Despite their near-mythical status, Columbo’s raincoat and shoes from the 70s’ series went unsold at an auction in New York this week after failing to reach the reserve price.
According to a source who attended the auction live at Bonhams on 13 June, there was only a single bid for the Columbo memorabilia of $20,000 – well below the expected sale price of between $30-50,000 – so no deal!
This is the second time in little over 6 months the coat failed to find a buyer. At an admittedly much higher reserve, the coat and shoes went unsold at auction in November 2017 after initially seeking bids in the region of $80-$120,000. The failure to attract a seller at a much lower price point is, therefore, somewhat disappointing.
What should we make of this Columbo snub?
I have little info to go on, but wonder if there was insufficient certainty regarding the authenticity of the coat to tempt buyers. Fans are well aware of the story that Peter Falk himself bought the original Columbo raincoat in 1968 and wore it throughout the 70s’ series. It was, however, not the only Columbo coat in circulation.
“This is the second time in little over 6 months the coat failed to find a buyer.”
Falk previously admitted there were at least 2, but an article from a 1974 issue of TV Guide explains how new raincoats were artificially ‘aged’ in order to ensure there was a healthy stock of them available on set. See for yourself below – there’s a whole rack of ’em!
So if we’re moving from a position of potentially owning the coat to a position of potentially owning a coat, that might explain buyer reluctance. Because if the coat was the genuinely owned Falk original even $50,000 seems like a great investment! However, as I say I don’t know the ins and outs of this particular item, so all of the above is pure speculation.
According to the auction house rumour mill, though, one possible bidder was allegedly put off by water stains on the right boot and was overheard asking other attendees if they knew where a similar pair could be purchased for $16-17. No one knew.
Even more sensationally, word on the street is that the unsold coat was subsequently rejected by the St Matthew Mission in downtown LA. When presented with the item, a mystified nun could only utter “That coat, that coat, that coat…” until she was quietly led away to ladle out beef stew to needy patrons. It breaks the heart, and the future of the coat and shoes is anyone’s guess.
There was one Columbo-related sale on the day, however. A Jaroslav Gebr portrait of Janet Leigh as Grace Wheeler, created for Forgotten Lady in 1975, was snapped up for a very reasonable $1375. It would be a conversation starter in any home.
But what about those iconic garments? Who knows, perhaps there’ll be a third attempt to auction the coat-and-shoes combo in the coming months?
On the back of two misfires, one could expect the pricing to fall once again. If we all have a whip around we might be able to pony up enough cash to get our collective mitts on them, and can then time-share them around to bring surprise and delight to our nearest and dearest.
But maybe they’ll never see the light of day again, which would be terrible news. It means I’ll have to wear the new coat Mrs Columbo bought me – and I just can’t think in that coat!