Cheers to the winner of The Bar Where Everybody Knows Your Name! The bar counter with brass railings and bar stools from the beloved NBC series found a new home Saturday night when it sold for $675,000 at Heritage Auctions
, topping the three-day Comisar Collection Platinum Signature® Auction. The exhilarating bidding war over the bar was a fitting way to toast the long-running series that wrapped 30 years ago.
More than 4,700 bidders worldwide participated in the historic June 2-4 event, which realized $5,351,696 and saw nearly 1,000 props, costumes and sets from historic, influential and popular TV shows find new homes and caretakers. Every piece came from the collection of James Comisar, who spent more than three decades collecting, conserving and preserving television history in the hopes of opening a museum that never materialized.
Comisar's magnificent costume collection included Adam West's Batman and Burt Ward's Robin crime-fighting ensembles from the 1960s series, which found a new Batcave to call home when the Dynamic Duo realized $615,000 during the auction's first day. The auction comprised several cherished and familiar sets, including the home base Johnny Carson used during his final decade as host of NBC's Tonight Show. The desk, chairs, couch, coffee table and that glorious backdrop painting of beautiful downtown Burbank sold for $275,000.
Not far behind were two of the most famous chairs from one of the most recognizable living rooms in TV history: Archie and Edith Bunker's chairs made for and used during the ninth season of Norman Lear's vital All in the Family and all of Archie Bunker's Place that followed. The chairs found a new owner Saturday night, realizing $250,000, but they didn't have to look far for a new home: Their new caretaker will keep them in the Bunkers' longtime Queens home at 704 Houser Street, whose front room, dining room and stairwell realized $125,000. The new owner will likewise fill that (half a) house with all the other furnishings, dishware and details in their place since the series debuted on CBS in 1971.
In 1972 the cast of the 4077th M*A*S*H unit followed the Bunkers to CBS and turned the Korean War into a discussion about and depiction of the war in Vietnam. One of television's most recognizable and deeply felt keepsakes came from that series: the directional signpost bearing the names of the soldiers, doctors and nurses' hometowns and their distances from Korea. Three were made, two survived, and the one Comisar conserved sold Saturday for $150,000. "We knew from the moment we began working with James last year that this auction would be extraordinary, and thanks to Heritage's client-collectors we were not wrong," says Heritage's Chief Strategy Officer Joshua Benesh. "These are amazing items with amazing stories James' among them. We are proud to not only find them new homes but to share them with the world."
"The auction's success confirmed what I have always known: that television characters are cherished members of our extended family and that their stories and our own are inseparable," Comisar says. "The dedicated fans who acquired these TV treasures will surely give them kind homes and brighten the memories of bygone programs and performers. These pieces have finally been afforded the cultural significance they deserve, and I am honored to pass them on." The three-day event unfolded by decade and genre, including the late-night talk-show host who inspired Comisar's collecting, Johnny Carson, and Carson's disciple David Letterman. The Comisar Collection offered the entirety of NBC's 1980s late-night lineup: the Tonight Show desk and Letterman's complete Late Night set, including the desk and the skyline. Dave's set realized $100,000.
Comisar was passionate about costumes from shows starring superheroes, genies, witches and the explorers of the unknown from the 1950s and '60s. Among their estimable lot was one of the few surviving Superman tunics worn by George Reeves during his televised tenure as the syndicated Man of Steel, which soared to $150,000 after a brief bidding war. Costumes also weren't the only things Comisar offered from the Batcave: The sole surviving "bulletproof" Bat-Shield used in two episodes realized $100,000.
Collectors then turned their attention from the sky to the sea as the original screen-used FS-1 flying sub filming miniature from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea realized $100,000. A lost sailor, Alan Hale Jr.'s Skipper from Gilligan's Island, saw his captain's hat steer into a bidding war that landed on $62,500.
From the Final Frontier, Nichelle Nichols' Starfleet uniform her operations-red top, the long black boots worn during her first season as Star Trek's Lt. Uhura sold for $62,500. Her skirt, like everything else in The Comisar Collection, will live long and prosper.