Playboy's topless Marilyn photo up for auction

Playboy memorabilia, including a topless photograph of Marilyn Monroe, was going on sale today at an auction coinciding with the 50th birthday of the men’s magazine.

Playboy memorabilia, including a topless photograph of Marilyn Monroe, was going on sale today at an auction coinciding with the 50th birthday of the men’s magazine.

Among the lots are a stretch limousine once used by Playboy boss Hugh Hefner, paintings, photographs, letters from famous readers and Playboy “bunny” outfits.

The Monroe picture was used as the centrefold in the 1953 premiere edition of Playboy after Hefner bought the previously unpublished shot from a calendar company.

The image – estimated to fetch £5,700 (€8,100) – came to symbolise the early days of the magazine, which is celebrating five decades in production this month.

Monroe was the “sweetheart of the month” in the magazine, described as a “handbook for the urban male“.

The edition was printed without a date so it could remain on news stands indefinitely and sold more than 50,000 copies.

The picture is just one of 300 exhibits going under the hammer at the Christie’s auction in New York.

Among them is the 1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL stretch limousine once used by Hefner. It boasts an audio and video system, leather interior, a drinks cabinet and illuminated ice box for champagne.

The car, now retired from service, has 61,000 miles on the clock – although Christie’s said a few extra had been added because Hefner “took it for a spin” to say farewell recently.

It is expected to sell for up to £28,000 (€39,800) – less than it cost to customise the interior.

The buyer will collect the car from the Playboy mansion and have a tour of the site where hundreds of infamous parties have been held.

The buyer will also be invited to a party with Hefner on New Year’s Eve.

The item expected to fetch most money is an erotic painting by artist Tom Wesselmann.

The 1931 work, which hung in Hefner’s bedroom for years, is estimated to be worth nearly £35,000 (€49,700).

Playboy magazine marked something of a cultural revolution in the United States, making what was an under-the-counter trade more mainstream.

Among the celebrities who gave interviews were Jean-Paul Sartre, Muhammad Ali, the Beatles and Bob Dylan.

Ian Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was first published in Playboy in May and June 1963.

Hefner’s Playboy Club key card, with printed title and trade mark rabbit head and embossed name Hugh M Hefner and VIP 1 is expected to fetch more than £1,700 (€2,400).

Photographs of models Cindy Crawford, from July 1988, and Elle Macpherson, from May 1994, have estimates of several thousand pounds.

Images from Playboy magazine’s early years include Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra.

Also on sale are photographs and other Playboy memorabilia including bunny outfits and letters written to Hefner from, among others, Woody Allen, Joan Crawford, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire and Peter Sellers.

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