The glass on the left side of the goggles is cracked from a crash, and the brown leather pads crack with age. They’re expected to fetch $20-40,000 at auction. Considering the most recently sold pair of flight goggles worn by Amelia Earhart went for $140,000, maybe it’s not a bad deal.
“The goggles are a draw because they so rarely come up for auction,” said Marcus Wardell, the furniture and decorative arts specialist at Clars Auction Gallery on Telegraph and 57th Street in North Oakland, which will auction off some of Earhart’s possessions on September 10 and 11. The artifacts to be auctioned include 18 photos she had given away to friends and a flight mentor, as well as the Luxor No. 6 flying goggles worn by the famed aviator, who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Earhart mysteriously disappeared on an attempted flight around the globe in 1937.
The auction will be held both at the Clars store, where more than 1,000 people are expected to view the auction that weekend, and online, where 500,000 people can view the items and place a bid. There will also be telephone bidding. Wardell said an international market is expected to bid on the items, with most bids coming from museums and collectors.
Earhart has a strong connection to Oakland; she often flew out of Oakland International Airport—including at the start of her final flight—and the photos up for bid were all taken in Oakland. While there are pictures of her in action, including one of her taking off from Oakland in the Lockheed Electra plane for her final flight, most are candid shot: she’s packing a suitcase, leaning back with her arms behind her head, taking notes while a mechanic works on her plane.
Most of the photos are 8 x 10s and were a gift to the mother of consigner Diane Brown, who found them in a manila envelope earlier this year when she was cleaning out her mother’s home after a fire. Photos of Earhart in these kind of informal poses are rare, Wardell said, which is a reason he said they’re expected to fetch between $600-$800 each. “You don’t normally see her at the barber shop, for instance,” he said.
Earhart reportedly wore the goggles that will be sold in the auction during her first crash, while learning to fly with instructor Neta Snook, at Goodyear Field in Southern California in 1921. The last pair of Earhart’s goggles to go before auction were sold for $141,600 in Hollywood in 2009. That pair was from 1932 solo transatlantic flight, though, which added to the price. While the pair at Clars is expected to draw a bid of a fourth of that price, the rarity of a pair of Earhart goggles could drive it up. “There’s a possibility,” Wardell said. “We’re always hopeful.”