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Why won’t anyone give Columbo’s iconic coat a good home?

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!

Columbo raincoat article

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!




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22 thoughts on “Why won’t anyone give Columbo’s iconic coat a good home?

  1. Another one here for the Smithsonian, why not? Take the most authentic coat and shoes and put it next to Archie Bunker’s chair.

  2. I would say you’re right.. the fact that there’s a publicized photo showing a rack full of the rain coats would put off any high bidder. Too bad.. then again.. if they sell each of the coats on the rack for $10-15k.. wouldn’t be so bad.

  3. Pingback: 2018: the Columbo year in review | The Columbophile

  4. I spoke to Shera Falk, and that was indeed the raincoat. Sure they’ll have extras to shoot scenes when the coat must be stained or damaged, so in that sense there are perhaps a dozen of copies, however this was indeed the original coat which was used for years, as was the 2nd Bonham’s auctioned from the series in the 1990’s. Do you have any idea how many captain America’s shields were made, and all used in the movie? Many!, but this is perhaps a different situation because both raincoats were indeed Peter’s, they were his personal props brought to the set from his home in BH CA and Peter had indeed documented that in many interviews and in his book.

  5. Thanks for the update. As merely a Columbo fan and person who was seriously motivated to bid on the coat, I can safely say this: I invested some time going through extensive photos to match the coat to the pics in the auction. I was able to easily/clearly match the coat to 3 different markings to S05 E02 which is A Case of Immunity! One screen grab is even in a scene with Hector Elizondo, which is pretty cool.I honestly believe this coat is one of many, is the real deal (worn by Falk) and is screen/photo-matched to this episode.

    What the auction house should do IMHO, is sell the coat as “A Falk/Columbo worn coat” instead of “THE worn” coat misleading that it is 1/1, which it is not. From your informative article with a rack of coats, it is clear to anyone who knows photo-matching, that there are many different coats. If you pull a split screen of Bonham’s pics and scroll through many of Falk/Columbo in Google Images, zoom into the coat and you will see different color buttons, random placements, light brown, darker brown and lose threads in various parts of the coats. This is much more than just lighting, aging, wardrobe. So again, more than one coat in the original run is clear.

    So what kept me from bidding? I was in talks with Bonham’s to try and buy the coat, but they seem clueless to specific details in every way. I have been very skeptical with their pricing structure. From $80k to $120k, then all the way down to the June 2018 $30k/$50k with only $20k bid. They threw up random screen shots from the series, without investing effort to match it.

    As for the shoes/boots, I was able to see more of what is called photo-referencing. Which means the general resemblance to the boot style/laces/etc.. is evident, but no clear matches from onscreen. Hope this helps with some informative info. I’ll keep my eyes open for Bonham’s to properly adjust the auction title and details. Feel free to use my above info to research Case of Immunity and the Bonham’s coat. Hopefully they will see this and take a more serious approach to match it. More so, I hope it finds a good long-term home in a museum with pics of him in the coat next to it.

  6. “That coat, that coat, that coat”…! Best columbophile blog entry ever! Thanks for the laughs!

  7. I would expect the raincoat to be kept out of sight for sometime..its been overegged for so long the unfortunate garment has become a bit of an omelette……let it RIP like Mrs Columbo…..

  8. Hilarious take Columbophile! especially the shoes for 16-17 dollars.
    Outfit hasn’t sold because SOME men do not want to look like an unmade bed!

  9. OK. Let’s set up a crowd-source funding site. I’m good for $20. I expect to have the coat for 20 days, then get it again 29980 days later. Question though: Am I allowed to wear it?

  10. Many times at these auctions, people buy who already have another buyer in mind. If they don’t , they will hold off buying because they can’t resell. Many years ago I read an article in, I believe TV Guide where they discussed the multiple raincoats. As you pointed out, that would also affect a buyer.
    Great blog

  11. On the back of the Janet Leigh portrait, I’d be interested to know what happened to the portrait of ‘Mrs Melville’ and the portrait of Columbo as ‘painted by Mr Barsini’… in Murder, a self portrait.

  12. Wouldn’t it be appropriate for the Smithsonian to add it to their collection? That way, it can be admired by everyone for all time!


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