What's It Worth? Cels of Distinction

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What's It Worth? Cels of Distinction

Dr. Charles Mahan had an extraordinary collection of what is routinely referred to as “ephemera.” Ephemera is described as “vintage printed or written items that originally served some specific purpose and were not expected to be retained or preserved, but are now cherished.”

Dr. Mahan recognized early in his collecting career that the two things he enjoyed most – political cartoons and animation cels – were much more than just a filler for the editorial pages or a millisecond of an animated film. He recognized them as an important American art form.

When he pondered a move, he generously donated both of his collections to the University of South Florida. USF was naturally excited to acquire this gift.

A problem became evident, though. The animation cels proved a storage problem because of their flammability. These early cels were often made of cellulose nitrate, and plasticized with camphor and triphenyl phosphate!

So with Dr. Mahan’s blessing, the USF library decided to part with them, with the proceeds going back to the library. They reached out to us to help them, and we had one of the most memorable auction sales of our career.

Three highlights above – not the highest priced but the most interesting. I wish I could have bought the pocket watch cel myself, but “conflict of interest” was the rule.
* Alice in Wonderland: Cheshire Cat Walt Disney Productions 7½” x 10½” from Alice in Wonderland fetched $5,000.
* The white rabbit w/pocket watch. 7” x 7½” from Alice in Wonderland fetched $1,200.
* Peter Pan: Angry Tinkerbell 10” x 9½” fetched $2,000. This was ten years ago. Today, we think the white rabbit and the Cheshire cat would bring close to the same price, but the Tinkerbell would be worth almost double.

Please note the cels referred to in the article are originals. Limited-edition copies that are available today are worth considerably less.

Three former sothebyscom associates and two art historians on staff. Call or email us if you want to deal with Florida’s leading auctioneer. We have sold the contents of museums and collections for USF.

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Hess Fine Art, 1131 4th St. N, St. Petersburg FL 33701.

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