Joe Maddalena, who is owner of Profiles in History, the world’s largest auctioneer of original movie, television, science fiction, fantasy, and pop culture collectibles, returned Tuesday May 22nd at 10:00pm for season two of “Hollywood Treasure” on Syfy. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Joe about season two of “Hollywood Treasure” and what we can expect.
Mike Gencarelli: In season one and you dealt with a lot of like collectible items and whatnot. I was reading that this season you’re going to be working with the house from “American Horror Story”. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how it differs for you?
Joe Maddalena: What’s interesting is that as a company, we’re trying to expand our reach into all areas of things that have to do with television and motion pictures, and this opportunity came along. We got a phone call from a guy, and he said, hey, I have some things from “American Horror Story”. It’d be cool to get some props, and lo and behold, we met this man, and we ended up at the “American Horror Story” house. The actual house is here in Los Angeles, and it was kind of surreal, because I had no idea. And I’m walking up to it, and it was really eerie, because you’re in the house. I mean, you’re in the rooms. I mean, you’re in the basement. You’re thinking of people hanging themselves, and all this crazy stuff going on. And it’s really cool because this was like a 17,000 square foot mansion, and it’s just another side of our business that we’re pursuing, is we’re going after these properties now, because they have such a value besides being a house. So being an “American Horror Story” fan, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever walked through in my entire life, to go through that house. And it was scary. I mean, being in the basement – they turned the lights off; you wanted to run out of there!
MG: What would you say is your biggest challenge both juggling, running your business, Profiles in History, and also filming a reality show?
JM: I really want people to understand that I’m trying to paint a picture on the show that’s real, I mean, that it’s like that this is kind of like really what we do so they get an idea, because people are always like, well, where do you get this stuff? How do you find it? How do you authenticate it? So we’re trying to answer those questions and give you slivers of like, a business and obviously in a sense for television, but that’s the biggest challenge is to accurately depict what we do in a way that the viewers are going to, enjoy it, and that’s my biggest, task, is to make sure we put something out there that they’re going to really like.
MG: Can you talk a bit about how you were finally able to get access to the ruby slippers?
JM: I’m writing a book and my son asked me a question a couple years ago, and he goes, so, is there anything, in the book that is kind of like your weak spot? And I said, well, I’ll probably never have a pair of ruby slippers. And I didn’t think in my career I’d ever be able to sell a pair. I just thought it would just never happen. I didn’t think another pair would ever change hands. I was lucky that within six months I sold Debbie Reynolds’ Arabians for $700,000, then the, obviously the Samuels pair, six months after that. And it’s kind of surreal now looking back that two pairs have gone through my hands. It’s – they’re kind of like – it’s surreal because it’s hard to believe that these things A, came up for sale, and that you can own them. I mean it’s I personally think the most iconic prop in the world.
MG: With an item like the ruby slippers, at what point do they become too hard of a sell, despite their legacy?
JM: I just think its all timing. I mean, the other day somebody paid $100 million for Munch’s scream. I mean, I just think day to day, it’s what’s happening in the world. Buyers are in one mode then they’re in another mode. I just think a lot of it’s timing. I mean, I don’t think – there’s no value. When you buy $100 million painting, it’s like you can’t take it tomorrow and trade it for some building in Manhattan. You’re going to have to go through a whole process to sell it, right? I just think a lot of its timing, and a lot of people understanding the slippers I think because there are multiple pairs might have confused people. A lot of things go into it.
MG: So now that you’ve found your holy grail being, the ruby slippers, have you moved on to a new holy grail? Is there something new that you’re dying to find?
JM: Well, the ultimate thing, yes, there’s always another one. The ultimate thing would be Maria the robot from Metropolis. Now there’s all these legends behind that. In Metropolis, Maria burns, but there’s got to be more than one, so that would be like the next one. If you could surface that, it’d be pretty big.
MG: What’s the most valuable item you’ve ever sold?
The dress from The Seven Year Itch that we sold for Debbie Reynolds, which was $5 ½ million. So Debbie’s collection definitely was the highlight of anything we’ve ever sold. I mean, her material was the best that’s ever been put out in the market, and the prices – her first sale grossed $23 million, so for 500 items, pretty substantial.
MG: Can you tell us about your journey to Middle Earth featuring Sean Astin?
JM: Sean Astin is a neighbor. He lives close by, and a friend. We’re selling a large collection belonging to the Dryer family, and in that collection was this amazing map of Middle Earth. And I thought Sean, knowing his interest obviously in that part of the world, would enjoy seeing the map. So it was actually Tolkein’s copy, so he came by and we kind of had a little trip down memory lane and we learned interesting things. He went from the Shire to Mordor on what happened, and it was an interesting response, because he said well, we’re making this movie, Elijah and I figuring we’re going to have all this time together, a year and a half, and at the end we’re going to do this epic climax, throwing the ring in, in the mountain, and by the time we get there, we’ll be ready. And what happened was we were filming and there was a giant flood, and the set got wiped away, and they came in and said well, we’re going to film the climax instead, and this is very early in the process, and Sean’s like, I – we can’t do that. We’re not ready. And they’re like, you’re ready. So – and they literally – it was just like amazing insight into his world, his character. It was fascinating to meet him and kind of learn about that world.
MG: Is there anything that you own personally from a movie that you would never be willing to give up?
JM: Yes. I mean, I have a lot of things. Ihe thing I would never give up that’s from a television show, when my son was about six I had an auction and I had one of – Buck Rogers’ sidekick was Tweaky. He had a little robot, and I had a Tweaky in my auction and my son was about the same size. He was a little bit smaller, and (Felix Hiller) showed up, who wore the costume in the TV show, and we met (Felix), and my son thought this was the coolest thing in the world, you know? And we became friends with (Felix) and then (Felix) later sold my son – well, me for my son, his Tweaky costume with Theopolis around his neck. I’m looking at it. It’s six feet from my desk. It’s the holy grail of our family. It’s like the only thing – it’ll go to – he’ll take it to his grave. It’s like, it’s just such a sentimental thing among us, it’s like we’d never sell it. I collect things that are sentimentally important to me. It’s more about like I was lucky. I worked for ABC all of season six for “Lost”. I was in Hawaii during the entire shooting of the final season. I have such amazing memories of that production, but what I kept were things that were like, important to me, I mean, nothing of any value to anybody else, but to me it’s just all about the memory of being involved. That’s what I enjoy the most.
MG: It seems the horror genre is filled with some of the most hardcore collectors.
JM: Absolutely. I think horror is probably consistently always been number one with starting in 19 – the 20s, 1930, ’31, Frankenstein, Dracula. I think we’re infatuated with vampires, and I think obviously, look how popular they are now. I think the supernatural, ghosts and vampires and ghouls, just fascinates us. I think that the macabre – people just, like the dark side. They want to be a vampire, so I think that that’s just – it’s just – and because the material is dark in its creation, I think that it’s just kind of gravitates toward that world.
MG: I know you mentioned in the new episodes that – you said something about people are more after props than costume pieces. Why is that?
JM: Let’s see. Okay. Costumes are big and they’re a challenge to display, okay? So textiles are fragile, by nature, so they have to be – they can’t be in the sunlight. They have lots of things that will affect them over time if they’re not properly preserved or displayed. Props, pretty rugged. I mean they’re more manageable in size. They’re three dimensional. They’d kind of cooler looking. It’s just, people just want props. I mean, they’re just – there’s always a challenge with a costume, but when you get like the Maltese falcon and you hold it in your hands, it’s an object. the ruby slippers are an object. So those are the kinds of things – I just did the Captain America auction for Marvel, in April in Chicago. We had like the shields. They’re really cool because they’re objects. The costumes are nice, but when you get into like Thor’s hammer, Captain America’s shield or Iron Man’s helmet, they’re really cool.
MG: What other highlights can we expect from this upcoming season?
JM: This season’s going to be really fun. It’s the biggest things that I’m excited about is we used to be two back-to-back half hours. Now we’re one one-hour, so we’re able to tell much better stories, where in the past, we’d have to get in and out of a scene in three minutes. Now we’re able to invest like 10 or 12 minutes in a story, where you’re going to get a lot more information, a lot more access, learn a lot more about my world. I think it’s much better television, but American Horror Story – we have a great segment on The Hunger Games. I mean, The Hunger Games is going to be – we’ve got a great 12 minutes of Hunger Games. Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard – I mean, there’s going to be a lot of surprises, I mean, a lot of contemporary things, and we’re going to take you to places, Planet of the Apes, I mean, things that are just – there’s something for everybody. It is a really good diverse group. Vampires, Greg Cannon, who’s one of the judges of Face-Off, he did a Gary Oldman’s Bram Stoker Dracula. We sold his Dracula collection. Ve Neill is on the show. We sold her makeup collection, and she did some of the most important make-up appliances in Hollywood history, so a lot of cool things.