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Princess Diana: Still in Vogue for Collectors

Princess Diana: Still in Vogue for Collectors
February 2, 2023
Dylan Dittrich

This article was featured in our newsletter, Alts & Ends. Click here to subscribe for free and receive the best collectible market insights straight to your inbox on a weekly basis!

Millennials will be very familiar with a voracious collectors' appetite for Princess Diana memorabilia.

It feels like a lifetime ago that her purple Beanie Baby was the can't miss collectible of the moment. Produced during Beanie Baby mania in the late 1990s, the doll cost $5 to $7 at retail. With permission for production required from the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund (to which proceeds were directed), supply prior to Christmas 1997 was exceedingly limited. Reportedly, retailers received allocations as low as 12 toys. As a result, there was a perception of incredible rarity that season, leading many to pay $300-400 prices; the perception turned out to be misguided when production ramped up dramatically in 1998.

As we know, the Beanie Baby bubble popped, but that doesn't stop hopeful tricksters from listing "rare" versions - like Princess Diana - for five-figure sums. Many experts suggest sales reaching those sums are bogus, with prospective sellers trying to once again reinflate a perception of value.

While the Princess Diana Beanie Baby may be a cultural phenomenon gone dormant, the late Princess herself maintains an incredible degree of cultural relevance. The Royal Family is, of course, a subject of much conversation and many headlines today, and Princess Diana's own cultural icon status has been reinforced by The Crown and Spencer. Concurrently, generations most familiar with her popularity and reach are those most poised to spend large sums.

We're talking much bigger than Beanie Baby sums.

Just as the appetite for trophy sports memorabilia assets has grown over the last year, so too has the market for significant artifacts that belonged to cultural icons. Recent auction results for Princess Diana-related items are further evidence.

It started in mid-January, when the diamond-lined Attallah Cross Pendant worn by the Princess on numerous occasions came to auction at Sotheby's. The pendant, made by Garrard, was from the collection of former chief executive of Asprey & Garrard, Naim Attallah, who lent it to Princess Diana multiple times. The pendant was estimated to sell for £80,000 - 120,000, but ultimately sold for £163,800 with fees, hammering £10k above the high estimate.

The buyer? None other than Kim Kardashian.

The reality star/mogul has a penchant for historically relevant garb; she controversially chose the dress Marilyn Monroe wore to serenade JFK as her attire for last year's Met Gala. It's unclear what the cross's inevitable appearance at this year's Gala will do to the value.

Weeks after the cross, another significant piece came to Sotheby's in The One auction. We noted in an earlier edition of Alts & Ends that the event boasted an incredibly eclectic collection of items: where else are you going to find game-worn LeBron next to event-worn Princess Diana next to....a suit of armor? Eclectic or not, the results were impressive, and none were more impressive than Princess Diana's Ball Dress designed by Victor Edelstein.

The dress, featured in many well-exhibited portraits and photographs, was estimated to sell for $80,000 - $120,000. Bidding, however, was absolutely frenzied, propelling the dress to a $480,000 hammer price and $604,800 sale price with fees. Per Sotheby's, that's the most expensive dress ever sold at auction.

The dress last sold in 1997, when Princess Diana auctioned off 79 dresses from her collection at Christie's to benefit cancer and AIDS charities, raising $3.25 million at the time. This particular dress sold for $24,150. Last week's sale marks 2,404% in total appreciation, or 13% annually over the course of 27 years.

It's important to recognize that timeless cultural relevance isn't limited to the stars of sporting arenas, but instead takes root in various spheres of significance and influence, albeit to differing degrees.

No word yet on whether Kardashian purchased the dress. Say what you will, but things just tend to work out for her. If she's betting on Princess Diana memorabilia, we're not going to be the ones to question it.

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