2022: A Year of High Prices for Marilyn Monroe Autographs

by Brooke Kennedy

Marilyn Monroe is a name known throughout the globe to many, even if only vaguely for various reasons. Monroe was one of classic Hollywood’s most famous actresses and was known for starring in films such as The Seven Year Itch and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the latter in which she performed the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” However, modern and younger audiences like myself may be more familiar with works that reference Monroe such as the hit 2012 television series Smash, where the plot revolves around composers and actors creating a musical about Monroe’s life. Most recently, the controversial 2022 Netflix film Blonde starring Ana de Armas as the historical icon has been putting Marilyn’s name into headlines once again.

Due to the sensationalized nature of Monroe’s life in recent years, many people have trouble separating the concept of Marilyn Monroe and what she represents to the person she really was. Monroe is often associated with being a prolific sex symbol and many of her roles portrayed the stereotype of the ditzy blonde, but Monroe had a whole life that many people today know little about. Throughout 2022, RR Auction had the privilege of auctioning several pieces from the course of Monroe’s life, all of which provide revealing glimpses into the many things Marilyn Monroe experienced in her early life and high profile career. 

A signed still of Marilyn Monroe for the movie River of No Return. This PSA encapsulated photo sold for $20,660.
A signed still of Marilyn Monroe for the film River of No Return. This PSA encapsulated photo sold for $20,660.

In reality, the name Marilyn Monroe actually began as her stage name when she first got her start in Hollywood. Born in 1926 as Norma Jeane Mortenson, her now famous moniker would not come to be until she signed her first studio contract in 1946. In this contract with 20th Century Fox Film Corp. the name signed at the bottom reads “Norma Jeane Dougherty”. At the time she was married to her first husband, James Dougherty, making this a scarce, early variant of Marilyn Monroe’s autograph. After signing, Norma Jeane met with Fox executive Ben Lyon who suggested changing her first name to ‘Marilyn’ after 1920s performer Marilyn Miller. Norma Jeane would also suggest the last name Monroe as it was her mother’s family name, and Lyons took a liking to the name’s alliteration, thus creating the now famous name that has been referenced over the last 70 years. This Marilyn Monroe autographed document consigned to RR Auction in 2022 and sold for $8,250 shows the beginning of a long lasting legacy that is still discussed and appreciated in the present day. 

Marilyn Monroe's first studio contract from 20th Century Fox Film Corp. that sold for $8,250.
Marilyn Monroe’s first studio contract from 20th Century Fox Film Corp. that sold for $8,250.

At just 20 years old, Marilyn Monroe began her career in the tumultuous world of film, but her passion for her craft was evident in other artifacts from Monroe’s life, such as her acting notes which sold for a large sum of $10,285. In a handwritten note by Monroe she writes “What is the matter with my voice—Maybe just let the voice come out of my body however it does under certain circumstances.” Monroe’s notes display her eagerness to learn and hardworking nature, as they were likely taken during an acting class with Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio in New York City. This piece in particular may resonate with many young people as they, like Marilyn, are finding ways to improve upon their passions whether it is through mentoring or personal drive. Oftentimes that comes with making mistakes, and Monroe was also not immune to this fact, as this piece suggests. As is shown with her contract, Monroe’s hard work paid off and her acting skills shine in all of her on screen performances. 

Monroe's acting notes which she wrote on the back on envelope. This envelope sold for $10,285.
Monroe’s acting notes she wrote on the back of an envelope. This envelope sold for $10,285.
The front side of the envelope which states Monroe's name and address.
The front side of the envelope which states Monroe’s name and address.

Despite Marilyn experiencing success at a young age both personally and professionally, Monroe experienced many changes in her life in both aspects. Marilyn Monroe’s autographed Department of Defense ID card provides a little more information about the famous actress several years after her career first began. The card states Monroe’s name as “Norma Jean DiMaggio” showcasing a change in Monroe’s personal life as she divorced James Dougherty in 1946 after signing her first contract, and married New York Yankees baseball player Joe DiMaggio in 1954. Shortly after marrying on January 14th of that year, Monroe and DiMaggio departed for their honeymoon in Japan. However, Monroe was also set to fly to Korea to entertain the American Soldiers stationed there. This ID card was issued to her in Japan by the U.S. Army Provost Marshal’s Office located there. While in Korea, Monroe performed in 10 shows across four days for around 100,000 soldiers. This piece of history is a look how Monroe’s fame stretched far past the screen into live performance and entertainment. All of these pieces put together provide audiences small windows into the life of the well known icon, from her career to her personal life. While many pieces of media have attempted to cover the starlet’s life, these autographs belonging to Marilyn Monroe are concrete items of her personal history. 

The front side of Monroe's Department of Defense ID Card which sold for $37,500.
The front side of Monroe’s Department of Defense ID Card which sold for $37,500.
The back side with fingerprints of Monroe's left and right index fingers in black ink.
The back side with fingerprints of Monroe’s left and right index fingers in black ink.

2022 was a great year for Marilyn Monroe memorabilia as RR Auction sold more than 30 items from her life. The item that sold for the most money was her Department of Defense ID card for over $37,000 in September 2022. RR Auction expects that Marilyn’s fame will only grow in the coming years and I am expecting the prices for Marilyn Monroe autographs, Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, and Marilyn Monroe artifacts to keep rising as more and more items relating to the young starlet are sent to us here in Amherst, New Hampshire. RR Auction and Marilyn have appeared in the media together often, and all of our consignors benefit from our Marilyn Monroe auction press releases. 

If you have a piece of history relating to Marilyn or any other historical events or figures, consider consigning it to RR Auction. You can reach RR Auction via telephone at 800-937-3880. Find us on social media @rrauction on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok to stay updated on upcoming auctions and other pieces we have consigned.

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