The 58-key mini piano with which Dooley Wilson performed As Time Goes By in the classic movie Casablanca is going on the auction block on December 14, 2012, at Sotheby's in New York. Last sold at auction to a Japanese collector in 1988 for US$154,000, the auction estimate now ranges from $800,000 to $1.2 million.
The central prop in what is arguably the most romantic scene in Casablanca, the piano was not actually used to play the famous song – you see, Wilson, while a good singer and actor, actually played the drums, and couldn't play the piano to save his life. The song itself was written by Herman Hepfeld for the 1930s musical Everybody's Welcome, which ran for 139 performances at the Schubert theater in New York City before settling down to a well-earned oblivion.
While pricey, the Casablanca piano is unlikely to set records. The current record price for a piano is the Gerhard Heintzman Crystal Piano, which was built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, after which it was sold at auction for $3,220,000. The price scales for movie memorabilia are somewhat higher, with the current record of over US$5 million being held by Marilyn Munroe's subway dress from The Seven Year Itch. Still, top collectors throughout the world are energized by the possibility of owning the Casablanca piano.
UPDATE (Dec. 18/12): The piano sold for $602,500 – well below the low end of the estimate.