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Lot # 1618 (of 1673)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Original Superman Cape Worn by George Reeves in the 1950s Television Program The Adventures of Superman

Starting Bid - $5,000.00 , Sold For - $32,312.50

A few American icons have a special meaning to popular culture, with a significance that is timeless, transcending their genre and era, and cutting across all generations. Babe Ruth was a great baseball player, but has a far greater significance than just as a ballplayer to American culture. Muhammad Ali was a great boxer, but his impact cannot be measured only by his exploits in the ring. Superman was a great comic-book character, but his impact on American culture, in comic books, television, and movies makes him an iconic figure in the American cultural landscape.

For many adults today, George Reeves was, and always will be, the quintessential Superman. Although Kirk Alyn first brought Superman to life on film (starring in two serials in 1948 and 1950, respectively) it was Reeves who made the character his own in the popular 1950s television series The Adventures of Superman. That show, and in particular, Reeves unique portrayal of "The Man of Steel," is credited with making the character of Superman the cultural icon he is today.

Offered here is a rare and highly significant costume accessory worn by Reeves in The Adventures of Superman: an original Superman cape. For Babe Ruth, the ultimate representative symbol for collectors might be his game-used bat, the source of his superhuman powers. For Muhammad Ali, it might be his gloves. For Superman, it would be his cape. Few exist, especially with documented provenance. Superman's cape is the ultimate symbolic item for this uniquely American icon, and that is precisely why this cape was saved as a special keepsake by the executive producer of The Adventures of Superman.

The crimson red cap (53 x 55 inches at its widest dimensions) is made of a cotton-blend fabric and features a red and yellow flannel "S" patch on the reverse. The cape remains in phenomenal Near Mint condition, which is not surprising, given its provenance and history of ownership. This cape was purchased from the collection of world-renowned Superman collector Jim Hambrick, the owner and operator of the Supermuseum, which is located, appropriately enough, in Metropolis, Illinois. Hambrick has provided a three-page notarized letter, dated 10/5/05, detailing the cape's history. In summary, Hambrick notes that the cape originally belonged to Whitney Ellsworth, who was the executive producer of The Adventures of Superman. Ellsworth later gave the cape, along with numerous other original George Reeves/Superman worn costume pieces, to Sol Harrison, who was president of National Periodical Publications (now known as DC Comics). Harrison, in turn, gave the cape to Bob Westerfield. Westerfield is famous today for making Metropolis, Illinois, the official "Home of Superman."

While the provenance was impressive, and really as good as it gets in the Superman collecting field, this cape was personally purchased by Troy Kinunen and Dave Bushing of MEARS both because of their interest in artifacts relating to American popular culture, and as a special authentication project, to determine if the authentication provided by the provenance of the cape would be supported by the MEARS authentication process. (If the result of the MEARS authentication process was not positive, it was naturally understood that it could be returned.) To evaluate the Superman cape, MEARS had to determine if the provenance could be supported by imagery analysis. To aid in their research, MEARS obtained copies of every episode of The Adventures of Superman from 1954 to 1958. This allowed them to compare the examined cape in great detail to many hours of TV footage. (Research Note: The TV series, "the Adventures of Superman" aired from 1952 to 1958. The 1952-1953 seasons were eliminated as possible years of issue as the shows was filmed in black and white and a grey suit with darktones was used to shoot with black and white film. 1954 found the studios switching to color film.) For the 1954-1958 seasons, MEARS was able to successfully compare the cape to numerous frames of footage. MEARS was able to used basic imagery analysis to successfully match: 1) The crest on the reverse of the cape; 2) The exact length, color, and design of the cape; and 3) The manner in which the cape attached to George Reeves' bodysuit. All areas of visual comparison illustrate a match of the cape to television footage. The crest of the cape was hand cut in a very distinct manner, which is also of great significance, as its size and color are a visual match to the examined video references. The length, color and design of the cape, in all respects, compared positively to the video footage of George Reeves wearing the cape during the 1954-1958 seasons. Finally, the manner of which the cape was attached to George Reeves' body suite was examined. The construction of the cape is designed in a very distinctive manner: the cape has two square-shaped ends which were then attached to the blue bodysuit of Reeves. Safety pins were most likely the fasteners. There was no button, snap, or zipper present. The construction of the cape and its distinctive design is also supported by a perfect match with the examined video footage. In summary, after evaluating the provenance provided and comparing it to the frame-by-frame actual period images from the television show, MEARS concluded that it was both reasonable and verifiable that this cape was exactly as it had always been assumed and represented: a 100% authentic cape worn by George Reeves during the filming of the Superman TV series from 1954 to 1958. This Superman cape has been consigned to this auction directly from the personal collection/inventory of MEARS authenticators David Bushing and Troy Kinunen. LOA from Jim Hambrick/Supermuseum. LOA from Dave Bushing & Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $32,312.50


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