Over the past two years, I’ve been slowly making my way through all nine seasons of my favorite sitcom of all-time, Seinfeld. Now that I’m about midway through the final season, I’m not ready to leave the Upper West Side.
When I visit New York City in a couple of weeks, the first sight I plan on seeing is Tom’s Restaurant, the real-life eatery used for external shots of Monk’s Café on the show. Kenny Kramer doesn’t have any more Seinfeld tours planned until October, but I also plan on visiting 129 West 81st Street, the actual address that fake Jerry lives at in the series. Today, let’s pretend that the Seinfeld universe is our own and go over some of the fictional celebrity memorabilia featured on the “show about nothing.”
It’s clear that more than a few Seinfeld writers were collectors. Many of the show’s iconic story lines (including those from “The Soup Nazi” and “The Contest”) were based on real experiences, so how else would Jon Voight’s car, Anthony Quinn’s undershirt or the set from The Merv Griffin Show make their way into the script?
Perhaps the most true-to-life collectible included on Seinfeld was John F. Kennedy’s set of golf clubs, although the price paid for them in the show is drastically discounted from what they fetched at an actual mid-’90s auction. The 21st episode of the seventh season finds Elaine assigned to take the place of her vacationing boss, J. Peterman, and bid on the clubs at an auction. Elaine is authorized to pay up to $10,000 for them, but when a longtime rival starts gets in the game, the two engage in a bidding war and she ends up paying $20,000 for the clubs.
In real-life, as it turns out, Elaine would’ve gotten the deal of the century had she purchased our 35th President’s woods and irons for a mere twenty-grand. At wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ estate auction in April 1996 (the month before the Seinfeld episode aired), the Chief Executive’s personal set of clubs went for an astounding $1,160,000. Seinfeld’s writers sure could crank out a hilarious script, but value appraisers they were not.
Another famous instance of a character getting wrapped up in the world of celebrity collectibles is the sixth season’s “Mom & Pop Store” episode. While shopping for a used car, George gets hooked into a regrettable purchase by a shifty salesman claiming to have actor Jon Voight’s car on his lot. The glove compartment even came with a pencil sporting the previous owner’s teeth marks, much to George’s delight. Of course, it turns out to have once belonged to a local dentist who shares a name with the Deliverance and Coming Home star.
On the other end of the believability scale, Kramer happens upon the set from The Merv Griffin Show sitting in a dumpster in a kooky ninth-season episode. He proceeds to recreate the ‘60s talk show in his apartment, but soon finds it difficult to keep an imaginary audience’s attention for 14 hours a day. According to DVD extras, the set seen in the episode wasn’t that of the actual show, but instead made from photos and video provided by the talk show’s former staffers.
As Kramer bemoans upon discovering the discarded set, “One minute Elliot Gould is sitting on you and the next thing, you’re yesterday’s trash.”