BusinessHow much is Donald Trump's hair worth?
Mozart's locks are going up for auction at Sotheby's, making us wonder which factors make celebrity hair a worthy investment. As a barometer, we had Donald Trump's infamous hair appraised by experts.
Breaking news in famous hair! Today we learned that a lock of Mozart’s hair will be going up for auction for an estimated £12,000 ($18,500). Given the $115,000 precedent already set by Elvis, we wondered where this number comes from. What are the relevant factors when it comes to evaluating the price of follicles? Does hair notoriety alone increase value, or should hair represent a significant contribution to culture? What about authenticity, volume, and aesthetic? As a barometer, we asked auction experts and critics to appraise Donald Trump's infamous head ornament.
BAS, MPPA, Master personal property appraiser for Treasure Quest Group, Inc.
One of the things that we do as auctioneers and appraisers is look for comparables in the marketplace. Elvis Presley holds the record for follicles at auction for $115,000. John Lennon, Justin Bieber… all of these entertainers have been seeing skyrocketing values. Even politicians. I'm sure you saw Lincoln, Washington, JFK, even Neil Armstrong's hair has sold at auction. It comes down to desirability, iconic recognition of the individual and being sure that you can verify that this is the person's hair because the provenance and the background are the most important thing.
Donald Trump is part of the popular culture, but his signatures only bring between $100-$250 at auction. His best-selling books at auction recently went unsold. I would think his hair would do a little better, but looking at those factors, I don't think those follicles are going to be in the running with Elvis or Mozart… I think people would like it, but it's more of a novelty.
I don't think it would bring more than $1000 at auction. It might be different if it were for a charity, though. He's very philanthropic.
Famous Lock Prices:
Elvis Presley - $115,000
Che Guevara - $100,000
John Lennon - $48,000
Justin Bieber - $40,668
Abraham Lincoln - $38,837
Babe Ruth - $38,000
Horatio Nelson - $12,000
Jane Austen - $8,500
Ulysses S. Grant - $5,975
George Washington - $5,581
Bob Marley -$3,930
Neil Armstrong - $3,000
Michael Jackson - $1,700
Mother Theresa - $400
Art critic, Founder and Editor of Art F City
To establish hair value you must first consider how much of it came from the same place. For example, if it comes from the shower or a brush it's disgusting and worthless, if it's a lock plucked from a full head of hair it's magical and priceless. Next you must determine whether the hair is virginesque. Has it been dyed, straightened or permed before? If so, that knocks down the price considerably.
Now, think about this valuation criteria together, and ask yourself how much of Donald Trump's hair can be collected as a lock and whether any of it is real in the first place. You're probably buying strands of used hair. I'd appraise the value of that at nothing.
Managing director of Heritage Auctions, New York Office
The biggest question regarding a lock of hair would be the chain of provenance: how is the item documented as authentic? Definitely! With that being said, a lock of hair from a famous celebrity or political has always been of macabre interest. At Heritage we have sold a lock of Che Guevera’s hair for over $100,000, General JEB Stuart’s hair for almost $50,000 and a lock of Lincoln’s hair for $40,000. A more modern example would be a lock of Monroe’s hair for $5,000. Should [Mozart's hair] come to auction, it is often speculative what price it brings since such an example is rare. While a presale estimate might be $10,000-$15,000, this could bring in a lot more.
Donald Trump's hair would stand out for me like the impresario Don King. As a measure of value, I would have to use a Trump signature which brings $100-$150.
So at this time, I would speculate on his hair as not being very hair raising.
AAA, ISA-AM, USPAP, Founder of Carolina Ashleigh Associates at AppraiseYourArt.com
As an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow, I had numerous items, such as this, come to me on the show. One which comes to mind was a lock of hair of Abraham Lincoln, which I was asked to appraise. Unfortunately, the only way to give a definitive assessment as to the origin and value of such items is to do scientific testing, or DNA testing, which is time consuming and expensive. In the case of Mozart, it would also be imperative to have an verified existing example of his DNA in which to compare the subject lock of hair which is going to auction. Absent that, it would boil down to the object's provenance, which in the case of a lock of hair, would be far more difficult to accurately establish than through DNA testing.
I seem to recall that in 2002, Sotheby’s sold another lock of Mozart’s hair, which set a record price of approximately £38,000, more than double the pre-sale estimate. If this lock of Mozart's hair can be proven to be correct, I believe it could bring approximately $20k.
Relative to Donald Trump's locks, applying the criteria that I mentioned [see right], I feel they would probably sell at auction in the range of: $150-200
Some of the factors that enter into evaluation of objects at auctions according Caroline Ashleigh:
How old is it?
How rare is it?
Is it genuine?
Is it in good condition?
Does it tell a story?