Robotics

Robby the Robot sells for $5.3 million – second most valuable movie prop in history

Robby the Robot sells for $5.3...
Robby the Robot  first appeared in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, but his film and TV appearances number more than 30
Robby the Robot  first appeared in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, but his film and TV appearances number more than 30
View 17 Images
Robby the Robot may have first appeared in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, but his film and TV appearances number more than 30, including movies such as The Invisible Boy,Phantom Empire and Gremlins, and his TV show appearances included episodes of My Little Margie, The Thin Man, Columbo, The Addams Family, Lost in Space, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mork & Mindy, Project U.F.O. and Ark II.
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Robby the Robot may have first appeared in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, but his film and TV appearances number more than 30, including movies such as The Invisible Boy,Phantom Empire and Gremlins, and his TV show appearances included episodes of My Little MargieThe Thin ManColumboThe Addams FamilyLost in Space, The Twilight ZoneThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Mork & MindyProject U.F.O. and Ark II.
The control panel for Robby the Robot was included in the sale
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The control panel for Robby the Robot was included in the sale
Robby's jeep from Forbidden Planet was included in the sale, though sadly it no longer runs as the drive train was taken to build further props by MGM back in the day
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Robby's jeep from Forbidden Planet was included in the sale, though sadly it no longer runs as the drive train was taken to build further props by MGM back in the day
Robby the Robot is an icon of cinematic history
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Robby the Robot is an icon of cinematic history
Robby the Robot  first appeared in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, but his film and TV appearances number more than 30
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Robby the Robot  first appeared in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, but his film and TV appearances number more than 30
This rayon crepe halter dress with pleated skirt by Travilla is currently the most expensive item of clothing ever sold! It was worn in the 1955 movie The Seven Year Itch by Marilyn Monroe, who played the female lead role while Tom Ewell played the male lead. Tom now rates only a footnote in cinematic history, while Marilyn's subway grate scene became one of the most recognizable images in modern society.
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This rayon crepe halter dress with pleated skirt by Travilla is currently the most expensive item of clothing ever sold! It was worn in the 1955 movie The Seven Year Itch by Marilyn Monroe, who played the female lead role while Tom Ewell played the male lead. Tom now rates only a footnote in cinematic history, while Marilyn's subway grate scene became one of the most recognizable images in modern society.
The magnificent dress worn by Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn) in her "coming out" moment at the Ascot races in the film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion. Pygmalion became a smash hit musical stage play in 1956 as My Fair Lady and subsequently enjoyed even more success as a 1964 movie in which this dress appeared. Profiles in History auctioned the dress in 2011 for $4.4 million.
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The magnificent dress worn by Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn) in her "coming out" moment at the Ascot races in the film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion. Pygmalion became a smash hit musical stage play in 1956 as My Fair Lady and subsequently enjoyed even more success as a 1964 movie in which this dress appeared. Profiles in History auctioned the dress in 2011 for $4.4 million.
There have been several Dorothy Gale dresses from the 1939 movie sold in recent years, some of them were "test" dresses and didn't even appear in the movie, but they all sold for astronomical figures, with the most valuable being sold for $1,565,000 by Bonhams in 2015. We have removed the other versions from the list, but different versions have also sold for $910,000, $666,000, $480,000 and $266,638 plus Dorothy's ruby red slippers and the Lion's costume have both sold for more than $3 million, so the appeal of this dress appears to be based partially on the landmark movie, and ... whatever it is about the dress, it clearly resonates with the public on a very powerful level.
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There have been several Dorothy Gale dresses from the 1939 movie sold in recent years, some of them were "test" dresses and didn't even appear in the movie, but they all sold for astronomical figures, with the most valuable being sold for $1,565,000 by Bonhams in 2015. We have removed the other versions from the list, but different versions have also sold for $910,000, $666,000, $480,000 and $266,638 plus Dorothy's ruby red slippers and the Lion's costume have both sold for more than $3 million, so the appeal of this dress appears to be based partially on the landmark movie, and ... whatever it is about the dress, it clearly resonates with the public on a very powerful level.
The red sequined showgirl gown Marilyn Monroe wore alongside Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, fetched $1,476,000 at a Profiles in History auction in June, 2011.
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The red sequined showgirl gown Marilyn Monroe wore alongside Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondesfetched $1,476,000 at a Profiles in History auction in June, 2011.
Do-Re-Me is a song that has been sung countless times by billions of children and it's arguably the most watched instructional clip of all time. It was written for the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music and when the movie of the same name came out in 1964 and became a smash hit, the song was a radio hit. This is the dress Julie andrews wore in the filming of this timeless classic. It sold for $660,000 at a Profiles in History auction in 2013. The rest of the wardrobe for the film sold for $1.56 million.
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Do-Re-Me is a song that has been sung countless times by billions of children and it's arguably the most watched instructional clip of all time. It was written for the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music and when the movie of the same name came out in 1964 and became a smash hit, the song was a radio hit. This is the dress Julie andrews wore in the filming of this timeless classic. It sold for $660,000 at a Profiles in History auction in 2013. The rest of the wardrobe for the film sold for $1.56 million.
The slippers which Judy Garland wore in 'Wizard of Oz' haven't been given an official position on the list because the price cannot be verified. The price was never disclosed but is rumored to be in the vicinity of $3 million. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, director Steven Spielberg and other anonymous benefactors purchased the slippers for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum.
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The slippers which Judy Garland wore in 'Wizard of Oz' haven't been given an official position on the list because the price cannot be verified. The price was never disclosed but is rumored to be in the vicinity of $3 million. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, director Steven Spielberg and other anonymous benefactors purchased the slippers for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum.
The Cowardly Lion Costume worn in The Wizard of Oz (1939) fetched $3,077,000 at a Bonhams auction
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The Cowardly Lion Costume worn in The Wizard of Oz (1939) fetched $3,077,000 at a Bonhams auction
The Piano from Casablanca (1942) upon which Sam plays "As Time Goes By" sold for $3,413,000 at a Bonhams' auction
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The Piano from Casablanca (1942) upon which Sam plays "As Time Goes By" sold for $3,413,000 at a Bonhams' auction
The power of the silver screen has never been more evident than at the auction at which the Maltese Falcon prop from The Maltese Falcon (1941) was sold. Worth just a few dollars for its lead content, the prop sold for $4,085,000 at a Bonhams auction
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The power of the silver screen has never been more evident than at the auction at which the Maltese Falcon prop from The Maltese Falcon (1941) was sold. Worth just a few dollars for its lead content, the prop sold for $4,085,000 at a Bonhams auction
The Batmobile appeared not just in the Batman movie (1966) but in the television series which repopularized the superhero. It sold for  $4,620,000 at a  Barrett-Jackson auction
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The Batmobile appeared not just in the Batman movie (1966) but in the television series which repopularized the superhero. It sold for  $4,620,000 at a  Barrett-Jackson auction
James Bond's weaponized Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964)
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James Bond's weaponized Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964)
The best known Aston Martin in history. James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964) sold for $4,595,998 at an RM (now RM Sothebys) auction
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The best known Aston Martin in history. James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964) sold for $4,595,998 at an RM (now RM Sothebys) auction

It is a sign of the times that one of the earliest and best known robots in movie history should move to the top of the list of the most expensive movie props ever sold. Now that robots have progressed from science fiction to reality, it isn't all that surprising that Robby the Robot's price has surpassed all but one of the most iconic movie props in history.

The complete Robby suit, control panel, his jeep, numerous spares, alternate original "claw" hands, and the original wooden stage shipping crates, were sold yesterday (November 21, 2017 ) by Bonhams in New York for US$5,375,000 including buyers premium.

The only purpose-built movie prop to have ever sold for more is Marilyn Monroe's "subway dress" from The Seven Year Itch (1955) which was sold by Profiles in History for $5,520,000 (inc. buyers premium) in 2011.

Robby the Robot may have first appeared in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, but his film and TV appearances number more than 30, including movies such as The Invisible Boy, Phantom Empire and Gremlins, and his TV show appearances included episodes of My Little Margie, The Thin Man, Columbo, The Addams Family, Lost in Space, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mork & Mindy, Project U.F.O. and Ark II.

Robby the Robot was also used in a well-known AT&T television commercial in 2006, and was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2004, so although Robby may look a little kitsch when viewed in an era where Toyota and Honda offer far more advanced robots to the public, he was on the bleeding edge of technological capability at the time he was built by MGM more than 60 years ago.

In 1956, Robby's construction costs reportedly accounted for seven percent of the Forbidden Planet's $1.9 million budget which calculates to $133,000 in 1956 dollars: roughly $1.2 million today.

The full story of the robot is expertly told in the Winter 2017 edition of Bonhams quarterly magazine with the auction description adding more granular detail.

To illustrate the significance of the sale, here's our list of the most expensive movie props ever sold, emphasizing Robby's exalted place among the icons of cinematic history.

The most expensive movie props in history

We have only included two film cars in this listing because there are numerous instances of standard cars being used as movie props which were subsequently to become more valuable in their own right (and we keep a separate list of movie cars) with most of their value deriving from their worth as collectible automobiles.

James Bond's weaponized Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964)
James Bond's weaponized Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964)

The Batmobile and James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 are different, at least in our opinion, because they were made specifically as movie props. There's only one Batmobile, and the Aston Martin DB5 was never sold with options such as retractable machine guns and ejector seats.

Similarly, we haven't listed the Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire TR Mark IX which appeared in the 1968 film, Battle of Britain and sold for $2,527,204, because it would have sold for that much even if it hadn't been in the film. Nor have we listed Michael Jackson's $1.8 million red leather jacket worn in Thriller (1983), the most successful music video of all-time (9 million sold), mainly because it wasn't worn in a movie.

As always, we have ordered our listing based on the total price paid by the buyer at auction (including the buyers premium) as opposed to the "hammer price".

1 | Marilyn's subway grate dress from The Seven Year Itch (1955)

This rayon crepe halter dress with pleated skirt by Travilla is currently the most expensive item of clothing ever sold! It was worn in the 1955 movie The Seven Year Itch by Marilyn Monroe, who played the female lead role while Tom Ewell played the male lead. Tom now rates only a footnote in cinematic history, while Marilyn's subway grate scene became one of the most recognizable images in modern society.
This rayon crepe halter dress with pleated skirt by Travilla is currently the most expensive item of clothing ever sold! It was worn in the 1955 movie The Seven Year Itch by Marilyn Monroe, who played the female lead role while Tom Ewell played the male lead. Tom now rates only a footnote in cinematic history, while Marilyn's subway grate scene became one of the most recognizable images in modern society.

Price: $5,520,000 | Auctioneer: Profiles in History

2 | Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet (1956)

Robby the Robot may have first appeared in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, but his film and TV appearances number more than 30, including movies such as The Invisible Boy,Phantom Empire and Gremlins, and his TV show appearances included episodes of My Little Margie, The Thin Man, Columbo, The Addams Family, Lost in Space, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mork & Mindy, Project U.F.O. and Ark II.
Robby the Robot may have first appeared in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, but his film and TV appearances number more than 30, including movies such as The Invisible Boy,Phantom Empire and Gremlins, and his TV show appearances included episodes of My Little MargieThe Thin ManColumboThe Addams FamilyLost in Space, The Twilight ZoneThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Mork & MindyProject U.F.O. and Ark II.

Price: $5,375,000 | Auctioneer: Bonhams

3 | The Batmobile from Batman (1966)

The Batmobile appeared not just in the Batman movie (1966) but in the television series which repopularized the superhero. It sold for  $4,620,000 at a  Barrett-Jackson auction
The Batmobile appeared not just in the Batman movie (1966) but in the television series which repopularized the superhero. It sold for  $4,620,000 at a  Barrett-Jackson auction

Price: $4,620,000 | Auctioneer: Barrett-Jackson

4 | James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964)

The best known Aston Martin in history. James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964) sold for $4,595,998 at an RM (now RM Sothebys) auction
The best known Aston Martin in history. James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964) sold for $4,595,998 at an RM (now RM Sothebys) auction

Price: $4,595,998 | Auctioneer: RM Sothebys

5 | Audrey Hepburn's Ascot dress from My Fair Lady (1964)

The magnificent dress worn by Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn) in her "coming out" moment at the Ascot races in the film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion. Pygmalion became a smash hit musical stage play in 1956 as My Fair Lady and subsequently enjoyed even more success as a 1964 movie in which this dress appeared. Profiles in History auctioned the dress in 2011 for $4.4 million.
The magnificent dress worn by Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn) in her "coming out" moment at the Ascot races in the film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion. Pygmalion became a smash hit musical stage play in 1956 as My Fair Lady and subsequently enjoyed even more success as a 1964 movie in which this dress appeared. Profiles in History auctioned the dress in 2011 for $4.4 million.

Price: $4,400,000 | Auctioneer: Profiles in History

6 | The Maltese Falcon from The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The power of the silver screen has never been more evident than at the auction at which the Maltese Falcon prop from The Maltese Falcon (1941) was sold. Worth just a few dollars for its lead content, the prop sold for $4,085,000 at a Bonhams auction
The power of the silver screen has never been more evident than at the auction at which the Maltese Falcon prop from The Maltese Falcon (1941) was sold. Worth just a few dollars for its lead content, the prop sold for $4,085,000 at a Bonhams auction

Price: $4,085,000 | Auctioneer: Bonhams

7 | The Piano from Casablanca (1942)

The Piano from Casablanca (1942) upon which Sam plays "As Time Goes By" sold for $3,413,000 at a Bonhams' auction
The Piano from Casablanca (1942) upon which Sam plays "As Time Goes By" sold for $3,413,000 at a Bonhams' auction

Price: $3,413,000 | Auctioneer: Bonhams

8 | Cowardly Lion Costume from The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Cowardly Lion Costume worn in The Wizard of Oz (1939) fetched $3,077,000 at a Bonhams auction
The Cowardly Lion Costume worn in The Wizard of Oz (1939) fetched $3,077,000 at a Bonhams auction

Price: $3,077,000 | Auctioneer: Bonhams

- | Dorothy's Ruby Red Slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The slippers which Judy Garland wore in 'Wizard of Oz' haven't been given an official position on the list because the price cannot be verified. The price was never disclosed but is rumored to be in the vicinity of $3 million. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, director Steven Spielberg and other anonymous benefactors purchased the slippers for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum.
The slippers which Judy Garland wore in 'Wizard of Oz' haven't been given an official position on the list because the price cannot be verified. The price was never disclosed but is rumored to be in the vicinity of $3 million. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, director Steven Spielberg and other anonymous benefactors purchased the slippers for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum.

Price: approx. $3 million | Sold privately

We've shown the slippers which Judy Garland wore in the movie without an official number because the price cannot be verified. The price was never disclosed but is rumoured to be in the vicinity of $3 million. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, director Steven Spielberg and other anonymous benefactors purchased the slippers for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum.

9 | Judy Garland's 'Dorothy' dress from The Wizard of Oz (1939)

There have been several Dorothy Gale dresses from the 1939 movie sold in recent years, some of them were "test" dresses and didn't even appear in the movie, but they all sold for astronomical figures, with the most valuable being sold for $1,565,000 by Bonhams in 2015. We have removed the other versions from the list, but different versions have also sold for $910,000, $666,000, $480,000 and $266,638 plus Dorothy's ruby red slippers and the Lion's costume have both sold for more than $3 million, so the appeal of this dress appears to be based partially on the landmark movie, and ... whatever it is about the dress, it clearly resonates with the public on a very powerful level.
There have been several Dorothy Gale dresses from the 1939 movie sold in recent years, some of them were "test" dresses and didn't even appear in the movie, but they all sold for astronomical figures, with the most valuable being sold for $1,565,000 by Bonhams in 2015. We have removed the other versions from the list, but different versions have also sold for $910,000, $666,000, $480,000 and $266,638 plus Dorothy's ruby red slippers and the Lion's costume have both sold for more than $3 million, so the appeal of this dress appears to be based partially on the landmark movie, and ... whatever it is about the dress, it clearly resonates with the public on a very powerful level.

Price: $1,565,000 | Auctioneers: Profiles in History

10 | Wardrobe from The Sound of Music (1965)

Do-Re-Me is a song that has been sung countless times by billions of children and it's arguably the most watched instructional clip of all time. It was written for the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music and when the movie of the same name came out in 1964 and became a smash hit, the song was a radio hit. This is the dress Julie andrews wore in the filming of this timeless classic. It sold for $660,000 at a Profiles in History auction in 2013. The rest of the wardrobe for the film sold for $1.56 million.
Do-Re-Me is a song that has been sung countless times by billions of children and it's arguably the most watched instructional clip of all time. It was written for the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music and when the movie of the same name came out in 1964 and became a smash hit, the song was a radio hit. This is the dress Julie andrews wore in the filming of this timeless classic. It sold for $660,000 at a Profiles in History auction in 2013. The rest of the wardrobe for the film sold for $1.56 million.

Price: $1,560,000 | Auctioneers: Profiles in History

11 | Marilyn Monroe's's red sequinned showgirl gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

The red sequined showgirl gown Marilyn Monroe wore alongside Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, fetched $1,476,000 at a Profiles in History auction in June, 2011.
The red sequined showgirl gown Marilyn Monroe wore alongside Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondesfetched $1,476,000 at a Profiles in History auction in June, 2011.

Price: $1,476,000 | Auctioneers: Profiles in History

2 comments
VincentWolf
If I was filthy rich I would have paid more than that!
Mat Horton
The Holy Handgrenade of Antioch from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is coming up for Auction next year. That might be interesting