By Christopher A. Pape
The business of antiques and ‘treasure hunting’ is huge. Joseph Maddalena, CEO and founder of the famed auction house ‘Profiles in History’ and star of Hollywood Treasures, on the Syfy channel, is the leading expert on finding and preserving treasures of the big screen. From Dorothy’s ruby slippers to Kate Winslet’s dress in the Titanic, he is the master at hunting down these rare objects.
Joseph sat down with us to discuss his show, his career and the upcoming sale of rare historical documents that is taking place in the city on December 18th. The whole time he was informative, outgoing and intriguing to speak to. I hope you enjoy the piece as much as I liked interviewing him.
Resident (R): Tell us about the show, Hollywood Treasures.
Joseph Maddalena (JM): The show is a docu-reality series that follows my life as I travel the world tracking down Hollywood’s lost treasures. Most people don’t understand that you have to go back to the ‘60s and the ‘70s when the structure of how the big studios changed; it was the end of the era of contract players and the large studios went bankrupt and liquidated a lot of their assets. All of theses great lots like MGM and Fox sold off most of their props and costumes. MGM had the famous sale in 1970 where they liquidated everything on the lot; these pieces are scattered to the winds, all over the world because people bought them for so many different reasons.
Costume shops would buy 10,000 garments for their stores not even knowing what they were buying: “Oh this is Clark Gabble’s!” We’ve become detectives to find where these pieces ended up because they are just everywhere.
R: I know you come from a family of antique dealers, but how did you get into the Hollywood antique business?
JM: When I got out of college I had to figure out a way to support myself and at the time, in Hollywood, there were these great old bookstores. I quickly realized that there was a large price difference from what they sold for on the West Coast to what they sold for on the East Coast. I was able to make 20 to 30 percent by just finding items out west and selling it to dealers in the east. Out of the blue, I got a call from this guy saying: “We are going to start up a business called Planet Hollywood could you help us?” I said sure, because they knew I had a large collection of Hollywood items and I had to start sourcing out material for them and that really kick started my career.
R: Tell me about the format of the show.
JM: The show has been on for two and half years. When we get a lead - for example we hear chitty chitty bang bang is in England, we get on a plane and fly there and see if we can get the person to let us sell it for them. The show helps us find material; it’s great.
R: What’s the most fascinating item you’ve found?
JM: Last year, we sold the ruby slippers that Dorothy wore in the Wizard of OZ and those are now at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. That is probably the most famous thing we have ever sold.
R: How did you find them?
JM: In 1970, when MGM was liquidating, they sold off a few pairs of the slippers and the archivist kept this pair and it was the famous witches pair when the house drops on the witch you can see that the heel is about a quarter of an inch taller than all of the other slippers. These were the beauty pair; all of the other pairs had felt bottoms for when Judy danced they wouldn’t make sound. This pair we sold, was previously sold at Christie’s in 1982 and it was my client who bought them.
R: You also auction off letters of famous individuals, tell us about that.
JM: Yes, thats’ basically the first business I got into before I began collecting and selling Hollywood items. These are letters of Beethoven all the way to Lincoln; they are some of the most important letters in world history. This collection that we are selling on December 18th is one of the most significant collections of content. They are first hand accounts of events. From Little Big Horn to Charles Darwin organizing his orchids for his book, this collection is just mind-boggling. And I am pround to present it. •
Extraordinary Vincent van Gogh Handwritten Letter Goes
On Display Next Week At
Douglas Elliman’s Madison Avenue Gallery
Other Remarkable Letters To Be Featured From The World’s
Greatest Collection Of Manuscripts Include:
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams,
Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway,
John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe and more....
The Collection Will Be On Exhibit:
December 3rd - December 9
More information can found at:
Profiles in History is global in nature and bids are accepted via internet, phone, or in person.