LOST in Memorabilia

On August 21-22, LOST fans around the world have one final chance to take ownership of their favorite TV series. During an official auction held in California (but set up for online viewing in real time), six years’ of costumes, props, and even pieces of sets will hit the block. Die-hard LOST fans who carefully analyzed Ben Linus’ mind games should do well in the bidding war over the most highly coveted items, but those with limited funds might find their hopes to take home something held or worn by their favorite actor as thwarted as Skate shippers’ dream for the finale.

Movie or TV auctions aren’t new, and LOST’s highly publicized garage sale is just the latest auction playing off popular interest in celebrity, Internet-fueled binge buying, and the need for status gained through personal connection with icons of popular entertainment. In February, an auction of Doctor Who and Torchwood memorabilia raised more money than expected and generated plenty of fan interest on the Internet. More than ever, fans who love a TV series or movie, follow an actor’s career, and e-network with other viewers internationally feel compelled to “own” a piece of their favorite entertainment (or entertainer’s career).

For better or worse, whatever some viewers thought of individual plot twists or characters, LOST has been a trendsetter in global television for six years. Almost everything pertaining to the series has been published and debated online, and the auction is no exception. Even the timing—a few days before the final DVD set, with additional footage, is released on August 24 — helps wring as much post-finale promotion as possible from this last official event. The fact that so many critics and fans are interested in a TV series in itself makes the auction an event worthy of cultural acknowledgment.

Although tickets to the auction are now gone—snapped up quickly by professional collectors and fans — the catalog of LOST items to be sold is still available in print ($55 in the U.S., $85 internationally) and as a free six-part download, one PDF file for each season. Fans who can’t make it to Santa Monica on August 21-22 or didn’t get a ticket in time can still participate virtually. The LOST the Official Auction” site provides the required registration form for bidders. When the auction goes live, anyone with an approved registration will be able to participate electronically or in person.

Fans with Charles Widmore’s level of wealth might want to bid on those one-of-a-kind, hard-to-place items, like Hurley’s Corvette, the DHARMA van, or a piece of Oceanic 815’s fuselage (charred exit door, anyone?). In the February 24 Bonhams’ auction of Doctor Who/Torchwood items, Torchwood’s SUV brought in £18,000 (more than $28,000 U.S.), second only to a Dalek for £20,400 (close to $32,000 U.S.). Hardcore LOST fans might not need to win the lottery, however, to purchase their own Mr. Cluck’s—or at least a Styrofoam chicken head representing Hurley’s fast-food franchise.

Wardrobe from lead characters featured in each season probably will become favored fan items not only because they are lower cost (suggested starting bids around $200-$300) but also because the costumes can be worn. Sizes, alas, aren’t listed in the catalog, but avid fans probably know their favorite actor’s measurements by heart. Wearing one of Kate’s tank tops is bound to attract attention, as well as make the lucky fan feel special.

Jewelry, including Charlie’s family heirloom, the DS ring, ups the ante for collectors. The bid for that ring is suggested to start between $1000 and $1500. Owing to Dominic Monaghan’s long-time popularity with science fiction/fantasy fans, as well as Charlie’s untimely demise, the DS ring probably will fetch several hundred thousand pretty pennies. Several watches also are featured in the Season Six section of the catalog. Want to know how to tell time in the afterlife? Interested bidders should anticipate a starting offer close to $2000 for Christian Shephard’s watch.

Then there are the lower priced but quirky items that only a true fan (or possibly Hard Rock or Planet Hollywood display buyer) could love: Sawyer’s half-n-half glasses; half a foot—according to the catalog, “the remains of the statue of Tawaret”; half a notebook page of Charlie’s “greatest hits.” The collection also includes those hard-to-take-home items that the TSA would love to confiscate, such as Locke’s knives and a surprisingly wide variety of handcuffs. The LOST auction catalog truly has something for everyone among a range of suggested prices.

The reality is that even the lower-cost items will most likely be quickly beyond most fans’ budget. Nevertheless, because so much official merchandise is available from LOST’s six seasons, hopeful fans might bring home a bargain.

The LOSTauction, like the Doctor Who/Torchwood auction earlier this year, encourages fans to own something from a critically acclaimed series that has become an important part of our collective popular culture. Such auctions are a shrewd business venture because they guarantee publicity and profits—and get rid of costly-to-store props not likely to be used on other series. Culturally, the auctions also emphasize consumerism enhanced by the Internet. The web has encouraged the international buying and selling of just about everything imaginable, and an increasing number of independent films, bands, and individual artists turn to eBay or their own web site-based stores to raise funds, knowing that fans will happily buy their merchandise.

These TV series’ auctions help foster the notion that the people behind an entertainment are more than fans’ Facebook friends. Those involved with a TV series often directly interact with fans through official meet-and-greet events at fan conventions like Comic-Con or Dragon Con. When TV shows increase their visibility through interactive web sites, they also encourage fans to learn more about the people who create the entertainment and the way a series is developed, filmed, and produced. Television and filmmaking have become more transparent to the public in recent years, and, for all that writers, directors, and actors really aren’t “the folks next door,” fans tend to think of them that way.

Fans seldom place a series or a performer on a pedestal for adoration from afar. Today’s viewers publicly discuss every aspect of a series’ or an actor’s life, and they share information constantly. Fans deeply invested in a series like LOST may feel almost obligated to share their opinions via the Internet. They also may feel compelled, as a mark of being dedicated fans, to participate in the auction because it will be a communal experience that undoubtedly will be analyzed online afterward.

In many ways, the LOST auction especially seems like a neighborhood yard sale. It offers personal artifacts of beloved TV friends and illustrates important moments in their lives and, consequently, the lives of the fans who watched the series faithfully for so many years. The faithful who buy a specific LOST relic do so because it has as much (or maybe more) significance to them as to the series.

Participating in the auction is a tangible, public way to be recognized as a true LOST fan, and expectations for the LOST auction are even higher than those for the highly successful Doctor Who/Torchwood auction. Fans who buy a highly prized memento of the series will gain credibility with other fans and further their connection with an important pop culture event. In a small way, they, too, become a part of television history.