Opening Bids: Small World

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For the last three decades, a Disneyland fan in Southern California has been quietly amassing one of the largest collections on the theme park outside of the Walt Disney Archives and the Walt Disney Family Museum. On February 28 and March 1, he offered it all up at auction: nearly 900 lots representing the history of Disneyland, with items ranging from opening-day press kits and Grad Night tickets to character costume heads, props from the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Enchanted Tiki Room, posters and signs, concept sketches, and endless other ephemera. 

The sale, at Van Eaton Galleries in Los Angeles, attracted 150 Disney-obsessed attendees each day, in addition to 1,000 online and telephone bidders. “It’s a reaction going back to their childhood,” said bidder Barry Koper, who applied Tim Allen’s makeup for Disney’s three Santa Clause movies and currently is a contributing writer for Disneyana Update magazine. “No matter what age you are, [Disney] makes you a kid again.”

The live sale attracted Disney employees, present and past, as well as Disney fanatics from around the country. The bidders included Tony Anselmo, the voice of Donald Duck; Rebecca Cline, the director of the Walt Disney Archives; and the legendary Imagineer Bob Gurr, the principal designer of Disneyland’s Monorail. The collector was there, too, a low-key presence in the back of the room. 

The two-day sale achieved an impressive 92 percent sell-through rate and raked in more than $1.7 million, a result the gallery founder Mike Van Eaton attributes to the uniqueness of the individual pieces. “A lot of these items,” he said, “you will never see again.”