LEXINGTON, N.C. — Great balls of fire!
An impressive collection of country music memorabilia, much of it from the 1970s and ’80s, goes on the auction block Monday in Lexington.
“This is the most of this type of memorabilia we’ve seen in 42 years,” said Thomas McInnis with Iron Horse Auction Co. of Rockingham, which is conducting the auction.
The auction is being held to sell off assets to pay back more of the money that participants lost in the Ponzi scheme involving Rex Venture Group LLC, ZeekRewards.com. Well over $300 million has been recovered, said Kenneth Bell, a federal court-appointed receiver who is trying to recoup $600 million that investors lost. Proceeds from an auction of the memorabilia — as well as such properties as commercial real estate, furniture and office equipment — will be added to those assets.
Paul Burks, who owned Rex Venture, was a former country music disc jockey and magician. When federal investigators shut down the company, according to a report by The Associated Press, they found a massive country music memorabilia collection that included guitars autographed by such musicians as Trisha Yearwood, Ricky Van Shelton, Wynonna Judd, Suzy Bogguss and Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn; and a tambourine signed by Louise Mandrell.
There’s also a grand piano shell signed by Jerry Lee Lewis. But if you buy it you won’t be able to play it; no working components are included.
Odds are you wouldn’t have been able to play it as well as The Killer, anyhow.
Or if you’d rather dress like a celebrity, there are stage costumes and accessories worn by such stars as Reba McEntire, Lorrie Morgan, Billy Ray Cyrus — yes, that star — and Marty Stuart, plus crew jackets from tours by Merle Haggard and Kenny Rogers. Plenty of hats are also up for auction, many autographed by musicians including Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Lawrence, Clint Black, Vince Gill and Charlie Daniels.
Will Lilly with Iron Horse Auction Co. said that one item getting a lot of advance interest is a blue costume worn by Barbara Mandrell in a performance at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles in 1986, when she returned to the stage after a car crash 18 months earlier. The costume is accompanied by a newspaper clipping and a letter written by Mandrell about her return to performing.
Another particularly eye-catching piece of memorabilia is a red suit from Porter Wagoner’s band, with lavish embroidery and wagon-wheel patterns. The suit is a “Nudie Suit” from famous clothiers Nudie’s Rodeo Tailor. It can be seen worn by members of Wagoner’s band on the cover of Wagoner’s 1969 album “Me and My Boys,” a framed copy of which is also up for auction.
Some of the memorabilia is displayed in shadow boxes, including blue jeans worn by Michelle Wright, overalls from Aaron Tippin and a Sawyer Brown denim jacket.
And then there are the framed albums and covers, many of them autographed, and row after row of framed posters. It took six people three days to move all the memorabilia from where it had been stored to the warehouse where the auction will be held, Lilly said, and another week and a half to catalogue all the items.
Interest has been high as the auction drew near, with inquiries coming from as far away as Australia and China.
Inspections will be held today from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the warehouse, 4095 Old Salisbury Road in Lexington, and again from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The auction begins at 9 a.m. Monday, pausing at noon for the real estate portion of the proceeding, and then resuming with the memorabilia. On Tuesday, starting at 9 a.m., the auctioneers will concentrate on furniture, office equipment and assorted odds and ends — with some of the odder items including vintage rotary telephones, boxes of movies on DVD or VHS tape, a ceramic turtle, unwashed coffee mugs and ear mite treatment for cats.
And if you’re looking for something that goes with the Christmas season, there’s a vintage phonograph complete with a broken LP of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” performed by Gene Autry.
For more information about the online simulcast of the auction and to see the catalog of items for auction, go to www.ironhorseauction.com.
By Tim Clodfelter/Winston-Salem Journal