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PICS: Five of the most prized Freddie Mercury items being auctioned

If you have R72 mil burning your pocket, you could be the new owner of the piano Freddie Mercury composed 'Bohemian Rhapsody' on.


Here are five lots that stand out in the Sotheby’s sale of items belonging to Queen frontman Freddie Mercury that begins in London on Wednesday.

The piano

Mercury composed many of Queen’s songs, starting with the global hit Bohemian Rhapsody, on his treasured Yamaha G2 baby grand piano.

He bought it for about £1 000 (R24 169) in 1975 after weeks searching for a piano to match his ambitions, but small enough to fit into the living room of the flat he shared with close friend Mary Austin. Today it is worth £11 000 (R265 653), accounting for inflation.

Austin, to whom Mercury bequeathed his estate and who is now selling the collection, said he treated the piano with “absolute respect”, never smoking at it or resting a glass on its pristine surface.

“He considered it to be more than an instrument, it was an extension of himself, his vehicle of creativity,” she added.

Sotheby’s estimates it will fetch £2 million (R48 310 160) to £3 million (R72 449 581).

In Mercury’s west London home, it was mostly paired with his “favourite piano stool” – a silk-upholstered satinwood two-seater dating from the 1920s to 1930s, which he had bought in 1977 from upmarket department store Harrods.

The stool is being auctioned separately on Friday, with bids already lodged for at least £8 500 (R205 237).

Freddie Mercury items on auction
Freddie Mercury’s Yamaha G-2 baby grand piano, is pictured during a press preview ahead of the “Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own” auctions, at Sotheby’s auctioneers in London on 3 August 2023. Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP

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‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Mercury initially planned to call one of Queen’s most globally beloved and streamed songs – and the third best-selling UK single ever – Mongolian Rhapsody.

The revelation is detailed in 15 pages of lyrics and melodies, written in black and blue ink and pencil on stationery from the now-defunct British Midland Airways, that led to Bohemian Rhapsody.

The songwriter at some point crossed out the word “Mongolian” and replaced it with “Bohemian”.

The pages – eight devoted to lyrics, seven to musical harmonies – are expected to fetch up to £1.2 million (R28 972 380).

Crown and cloak

Mercury wore the signature outfit throughout Queen’s 1986 “Magic” tour, when the band sold out venues across Europe.

The British royal crown replica and a cloak in fake fur, red velvet and rhinestones, were made by his friend the costume designer Diana Moseley.

The imitation gold- and jewel-encrusted crown – with four dipped arches and red velvet cap trimmed with imitation ermine – resembles the St Edward’s crown used for the coronation of British monarchs.

The real version was donned by King Charles III at his crowning last September.

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The 327 centimetre cloak cape, fastening at the neck with a gold-tone metal chain, was inspired by those used at Napoleon’s coronation.

Mercury wore the ensemble at the end of the tour’s final concert at Knebworth, England, on 9 August 1986 – his last on-stage Queen appearance.

They have a sale estimate of £60 000 (R1 449 082) -£80 000 (R1 932 110).

Freddie Mercury cloak and crown on auction
Freddie Mercury’s signature crown and cloak ensemble, worn throughout Queen’s 1986 ‘Magic’ Tour, is pictured during a press preview ahead of the “Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own” auctions, at Sotheby’s auctioneers in London on August 3, 2023. Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP

Poems

Dating from 1964, the year Mercury’s Parsi Indian family fled Zanzibar for London due to revolution, Poems of Spirit and Action includes his teenage pencil notes on dozens on pages.

Inscribed with the name Fred Bulsara – Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara – his notes contain commentary and judgements on poems, word definitions as well as more “whimsical comments”.

It also features an original poem he composed titled “Bird (‘Feather flutter in the sky…’)”.

Offered in an online auction closing next Tuesday, it had been expected to fetch up to £1 200 (R28 960) but has already attracted a bid of £7 500 (R181 002).

Jukebox

Mercury kept a multicoloured, illuminated 1941 coin-operated Wurlitzer jukebox in his kitchen.

Housed in a walnut laminate-veneered case with yellow and red plastic panels and a glazed peacock panel front, featuring bubbling tubes and chrome metal fretwork, it is no longer in working order and being sold as a decorative object.

Nonetheless, Sotheby’s anticipates it will go for £15 000 (R361 962) to £25 000 (R603 270).

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