Here’s a follow-up on a story we covered back in August…
Several items of Bill Monroe memorabilia were recently sold at auction by the Christie’s auction house in New York. They included some minor items, like Monroe’s Country Music Hall Of Fame medallion, his BMI citation for 1,000,000 broadcasts of Uncle Pen, and his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction statuette.
The big item was the damaged headstock overlay from his 1923 Loar F-5, a major piece of bluegrass folklore. Monroe had gouged out the Gibson name from his headstock after receiving unsatisfactory repair service on his prized instrument in the early 1950s, and the retelling of this story made for fascinating conversation among mandolin enthusiasts back in the day.
Gibson restored the Monroe mandolin after it was even more seriously damaged in 1985, and an original peghead overlay reproduction was installed. Big Mon left the damaged overlay with Gibson, and it went up for auction earlier this month.
All of the items sold in in the range of the Christie’s estimates, except for the overlay which went for $37,500! They had projected a high side of $7,000, but had seriously underestimated the interest in the classic piece of Monroe-abilia.
The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, hometown paper for The International Bluegrass Music Museum, ran a detailed piece about the auction on December 18, including an interview with IBMM director Gabrielle Gray. She came away with a piece from this lot, but not the storied peghead veneer.
Gray said the bidding began at just over $3,500 and a lot of people were bidding.
“It was very, very exciting to be in New York City at Rockefeller Center, seeing that many people interested in Bill Monroe,” she said. “Bill would have been so excited to see it.”
Gray said she had backers who had authorized her to spend “up to a certain amount” for the headstock veneer.
“I was the last person to drop out,” she said. “I was well over what I was authorized to spend, but I wanted it for the museum.”