Rare prints of silver screen icons wow auction experts in Hollywood

The glimpses of Hollywood’s golden age were among the first items to go under the hammer at Profiles in History’s two-day Icons of Hollywood sale in California, which began on Thursday morning (15Dec11).

Camera negatives of Bankhead, Garbo and Norma Shearer, which were expected to fetch $300 (£187), sold for more than 10 times that figure, while shots of Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Loretta Young taken by legendary photographers Ernest Bachrach and Clarence Sinclair Bull went under the hammer for $2,250 (£1,400).

Other early big hitters included camera negatives of Gina Lollobrigida taken by John Engstead, which sold for almost seven times their expected price; a rare signed Jean Harlow photograph, which more than doubled its asking price at $4,250 (£2,650), and an autographed Ronald Reagan self-portrait, which went under the hammer at $9,225 (£5,760).

The biggest auction items, including a collection of clothing and memorabilia from The Wizard of Oz and Cleopatra, will hit the auction block on Friday (16Dec11).