?
Of course, everyone can leave with a souvenir of their favorite singer. Whether it's a record autographed by Joe Dassin or Jean-Jacques Goldman for 120 euros, or even a record signed by the four members of the group Queen for the sum of 2 euros. As for gold discs and trophies, you should count on between 200 and 300 euros. It depends on the name of the artist, the recipient and the number of copies.

And the costumes?
For stage costumes, prices vary from 8 euros, for the stage costume that Johnny Hallyday wore at the Olympia in 000, to 1961 euros for a costume that Claude François wore on December 34, 000 for the tree of Christmas at the Élysée. A famous stage outfit purchased by a 17-year-old Belgian fan of Cloclo. Finally, a painting painted by Serge Gainsbourg at the end of the 1975s, entitled Enfants au square, and offered to Juliette Greco in July 23, following a radio broadcast, was sold for 1940 euros in November 1959. 

Who are the buyers? 
Many anonymous people of all ages, who want to keep a unique memory of their idol, but also personalities from the world of entertainment like Pascal Obispo, who bought a manuscript by Serge Gainsbourg. Another example: Franck Saurat, a famous television producer, who managed to obtain in the auction a boater hat by Maurice Chevalier and a costume by Thierry Le Luron, his childhood idol. 

What makes something expensive?
First of all, the fact that it belonged to a celebrity. Then, its rarity and finally, the story that this object can tell in the career of an artist or group. A drumstick from the drummer of the group Indochine thrown into the crowd after a concert sold for more than 2 euros. A poster to announce the very first Rolling Stones concert at the Olympia on October 500, 20 was sold for 1964 euros. 

Which artists are most in demand?
In France, there are 15 artists highly collected by hundreds of people. In the lead of course and for more than 12 years, there has been Johnny Hallyday, Claude François and Mylène Farmer. Then come Renaud, Michel Sardou, Serge Gainsbourg, Dalida, Jacques Brel, Mike Brant, the Telephone and Indochine groups, Céline Dion, Patrick Bruel, Jean-Jacques Goldman, Florent Pagny. No one can explain such enthusiasm for certain names and less for others. 

Objects were worn by living personalities, others disappeared. When a personality dies, the value increases?
Undoubtedly, I observed it at the time of Johnny's disappearance, on December 5, 2017. All prices have practically doubled, fans wanting to keep a final memory often linked to their childhood. The demand has grown for 6 years now. A jacket worn by Johnny Hallyday in the spring of 1973 sold for 3 euros in March 500 and was resold in December 2016 for 2023 euros. 

Can these objects increase in value over time?
I am certain that with time, this new musical art will gain even more momentum. More and more people are buying at these auctions. Demand is now greater than supply. Value and prices are increasing.

All this deserves a book...
In fact, I published a book with Éditions du Signe in which I listed the prices of numerous artists' objects and personal effects, sold for 12 years in different sales, sometimes with impressive records...

Lock of Johnny Hallyday's hair that the singer gave to his appointed hairdresser at the Jacques Dessange salon in 1982 after an appointment. Sold on November 21, 2020 for €6