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Neon sign from ‘The Whisky’ goes for big bucks

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A marquee from the legendary Los Angeles rock 'n' roll club, Whisky a Go Go, glows at the Saco River Auction Co., in Biddeford, Maine. A marquee from the legendary Los Angeles rock 'n' roll club, Whisky a Go Go, glows at the Saco River Auction Co., in Biddeford, Maine. (Photo by David Sharp/AP)

Iconic piece of rock history sells for nearly $50K in Maine auction

BIDDEFORD - A 13-foot glowing pink neon sign which welcomed music lovers to The Whisky a Go Go - the Hollywood nightclub that helped launch the careers of The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Van Halen and Guns N’ Roses, sold for $48,300 at an auction conducted by Saco River Auction Co. in Biddeford on Jan. 25.

According to Saco River Auction Co. manager and auctioneer Troy Thibodeau, the sign had been sold at an auction in 2012 and was brought to Maine with the intention of being displayed in a private home. The sign had hung outside the entrance to the music venue from the 1980s to the year 2000. 

“It was left in a storage unit and they didn’t pay the storage bill,” Thibodeau said in a phone interview. “It was abandoned property that was consigned to us by a local company that had it and we put it up for auction on consignment.”

While not at liberty to reveal the name of the high bidder, Thibodeau confirmed that the original hammer price on the sign was $42,000. A 15 percent buyer’s premium brought the final price up to $43,800.

According to Thibodeau, it isn’t unusual for the auction company to sell iconic entertainment-related memorabilia. 

“We had a whole collection of rock and roll memorabilia last year, including a leather cowboy hat that had been owned by Jimi Hendrix. It sold for $22,000,” Thibodeau said.

According to an Associated Press story from April of 2016, an auction of memorabilia owned by the late TV talk show host Joe Franklin included the Hendrix hat and a harmonica once owned by singer Janis Joplin, which was sold for $33,000 by Saco River Auction Co. 

“We get rare and unusual things all the time,” said Thibodeau. “At the same auction where The Whiskey sign sold, we sold one of Liberace’s necklaces for $2,500.”

Saco River Auction Co. conducts auctions once or twice per month, according to Thibodeau. 

“Sometimes we run two auctions a month if we have a specialty sale and we’ll also do antiques the same month,” he said. 

The Saco River Auction Co. offers live in-house bidding, phone bidding, internet bidding and absentee bidding. “That’s where people call in and leave their maximum bid,” said Thibodeau.

During any given month, it’s anyone guess in terms of what sorts of items will be up for bid.

“We never have any idea what’s going to come in,” said Thibodeau. “We’re in houses every day and we have people bringing us stuff every day. There are things that are very common to this area of the country. Oak dressers, folk art, hooked rugs and that kind of stuff.”

Among those bidding on The Whiskey sign, according to Thibodeau, were “personal representatives for some sort of celebrity. One of the phone bidders was Hard Rock International (owners of the Hard Rock Café chain of restaurants adorned with music memorabilia) and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

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