Hollywood Treasures: Syfy's New Documentary-reality Series

Joe MaddalenaHollywood Treasure, one of Syfy's new documentary-reality series, follows Joe Maddalena, owner of Profiles in History, as he searches for Hollywood memorabilia. He deals in all kinds of Hollywood treasures, including original props and costumes from movies and television.

On the show Maddalena and his team travel the world tracking down rare and highly valued collectibles of Hollywood history. At the conclusion of the episodes they auction of the items to collectors.

In a recent press tour in Orlando, Florida, Maddalena sat down, along with Mark Stern, to talk about his new show, which premieres October 27th on Syfy, and to show off some of his favorite items.

MARK STERN: So I think, Joe, just before we start, do you want to just give us a bit of an overview and "Profiles in History" and what you do?

JOE MADDALENA: Yeah. I've been a dealer of historical documents for 26 years. Letters of Jefferson, Beethoven, and Mozart. And then in 1996 we started selling Hollywood props and memorabilia basically when the field didn't exist. So I've been doing both these things for the past 26 years.

MARK STERN: Great. Okay. Any questions for Joe?

Joe MaddalenaQUESTION: With the Mary Poppins bag, can you talk about how you find these items such as this and other ones, how you come in contact with them?

JOE MADDALENA: Yeah. The Mary Poppins bag was a fantastic story. The family that had it kind of was doing a search on their own to try to find out what it was worth. And they went to a blogger, who referred them to me. And this kid, Eric Rosen -- I think he's in his early twenties -- called up and said, "You know, we inherited this bag." And you're always a little skeptical. "Where did you get it?" And back in the day when Mary Poppins came out, part of the marketing campaign was they were working with Kraft, which was one of their big advertisers, and they basically gave the bag away in a raffle. The bag was full of cash back then. It was stuffed with hundred-dollar bills. So the family won it, and one relative took the cash; the other relative took the bag. So all these years later, the guy called up and said, "You know, this is really the bag." So you're always skeptical. Flew out, looked at the bag. And because the bag is made of carpet, it's actually -- the way it's constructed, no two would ever be the same. So it was easy to go back and screen-match it and actually match up the pattern of the bag. And it's definitely the bag. And we estimated it at 10- to $15,000, and it sold for $95,000. So that's what we do. We travel all over the world, and we look for these objects that are lost because, see, most people know if you have a coin, a baseball card, a stamp, by now you've taken it out and sold it. People know it's worth something. This stuff, other than comic books, people have no idea still. There are so many people who have these things in their homes. They just have no idea what they're worth.

QUESTION: Hi. I'd like to know what is your dream item that you'd love to find.

JOE MADDALENA: My dream item is the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. There's a fable -- we don't know how many pairs they actually made. There could have been five or six pairs. Four of them are accounted for. There's a rumor that Toto ate one pair on the set, and there's possibly another pair. So my quest is to find a pair of the ruby slippers. They've eluded me.

QUESTION: What's been your favorite thing that you've found and also that's been sold for the most money?

JOE MADDALENA: The thing I've sold for the most money is Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion costume. I sold that for, I think, $865,000. What's the favorite thing? Geesh, that's a tough one. I think my favorite experience was -- I'm a huge fan of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. And years ago I sought Veruca, who is Julie Dawn Cole, and I sought her out, and we started emailing. And I bought her Willy Wonka collection. It was probably one of the coolest things because they came directly from her. And to get all the stories and all the -- when you get something directly from a source like that -- you know, her birthday was in the middle -- her 13th birthday was in the middle of filming Willy Wonka. And they gave her a lot of these things as a birthday present. So she had the only Everlasting Gobstopper. That was pretty cool.


MARK STERN: It really is everlasting.

JOE MADDALENA: It is. It's everlasting.


MARK STERN: Any questions?

Superman ComicQUESTION: Actually, I really want to know about the Superman comic book right there.

JOE MADDALENA: You want to know about the comic book?


JOE MADDALENA: Okay. So Superman was created by Simon & Schuster in the '30s. Basically it was a fanzine. DC Comics put out a book called Action number 1, which is the origin and first appearance of Superman about six months before this book. It became so popular that they spun it off and gave Superman his own comic book. So this is not the first appearance, but the number one issue of Superman. It's an unrestored comic book. In the '80s there was this craze to restore everything, especially comic books. So very few survive that are unrestored. This company -- actually, is based here in Florida -- CGC graded this book. It's the eighth best copy in the world unrestored. An Action 1 in this grade would be worth about a million dollars. This is worth about a hundred thousand dollars. So you can buy it.

QUESTION: I was just curious about Hollywood Treasure itself. Is this something that you approached Syfy about doing? Did Syfy come to you? What was kind of the genesis of bringing this all together?

JOE MADDALENA: For years I've done lots of television, and people are always like, "Wow, you should have your own show." And I was fortunate that -- years ago I used to do a show Incurable Collector with Herst [phonetic]. And Shevick*Zupon, the production company that produces my show for Syfy, Jerry Shevick came to me -- and I hadn't talked to him in ten years -- and was like, "Hey, we should get together and see what you're up to." And they basically came up with the idea of doing a show around my auction.

MARK STERN: So they shot some footage of Joe. We saw it and immediately, I think, knew it was the right kind of show for us. We'd been looking to expand our reality in general. And I think you definitely want to be very mindful of the type of show you're going to do, that it feels right for our genre. And this was just one of those perfect fits.

QUESTION: Have you come across anything yet that you wanted to keep for yourself?

JOE MADDALENA: Yes. When I was -- it must have been ten years ago. Felix Silla, who was -- Buck Rogers; okay? So there was Twiki. I don't know if you guys remember Twiki or not, but he was Buck Rogers' little sidekick, a robot. And Felix Silla came to the office, and he was Twiki. He was actually the guy inside the costume. My son, at the time, was 6, and he was this big. And Felix was this big, so they immediately bonded. So my son said, "We have to get this costume, Dad." So in my office I have Twiki. Felix sold it to us. And around his neck is Theopolis, the robot that ran the planet, the brain. So that's something I would never sell. It's just one of my favorite things.

Joe MaddalenaMARK STERN: Is there something you've sold that you really wish you could have kept for yourself but you couldn't afford?

JOE MADDALENA: Everything is -- I like. That's the hardest part. But what I do for a living, what I always tell people is, it's not like I'm serving some great dinner and it's gone. It's all going to live on. The person that bought the "Mary Poppins" bag, it's still out there. I have a shot some day at getting it back or maybe not. But at least you know where the things go on. These things are going to outlive all of us. And that's the great part about what I do. There will be another life yet to come for these be collectibles. Sometimes I'll get back things two and three times over a 15-year time period. It's really interesting. And some things I never see again.

MARK STERN: Questions?

QUESTION: Have you had an item that has been most requested that you haven't run across yet?

JOE MADDALENA: Oh, yeah. The number one -- I could never sell it. The number one requested item is an Iron Man costume. I get that once a day. I represent the Stan Winston family. So when Stan was alive, I was selling a lot of his Jurassic Park and Terminator things. And when Stan passed away, I was fortunate; the family basically had me take over the estate for them. And I managed their assets, so obviously I'm the person to go to [for] Iron Man. But you can't get them. But that, by far -- I would think a Tony Stark hero Iron Man costume worn by Robert Downey would bring $500,000.

QUESTION: How much work goes into making sure the item is actually real and not a replica?

JOE MADDALENA: A lot of work. We're based in Los Angeles, so we work with a lot of people in the film industry. One of the great parts about what we have is we've built this network of prop makers, costume designers. And they're out there. So when we do have a question, we go out there. Most of the people are alive or close enough they worked for one of the houses that built these things. So when we're in doubt, we actually go right to the sources.

MARK STERN: And I think authentication is actually a big part -- you'll see it in our show. It's a big part of that show because it is -- there are times when things come in and you have to figure out where it came from.

JOE MADDALENA: Yeah, where they came from, because -- like the Mary Poppins bag, we couldn't verify the guy's story. We couldn't find anywhere on the Internet that this raffle ever took place. So, you know -- but because it was an obscure thing, there probably was no article written. So, a lot more work had to go into it. We spent three months authenticating the Mary Poppins bag. So you'll see it on the show, but a lot of work goes into it. We sold the Wicked Witch's hat from the Wizard of Oz. That was sold in 1970 at the MGM auction when they liquidated the lot. Then it was resold in 19, I think, '89 at Sotheby's in New York. Then we recently sold it for $230,000. So some of these things have built-in pedigree and providence, and some don't.

MARK STERN: I think the other thing that I love about this show, which is kind of different from a lot of -- like, Pawn Stars or American Pickers is you actually see how much those things are worth as opposed to what they're valued at. You get the luxury, I guess -- at the end of every episode, you really do see what that object was sold for. And I think that's really satisfying. In fact, you guys have an auction at Universal on November 6th.

JOE MADDALENA: Yeah, November 6th. It's a great thing we're doing. We're working with Variety, which is a children's charity of Southern California for at-risk and abused kids. And they've reached out to a lot of the studios. And we've got some great things from Tron and Narnia and a lot of contemporary films, G.I. Joe, that we're selling. But the biggest thing we're doing is we're working with Michael J. Fox's foundation, Team Fox, to raise money for Parkinson's. This Sports Almanac -- probably a lot of you know what it is -- was one of the plot devices of Back to the Future. This was Bob Gale's copy; okay? This was actually the copy that Biff took out of the DeLorean and altered time, and Biff became the zillionaire that Biff became. So Bob Gale donated this very almanac, and it's being sold to benefit Michael J. Fox's foundation, among a lot of other things, November 6. So if you guys like to collect things, great opportunity.

Golden TicketMARK STERN: What are some of the other things you have on that table?

JOE MADDALENA: I'm just the biggest Willy Wonka fan. So Julie Dawn Cole, when she was 13, was Veruca Salt. She was allowed to take some things home. And she took home her golden ticket. So to me, it's one of the greatest plot devices of one of the greatest films ever made because you sit there for that 90 minutes of great television -- of movie, and you watch them shucking candy bars to get this spoiled girl her ticket. And these are the iconic things. These are what collectors like. People always say, "Why do people buy these things?" They're buying their memories. It's nostalgia. They're buying things that made them happy. And this is a great moment in a great film.

QUESTION: I'm also curious; I know, like, probably up until, I don't know, like, maybe ten years ago, it seemed that a lot of times when you had productions, whether it be television or movies, usually once they struck the sets, you tossed things. They'd end up in dumpsters. Like I believe the set of -- the original Enterprise bridge was, like, sitting outside of UCLA, weathering out. Is it easier, now that you have a lot of programs such that when they strike sets -- I know Stargate did that. They strike sets, and all of a sudden they save everything that they think might have some value. Does that help in your business in trying to collect collectibles? Because I'm assuming that stuff from older times is a lot harder to get because a lot of it got tossed.

JOE MADDALENA: Yeah, well, and funny you mention Star Trek. I got a phone call from George Takei, who is a good friend. And he said, "Hey, I was at this convention, met this woman. She says her husband has the Enterprise Captain Kirk's chair." And he's like, "Sounds legitimate." So George and I went up to this house in Pacoima. We walk in, and there it is sitting there, the Enterprise chair. What happened was they had given all the set to UCLA. And when they drove it over, UCLA people came out and said, "We don't want this junk," and they literally put it out on the curb. So this guy took it home and used it as his bar chair.


And he's a big Irish guy, and he used to sit in his bar, look over the Pacoima, little valley, his ravine, and would drink his shots. And --

MARK STERN: And say, "Engage."

JOE MADDALENA: "Engage." So I sold this chair for $306,000. But the studios now absolutely -- you've got to realize the studios, by nature, when they broke up the studios in the '60s and '70s, got rid of everything. Fox became Century City. The MGM lot was completely sold off. So they sold off all their assets when they broke up the studios. So inherently not a lot survived. It went out there. So a lot of these things were sold, so we're tracking those down. But I think now the studios are much more aware of their heritage and the histories. They have a lot more active archives where they are archiving things and actually buying things back for their archives because they're realizing how important their history is to them.

Joe MaddalenaQUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about where the proceeds from the auctions go to?

JOE MADDALENA: Well, like for this auction, the proceeds from the first third of it go to the Variety children's charity, Southern California. The Michael J. Fox proceeds go to benefit his foundation for Parkinson's. But our normal auctions, the money goes to the consigner, whether it's a studio -- like six weeks ago I sold all the assets for Lost. It was the most successful probably -- it was probably the most successful auction of its kind that's ever taken place. We broke so many world records. We got $47,000 for a Dharma van. It was incredible. So in that regard I know they gave a percentage of the proceeds to Hawaiian charities. But every situation is different. We'll get -- going back to Star Trek, when I found the Enterprise chair, I met this guy named Matt Jeffries. Matt was the set decorator and basically this designer of all the sets for the original series. And Matt decided to sell his collection. Right before the catalog went to the printer, Matt called me up, and he said, "I don't know what to do." I'm like, "What?" He goes, "I don't want the money." So the auctioneer's biggest fear is he's going to cancel the auction. I'm like, "What are you talking about?" So he's like, "I just don't feel right about it." So Matt and I basically came up with a plan, and we built the Matt and Marian Jeffries Cancer Ward for Motion Picture Retirement Home with all the assets from his auction. So it just really depends on the consigner.

MARK STERN: I want that little Uhura's, like, thing that she had in her ear.

JOE MADDALENA: We sold one of those. It was, like, $40,000. That's one of the things we look for on the show is we're reaching out to a lot of these celebrities who were on these hit television shows. We're going back and visiting people, like Dawn Wells, and just basically, "Hey, what did you keep? What did you have? Who did you work with in production that might have had something?" I had Nichelle Nichols one day call up, who was Uhura, and she said, "You know, I know you sold everybody else's stuff, but, Joe, I don't think I have anything." She goes, "But come out to the house anyway." She lives close to the office. We went through her house, and she had nothing. And as I'm leaving, we're in the garage. And I said, "You have nothing?" And she's like, "Scripts. I have scripts." So we're digging around in her garage, and we start pulling out boxes of scripts. She had every script from every episode of the original Star Trek series, every one, all her scripts from the movies. She kept everything and didn't really think about it. We sold her script collection for $46,000. So that's kind of the fun of the show.

QUESTION: I was actually just wondering, have you heard from anyone that's tried the Dharma beer from the Lost auction?


Also, what were you surprised about that sold really well in that Lost auction?

JOE MADDALENA: When we were -- I was really lucky. I'm a Lost fan, so when I got this job a year -- over a year and a half ago, I spent most of Season 6 in Hawaii, working with the production. So I was there on the set of an active production. So it was really interesting, that part of it. And as we're archiving this stuff and cataloging it, it was constantly being used because of flashforwards, flash-sidewayses. You never know in the storyline where something is going to go. So I find a little bag of Dharma matchbooks. They're literally this big. There were 13 of them left. So I put them in a lot, and my son said to me, "You're out of your mind." And I'm like, "They're going to sell." He goes, "There's not a shot." So I put them in at 100 to 200 dollars. So I think he was at a football game that night, so as they sold, I called him and said, "$1,900." But I mean, that was what it was about. The fans of that show, they were just passionate. So when you break it down to that, I think we got what? $5,000 for 12 cans of beer? So they had a good party.


Costume from QUESTION: After a lot of the shows and movies, when they wrap, you're seeing a lot of these actions that go -- some go to charities. Some go to different events. Does that help or does it hinder the overall value down the road?

JOE MADDALENA: Everything helps because it brings awareness to what I'm doing. It's just a matter of what you're collecting, because a lot of the times, they're selling stuff, where you're just kind of getting background pieces. Most of the people, when you're selling things for the bigger, high-ticket items, they've got to be more iconic. They've got to be primary wardrobe or main set pieces or main props and stuff. So that's always the challenge because usually that's what the studio wants to keep. So when archives goes in after a production, they'll pick out the hero wardrobe. They'll pick out the great props. And kind of what's left is secondary things. So it's kind of a tough thing because it's not really what is the most commercial, but it's good because it satisfies another portion of the market.

QUESTION: I have a friend that works in, like, costuming at Paramount. She's talked a lot about how they sort of break up old props and stuff to make new props. Like the Cleopatra crown that Liz Taylor wore, she's found that they've used it to piece together to make other spots of jewelry. Have you come across a lot of, like, partial Hollywood treasures and --

JOE MADDALENA: Oh, absolutely. Western Costume is one of the biggest costume companies in the world. And even to this very day, there will be people going in -- production will go in saying, "We need a black tuxedo." There's a mile of them. And every now and then they'll find one with "Clark Gable" in the pocket because a lot of this stuff has been reused and reused and reused. It's the nature of how television and movies work. So we had a lady -- we did an appraisal clinic for our show, and this woman came in and said, "You know, in the '70s I worked at Warner Bros. They had a tag sale. My husband was a pilot, so I bought him this cool aviation hat. We always wondered about it. It had this Warner Bros. label inside." Well, the label said "Charles Lindbergh Story, Jimmy Stewart." So this was the actual aviator hat that he wore in the film. We video-matched it in screen caption, and it's the hat. There's a perfect example. It just was probably sold on the table for a dollar.

You can catch two back-to-back half-hour episodes of Hollywood Treasure starting Wednesday, October 27th at 10pm eastern. Also, check back soon for another interview with Joe Maddalena.

Latest Articles