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Van Eaton Galleries to host ‘Disneyland: The First 65 Years’ auction

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

Disneyland recently celebrated its 65th birthday, and now Disneyland fans have a unique opportunity to give themselves a birthday gift. On Aug. 15 and 16, Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, Calif. is presenting “Disneyland: The First 65 Years,” an auction of artifacts from The Happiest Place on Earth.

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Photos by Samantha Davis-Friedman.

Van Eaton Galleries has been located in the heart of the animation and entertainment industry for over 20 years and represents the single most extensive selection of works from the earliest days of animation up to the present day. The Disney-themed auctions, however, only began about five and a half years ago.

“The first Disney auction did so well that people started calling and saying they had things too, so we just started building from there,” says auction manager Cory Brooks. “It was sort of a snowball effect that keeps growing and growing. We haven’t found anything that’s captured the kind of love like there is for Disneyland pieces.”

The two-day auction will include more than 1,100 unique items that trace the park’s 65-year history. Some, like a collection of 27 Disneyland construction photos from Disney Legend Milt Albright, go back even farther. Also available is Albright’s original 1955 cast member ID badge, which was number 10.

“Walt was number one,” said gallery owner Mike Van Eaton. “But, this is the earliest badge we’ve ever seen.”

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Another very early Disneyland artifact is a rare gold VIP press ticket from the park’s opening day. According to Van Eaton, Disneyland’s press preview was filmed for a television special, so Walt Disney issued timed tickets to make sure there would be crowds at the right places at the right times for the broadcast. The gold tickets, Van Eaton explains, were only issued to VIP guests (in this case, Los Angeles Herald-Express editor Tom Caton).

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Every piece in the Disney auction catalog is a treasure, but there are a few hidden gems. Along with cast member costumes, vintage park souvenirs, attraction posters, and park-used signage, are original attraction props like an actual 1967 shrunken “Atommobile” from Adventure Thru Inner Space in Tomorrowland and the Phineas Pock Haunted Mansion tombstone. This stone was one of only eight that stood at the back of the mansion in a graveyard called the family plots (it was removed in the 1970s to accommodate a queue extension).

Fun Fact: The person who removed Phineas Pock’s tombstone from the attraction gave it to a neighbor who’s been using it as a Halloween decoration ever since.

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The tombstone reads, “Here lies Phineas Pock, laid to rest beneath this rock.”

“It’s a pretty incredible piece,” Van Eaton said. “Every gravestone [in the family plots] was a tribute to an Imagineer except for this one, so we think Phineas Pock was going to be the original ghost host of the Haunted Mansion. It’s one of my favorites because it’s really rare and really unusual.”

Without a doubt, the Disney auction’s “E-Ticket” item is an original opening-year (1977) ride vehicle from Space Mountain that’s expected to sell between $50,000 and $60,000. Van Eaton said the seats have been padded, the rocket’s tail lights up, and the interior speakers have been replaced. Plus, he notes, it has an MP3 player so the lucky winning bidder can play the soundtrack from the ride while they’re sitting in it.

Also available for bidding are one-of-a-kind artifacts like a loading sign for the short-lived Rocket Rods attraction and a pitch book presented to McDonald’s for a proposed corporate sponsorship for “Brer Rabbit’s Splash Mountain” – the pitch even suggested McDonald’s sponsor the Country Bear Jamboree attraction and restaurant in Critter Country. 

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While definitely celebrating Disneyland milestone birthday, “Disneyland: The First 65 Years” also features items from Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, and Euro Disney (now Disneyland Paris).

After all, Brooks notes, “You can’t really tell the story of Disneyland without also including the other parks; they’re part of its history.”

The Details

Auction catalogs are now available for pre-order here.

The auction will be live streamed with a live auctioneer on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 15 and 16, beginning at 10 a.m. PT. Participants can place bids via online bidding, absentee bidding, or by phone.

Online bidding will be available here and here.

Here’s a video tour of some of the items by our host Jeff DePaoli:

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