On this day in 2002, a collector paid a record US$115,000 for a lock of Elvis Presley’s hair. The King of Rock and Roll’s hair had been kept in a jar by his former barber and was auctioned online.
The hair had been supposedly saved by Elvis’s barber, Homer “”Gill”” Gilleland, who traveled with him for over twenty years. It was Gill who dyed Elvis’s blond hair black and gave it its characteristic coif.
Newspapers reported at the time that up until Presley’s death in 1977, Gill had saved the cut ends of his hair in a plastic bread bag. He set up shop near Elvis’s home, Graceland, after his death and sold strands of the King’s pompadour. Gill died in 1995 and his friend Tom Morgan, who worked in the Memphis Sheriff’s Office, inherited the hair. Morgan, who had known Elvis, decided to auction it off.
No American celebrity hair auction would be complete without expert testimonials, and as DNA testing did not occur, the bidding collectors were to rely on the words of John Heath, an Elvis expert, and John Reznikoff, a celebrity hair expert. Reznikoff, pleased with the sale price, said that it simply confirmed his belief that “hair collecting has really come into the 21st century.” And so it has.
Lucrative 21st century hair sales include locks and even single strands that had once belonged to musicians, from Beethoven to John Lennon; presidents from Abraham Lincoln to John F. Kennedy; revolutionaries like Che Guevara; and even the astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Elvis’s locks were sold on an internet auction site owned by MastroNet, Inc. The company’s vice president, interviewed at the time of the sale, told of a ferocious last-minute bidding war, ending with the US$115,000 winning bid. He did add, however, that he had no clue what the winner would do with the hair.
Some years later, a single strand of the hair from Morgan’s sale was auctioned in the United Kingdom, complete with a certificate of authenticity. It is not known exactly how many strands of hair were in the original sale, but it’s safe to assume that these black hairs will appear again and again. Only suspicious minds will lack their authenticity.
Credit: Getty 104870086
Caption: Originally a blonde, Elvis Presley travelled with his hairdresser to maintain his dark, slick hair.