Attention Prince fans: Some former Paisley Park staffers are selling a big block of the little man’s items in an online auction this month, though not with the approval of his estate or the current Paisley Park regime.
The 119-item sell-off from Boston-based memorabilia auctioneer RR Auction includes everything from a white lace jacket worn in the movie “Under the Cherry Moon” — estimated at $25,000 in value — to handwritten notes and rare records said to be worth $200.
With another nationally televised all-star tribute on tap for Sunday’s Grammy Awards, the continued reverence for the Minneapolis legend is adding to his star power in the celebrity auction world.
RR Auction’s executive vice president, Bobby Livingston, believes Prince rarities and especially personalized items will fetch top dollar among collectors because, he said, “The guy kept everything.”
“There’s not a lot of material out there,” Livingston said. “He didn’t sign a lot of autographs. His [rare] stuff was expensive even when he was still alive.”
Case in point: A test pressing of a 1986 record that never saw the light of day, “Camille,” sold for $20,000 last fall via Livingston’s auction site after it got written up in Rolling Stone.
The seller of that album, Karen Krattinger, worked a variety of jobs for Prince including production coordinator in the mid-1980s. While she said she feels privileged to have worked for him — “It was an amazing time” — she likened the items she sold off as “just things I took home from work.”
“This stuff was sitting in my attic for 30 years, and I always intended to sell it just to downsize,” Krattinger said.
When she saw the emotional response worldwide to his death, she said she “decided it was time to share all of it with his fans.”
A personal assistant for Prince from 1986-1996, Therese Stoulil, owns a majority of the items currently for sale. She thinks her old boss would actually get a kick out of the auctions.
“He was very competitive,” said Stoulil, who now lives in Tucson, Ariz. “I think he’d be tickled pink to see how much [money] this stuff can fetch.”
Foremost among that “stuff” is the frilly lace jacket (think Seinfeld puffy shirt with lapels). Stoulil said Prince gave it to her one day when they were getting ready to store a bunch of his goods up in the rafters at Paisley Park.
“I said to him, ‘This is beautiful. You can’t just put this in a box up in the rafters!’ ” Stoulil recalled. “He looked at me and goes, ‘You want it? You take care of it.’ ”
Stoulil also said she was convinced it was time to sell many of her items when his death reiterated “what he meant to so many people around the world,” she said. “I just thought, ‘Somebody else is going to cherish it more than I am.’ I still have my memories to cherish.”
Among the more noteworthy objects up for bidding in the current auction, which runs through Thursday:
• eight-page employment contract Prince signed with Water Productions to star as The Kid in a movie called “Purple Rain” (estimated value: $15,000)
• doodle-adorned, incoherent letter that late jazz legend Miles Davis wrote to Prince asking, “When do we record?” ($1,500)
• acceptance speech addressed to presenter Kylie Minogue for the 1993 Brit Awards, where he won for best international artist but could not attend ($2,500)
• cassette of music he made exclusively for a Versace fashion show in Paris in 1995 ($4,500)
• Versace-designed rhinestone walking cane ($8,000)
• thank-you note to photographer Herb Ritts that says, “I’m sure we did good stuff.” ($1,500)
• warning sign he wrote on notebook paper: “Do not enter by penalty of death!” ($600)
Current representatives at Paisley Park declined to comment for this story. Now in the business of curating and exhibiting Prince, the singer’s recording and rehearsal facility in Chanhassen was officially rezoned as a museum last fall.
When a group of about 40 former Paisley staffers came to town to tour their old workplace in November, Krattinger said she earned a “negative response” from a staffer at the studio-turned-museum in Chanhassen about her previous auction items. The alumni were made to pay for the tour like everyone else, she said, and were not given any special access to see their old offices.
“Prince treated us all with so much respect,” Krattinger said, remembering, “He would give things to people who worked there and say, ‘This is your 401(k).’ ”
Music blogger Jeremiah Freed — who runs the fan site Dr. Funkenberry and Prince seemed to trust — pointed to negative reaction to the auction among the singer’s hard-core fans online, but he did not strongly object to it himself.
“Prince had issues with stuff like this when he was on Earth and would find a way to purchase the items, work out an agreement, or shut them down,” Freed said. “The new reality is that he is no longer [here], and in some way, the sellers didn’t do this when he was here out of respect.”
Freed said he hopes the memorabilia “ends up in the hands of someone who will cherish it.”
RR Auction’s founder predictably hyped this current bundle of items as “maybe the biggest we’ll ever see,” but he also predicted that the demand for Prince collectibles will be long-term.
“It’s too early to say for sure,” Livingston said, “but right now, it’s intense.”