Tony Bennett Auction Fetches Over $2 Million, Highlighted By Martin Luther King Jr. Signed Letter

Collectors are flying to the moon and living the good life after getting their hands on items once belonging to legendary crooner Tony Bennett during a two-day auction. Over 750 lots from the “Tony Bennett: A Life Well-Lived” auction sold for $2.1 million at Julien’s Auctions, which was four times the pre-sale estimate. Nearly 14,000 bids were placed in this once-in-a-lifetime auction.

The highlight was a typed letter signed by civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., which sold for $78,000. It was estimated the letter would bring in between $20,000-$30,000.

Letter written by Martin Luther King Jr. to Tony Bennett.
Letter written by Martin Luther King Jr. to Tony Bennett. (credit: Julien’s Auction)

“A typed letter signed with autograph postscript, from Martin Luther King, Jr. dated April 5, 1965. This letter of thanks and appreciation was written eleven days after King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama after a 54 mile march from Selma, Alabama that took five days,” Julien’s Auctions wrote in the description lot. “Tony Bennett, along with Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne entertained the crowds of demonstrators.”

Bennett got involved in the civil rights movement after seeing Black musicians Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington being denied access to hotels and concert hall dining rooms during the 1950s, NBC News reports.

“I’d never been politically inclined, but these things went beyond politics,” Bennett wrote in his autobiography “The Good Life.” “Nate and Duke were geniuses, brilliant human beings who gave the world some of the most beautiful music it’s ever heard, and yet they were treated like second-class citizens. The whole situation enraged me.”

Sinatra Family Gifted Family Crest Signet Ring
Sinatra Family Gifted Family Crest Signet Ring. (credit: Julien’s Auctions)

Other auction highlights include:

  • Sinatra Family Gifted Family Crest Signet Ring ($63,500): “The ring features a crowned rampant lion with three stars, the Sinatra family crest from Sicily. Frank Sinatra commissioned 12 copies of his own gold pinky ring featuring the Sinatra family crest to give to close friends and family members. The Sinatra Family gave one of these commissioned copies to Tony Bennett as a gift of thanks on the occasion of the establishment of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, a New York City public high school founded by Bennett and his wife Susan Benedetto in Astoria, Queens.”
  • Cartier “Pasha De Cartier” Wrist Watch From Frank Sinatra ($52,000): “Of quartz movement, the bronze colored circular dial with luminescent hands, window for date and three white subsidiary dials, within an engraved stainless bezel and case, with cabochon sapphire crowns, joined to a brown leather strap with deployant buckle. Case measuring 38mm, 6 inches. The verso engraved, ‘To Tony Thanks Frank A. Sinatra.'”
  • Rolex 18k Gold And Diamond Day And Date Wristwatch ($52,000): “Of automatic movement serial number P196793, champagne dial, baton hands, single and baguette-cut diamond markers, day aperture at 12 o’clock, date aperture at 3 o’clock, screw down crown and case back, attached to a President link bracelet set with numerous round brilliant-cut diamonds and a deployant clasp. Case measuring 36mm.”
  • Cartier “Cle De Cartier” Watch From Lady Gaga ($45,500): “Of automatic mechanical movement, the silver guilloche dial with blued steel hands, blue Roman numerals, window for date, within a heavy 18k rose gold case, the verso with display window to movement, joined to a brown leather strap with deployant buckle. Case measuring 40mm, 7 inches. The deployant engraved, ‘TONY GAGA (heart) 08.03.2016.'”
Joe DiMaggio signed baseball for Tony Bennett
Joe DiMaggio signed baseball for Tony Bennett. (credit: Julien’s Auction)

There were also a number of sports memorabilia items from Bennett’s collection that sold during the two day auction. Those pieces included:

  • Joe DiMaggio signed portrait baseball ($5,200)
  • Duke Snider signed commemorative 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers world championship baseball ($1,170)
  • George Steinbrenner handwritten note ($889)
  • Yogi Berra handwritten note ($889)
  • Berra and Whitey Ford signed baseballs ($1,950)
  • Barry Bonds autographed baseball ($1,300)

Bennett, a 20-time Grammy winner, passed away at the age of 96 in July 2023.

Leave a Reply