It is often said that the best artists are more valued by the general public after they die. We’ve all heard stories about starving artists who could not make a living, but whose work skyrocketed in value years after death. Yet the same holds true for the most famous celebrities who do very well in life. Take Elvis Presley, for example. A pair of The King’s sunglasses recently sold for just under $160,000.

Forbes reports that the final price paid ($159,900) is a record sum for a pair of sunglasses from Elvis Presley. These particular glasses were apparently used by Elvis on his last Hawaiian vacation in the mid-1970s. They are a chrome and plastic hybrid, with teardrop lenses tinted in a subtle purple hue. Over the top of the bridge are The King’s initials in gold.

It’s a Piece of History

The sunglasses themselves are not exceptionally expensive in terms of materials and craftsmanship. They are comparable to modern brands like Olympic Eyewear’s  Manhattan and Air Force lines. What makes them worth so much money is the fact that they are a piece of history. Owning these sunglasses means owning something belonging to one of the most influential people in modern music.

The new owner of the sunglasses can take great pride displaying them alongside pictures of Elvis and girlfriend Ginger Alden enjoying a Hawaii vacation. In the picture, the couple looks like any other American couple relaxing in a tropical environment. Show that same picture to a young person today and Elvis might not even be recognizable. He and Ginger look like average Americans doing what we do.

To the collector however, both the sunglasses and Hawaii picture represent one of the last times Elvis and Ginger spent a significant amount of time together. Elvis died later that year of a heart attack.

Other Expensive Memorabilia

To understand the true value of the Elvis Presley sunglasses, we have to compare them to other pieces of celebrity memorabilia sold at auction. At that same auction, a pair of sunglasses owned by actor Steve McQueen sold for $18,450. That was considered a high price for the McQueen shades.

A brush, comb, and mirror set that once belonged to actress Marilyn Monroe sold for just under $24,000, while a Star Wars X-34 Landspeeder replica went for just $39,975. Even a fiberglass replica of the Batmobile did not do as well as Elvis’ sunglasses. It sold for just $110,000.

It is hard to believe that a small piece of eyewear made predominantly of plastic could be worth nearly $160,000. That just goes to show how much personality and celebrity are valued in America. As for the sunglasses themselves, they are a representation of Elvis Presley’s personality.

Sunglasses Are like That

Elvis probably never imagined his sunglasses would be so valuable when he bought them. And yet, this particular pair reflected his personality rather succinctly. Elvis grew up a simple, country boy who liked to sing in church. He went on to be one of the most flashy and ostentatious musicians of all time. His flamboyance is rivaled only by Elton John and Liberace.

Some lucky collector gained piece of pop culture history and a personal link to Elvis Presley by buying those sunglasses. More power to him or her. We suspect the sunglasses will never be worn in public again, nor should they be. They are a reminder of just how fragile life can be. They are a reminder that even the rich and famous among us still purchase plastic sunglasses to protect their eyes.