Top 20 Moments of 2023

Julien's Auctions 20th Anniversary: A Look Back at 2023

January 26, 2024

As the year 2023 draws to a close, Julien’s Auctions’ year-long 20th anniversary celebration in the industry, concludes in an extraordinary record-breaking year that realized three new world records, massive audience growth, million dollar sales of the most legendary guitars in rock history and viral headlines around the world for their premium auctions including their recent news making sale of Princess Diana’s $1.1 million dress.

Here are the top 20 reasons why Julien’s Auctions was the buzziest, most talked about auction house in 2023.

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1. Star of the Year: Princess Diana’s Celestial Dress

On December 17th, Julien's Auctions and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) made royal and auction history with their Hollywood Legends sale of Princess Diana’s Jacques Azagury 1985 ballerina-length celestial designed evening dress that she wore in Florence, Italy April 23, 1985 that sold for an astounding $1,148,080 eleven times its original estimate. With this sale, Julien’s now holds the new world record for most expensive dress worn by Princess Diana sold at auction (previous auction record was $604,800).

2. Eric Clapton Guitar Electrifies

Eric Clapton’s “The Fool” guitar-his circa 1964 Gibson SG electric guitar, first stage-played by the legendary guitarist while touring the United States with iconic rock band Cream, and famously known as Clapton’s “Fool,” sold for $1.27 million at Julien’s Auctions. It was the first time a Clapton guitar sold for seven figures at auction and set a world record for the highest price for a Clapton guitar sold at auction. The guitar was acquired by The Jim Irsay Collection in Indianapolis at the Hard Rock Cafe® Nashville on November 16th during their three-day Played, Worn & Torn: Rock n’ Roll Iconic Guitars and Memorabilia auction event.

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3. Denim Dream: Kurt Cobain's Levi’s Jeans

On November 17th Julien’s Auctions sold Kurt Cobain's photo-matched stage-worn "Heart-Shaped Box" video-worn and MTV Awards event-worn Levi's jeans for $412,750, 40 times over its original estimate of $10,000, setting a new world record for the most expensive Levi jeans ever sold at auction.

4. Kurt Cobain’s Last Performance Nirvana 1993 - 1994 In Utero Tour Guitar Encore

On the heels of its $1.27 million sale of Eric Clapton's iconic "Fool" guitar, Julien's Auctions sold on November 17th, the highly anticipated "Skystang I," played by Kurt Cobain during his final public performance during Nirvana's 1993 - 1994 In Utero tour, for $1,587,500. The guitar was acquired by Mitsuru Sato a Japan based businessman who plans to open a cafe with museum style exhibitions to display the Skystang I, along with other famous musical instruments.

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5. E.T. Went Home & Lost In Space Model B-9 "The Robot" Returns

One of the world’s most famous and beloved aliens in Hollywood history– E.T. The Extra Terrestrial–went home to a lucky bidder at "Robots, Wizards, Heroes & Aliens: Contemporary Hollywood Auction, Part I" December 14th, day one of Julien’s four-day Hollywood Legends blockbuster. An original hero mechanical animatronic E.T. head created by the legendary Carlo Rambaldi and as seen throughout Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extra Terrestrial sold for an astounding $635,000.

One of the most legendary robots of all time (and one of only two full-scale figures made and still functional), Model B-9 "The Robot" from the pioneering science fiction series of the 1960s, Lost In Space was the second big headliner of day one of Julien’s four-day Hollywood Legends which sold for $455,000.

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6. The Dude Abides...

On December 16, Julien’s celebrated the 25th anniversary of the classic comedy masterpiece The Big Lebowski which netted a righteous amount of $799,943 with items sold from the Coen Brothers film including Jeff Bridges’ iconic “The Dude” shirt and robe ensemble ($169,000), sunglasses ($88,900), film set bowling ball return signed by Jeff Bridges, signed commemorative bowling pins as well as the collection of J. Todd Anderson’s storyboards from each scene of the film.

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7. Princess Diana’s Iconic Blouse Reigned

Princess Diana’s celestial Jacques Azagury dress was not the only famous piece from her wardrobe that caused a stir at the Hollywood Legends auction on December 17th. Her blush pink chiffon Emanuels designed blouse worn in one of Diana’s most iconic images–her 1981 portrait for her engagement to Prince Charles captured by Lord Snowden and used as an official engagement photograph that was featured in the February 1981 issue of Vogue sold for a royal sum of $381,000.

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8. Second Highest Selling Bass in Auction History

On December 7th in Dallas, ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill's signature 1953 Fender Precision bass guitar, the most played instrument by Hill out of all the guitars in this collection was sold by Julien's Auctions for $393,700, nearly three times its estimate. The bass served as his go-to stage guitar for numerous ZZ Top live performances and in the studio until Dusty retired the bass in 2012. The sale of this signature Fender is now the second highest sold bass guitar at auction behind Paul McCartney's Yamaha BB-1200 bass sold in 2021 and in front of Bill Wyman's Fender Mustang sold in 2020. Hill's wife, "Chuck," commented regarding the sale, "Dusty would be so pleased to know his bass is between a Beatle and a Rolling Stone!"

9. A Trio of Princess Diana’s Gowns Dazzle

The phenomenon of Princess Diana and interest in her reign captivated the world with this year’s series finale of The Crown and her sons William and Harry and the Royal family in the spotlight while her influential fashions broke records at auction. Three of Diana’s iconic ensembles made headlines at Julien’s and TCM presents Hollywood & Royalty December 7th with the sale of Princess Diana’s custom-made gowns by two of her favorite designers: a red Bruce Oldfield silk gown worn by Princess Diana to the world premiere of Hot Shots on November 18, 1991 ($571,500); a gala worn Catherine Walker bi-color gown worn in Toronto, Canada on October 26, 1991 ($571,500); and a custom-made black velvet and ivory gown, designed by Catherine Walker, that was worn by Princess Diana to a private event ($508,000).

10. Kurt Cobain’s Smashed Nirvana Nevermind Era Fender Stratocaster Rocked Again

On May 20th a lefty black Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, smashed by Kurt Cobain, during Nirvana's seminal Nevermind era was sold by Julien's Auctions at their Music Icons event for an astounding $595,000 nearly ten times its original estimate of $60,000. The reassembled but unplayable guitar was signed by all three members of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl, with additional inscriptions to Mark Lanegan (of Screaming Trees) by Cobain that read: “Hell-o Mark! Love, Your Pal, Kurdt Kobain / Washed up rockstar” as well as the inscription Boddah Lives engraved to the neck plate (referring to Cobain’s childhood imaginary friend) with “Abort Christ” written on the top in white block letters.

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11. Happy Birthday Queen Janet

All hailed the Queen of Pop when fans and collectors got together again and treated to a surprise virtual appearance from the music legend herself during Property from the Special Collection of Global Icon Janet Jackson held May 21st in New York’s Hard Rock Cafe. Leading up to her auction and an epic celebration of Janet Jackson’s birthday week, exclusive exhibitions of her collection were presented in conjunction with Jackson’s acclaimed “Together Again” tour of North America and her performances at Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

12. Brace Yourself for Banksy!

On March 29th a large-scale painting of a grim reaper figure riding in a carnival bumper car titled “Brace Yourself!” by the legendary artist Banksy, was sold by Julien's Auctions for a staggering $2,032,000, over three times its original estimate of $600,000 in its first ever public auction. The winning bidder was Miguel Garcia Larios, owner of RCNSTRCT Studio in Hollywood. Banksy created the artwork in 2010 for a local British band known as "Exit Through the Gift Shop," who coincidentally shared the same name Banksy wanted to use for his about to be released 2010 directorial debut film. To avoid any copyright issues, the band agreed to Banksy’s offer to create a unique painting for the group if they were to change their name to “Brace Yourself!”

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13. Giving Back

Julien’s continued to spotlight the best music memorabilia from the biggest names in music while giving back to the underserved music community through their charity relief auctions with longtime partners, MusiCares, Gibson Gives and the Music Health Alliance. For the first-time, the Music Health Alliance Handwritten Lyrics auction was held live in Nashville during Julien’s first visit to Music City. At their Played, Worn and Torn music auction event in Nashville, a portion of the auction proceeds of Eric Clapton’s The Fool Guitar and Kurt Cobain’s Skystang I went towards “Kicking The Stigma,” The Indianapolis Colts and Irsay Family’s mental health awareness initiative. A portion of the proceeds from each lot of The Big Lebowski: The Complete Storyboards Auction benefitted Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

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14. Here's Looking At You Kid

A romantic, rare collection from one of Hollywood’s most dazzling couples, Bogie & Bacall, was a special highlight at the aptly titled Hollywood & Royalty auction event hosted by Julien’s Auctions and TCM September 6-7. A rare treasure trove of collectibles from the love affair of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, were offered for the first time at auction such as the couple’s matching 14k gold wedding rings from their wedding on May 21, 1945, Lauren Bacall’s engraved whistle bracelet from Humphrey Bogart, Bogart’s engraved and gifted cufflinks and more.

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15. Born to Be Wild

Julien’s went on the road to Taos, New Mexico to uncover the collection of counterculture legend and iconoclast, Dennis Hopper. Three hundred relics from the Taos home and enclave of the Easy Rider legend’s life and work as an actor, artist and activist were offered at Julien’s and TCM Present: Hollywood & Royalty auction event September 6-7 which featured rare and fine items such as his Andy Warhol taken and signed polaroid, 1970 Easy Rider Academy Awards Nudie’s tuxedo Jacket and Super 8 camera.

16. Going Big in Texas

Julien’s headed to Dallas, Texas, the birthplace of Dusty Hill and feted the life and career of ZZ Top’s legendary musician and vocalist in a two-week “Dusty Land” exhibition and "Duzzty’s Stash" pop up store leading up to Hill’s three-day auction event held December 7-9 in Dallas’ design district. Fans and collectors experienced a museum like exhibition where the rock icon’s most sensational and instantly recognizable items were displayed such as: Dusty Hill’s Custom Eliminator Hot Rod car shaped bass guitar and Hill’s “Legs” music video fur bass guitar as well as his famous hats, western wear, gear and more.

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17. Road to Nashville

Julien’s hit the road and brought their tentpole music auction for the first time to new destinations such as Music City, Nashville for this year’s Played, Worn & Torn: Rock n’ Roll Iconic Guitars and Memorabilia auction held November 16-18 which featured the record-breaking sales of Eric Clapton’s Fool guitar, Kurt Cobain’s Skystang I Fender Stratocaster and Cobain’s Levi’s jeans. Julien’s also held their annual charity auction with Music Health Alliance for the first-time live in Nashville as well as hosted a VIP welcome reception that was attended by industry executives and other movers and shakers based in Nashville.

18. Bigger and Better Auction Experiences

Julien’s Auctions’ new multimedia campaign brought a record number of bidders and consignors to their world of auctions. Marketing efforts included exclusive videos of interviews with Jeff Bridges, Billy Bob Thornton, Chad Cobain and Earnie Bailey, Stephen Bogart and other famous names, newsletters, and a more robust social media presence as well as appearances in commercials and content on Turner Classic Movies, who promoted the auctions through their media channels and platforms. Julien’s also held for the first-time inaugural evening sessions at Nashville’s Played, Worn and Torn music auction, in Dallas for ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill auction and at Hollywood Legends which was held for the first time at the famed Beverly Hilton Hotel.

19. Record Number of Registrants and Bidders

Julien’s attracted a record-breaking number of registered bidders and participants who joined in the excitement of the live auctions as well as online and on the phone coming from countries such as United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Italy, Hong Kong, Israel, The Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, Finland, Uruguay, South Korea, New Zealand and Switzerland.

20. A Year for the Record Books

Julien’s ended the year with Hollywood Legends and recorded their biggest Hollywood memorabilia auction in their 20-year history bringing in $7 million during the four-day auction event held December 14-17. On social and online, Julien’s garnered exponential growth on both Facebook & Instagram and a record number of YouTube video views.

Kicking off the new year in style, Julien’s will continue their “Unstoppable” momentum with Unstoppable: Signature Styles of Iconic Women in Fashion taking place January 18th live and online in Los Angeles. A stunning collection of some of the most dazzling fashion statement pieces worn by Princess Diana, Princess Grace, Elizabeth Taylor, Sarah Jessica Parker, Audrey Hepburn, Kim Kardashian and more, as well as high-end fashions designed by the most legendary names and houses in luxury and haute couture will walk the auction runway.

Sarah Jessica Parker



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