The Middle-earth market has exploded ever since Peter Jackson’s big-screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings captured moviegoers’ imaginations a decade ago, cementing the epic fantasy tale’s author as one of the most famous of all time. With Jackson’s LOTR prequel The Hobbit enjoying a successful run as one of the winter’s biggest box office hits, let’s take a look at some Tolkien-related items that brought in the big bucks at auction over the past 10 years.
Tolkien’s romantic descriptions of The Shire in his literary works makes it clear he yearned for a simple existence. I wonder how the man who famously called the internal combustion engine “the greatest evil visited upon modern man” would have felt about fans and dealers doling out thousands upon thousands of dollars for books, letters and other memorabilia related to his fantasy world. Thanks to Tolkien Collector’s Guide for their exhaustive auction listings, which made this article possible.
This 1926 postcard written and signed by Tolkien to a fellow teacher actually predates most of the author’s writings about Middle-earth. However, a similar postcard is thought to have inspired the character of Gandalf the wizard, and there are some parallels with the industrialization of The Shire in Tolkien’s correspondence about his hometown here. “Oxford is changing very fast and mostly (not wholly) for the worse. It is no longer a University town. The old dialect is driven off the streets, and the old shops are fast being replaced by the dreary semi-municipal architecture of a London suburb… All to house an inessential (and indeed pernicious) industry [Morris Motors]. But people have done that sort of thing since the world began!” It sold for $2,800 in a June 2012 Bonham’s auction.