Rudolph, Santa figures from beloved 1964 TV special soar to $368K at auction

LOS ANGELES — The most famous reindeer of all sold for six figures.

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The Rudolph and Santa Claus puppets used in the 1964 stop-motion animation special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” sold for $368,000 at the Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction held in Los Angeles by Profiles in History.

The puppets used in the perennially loved Christmas movie by Rankin/Bass Productions, which starred Burl Ives as the voice of Sam the Snowman and Billie Mae Richards as the voice of Rudolph, soared far past the projected sale price of between $150,000 and $200,000, according to The Associated Press.

The 6-inch-tall reindeer and the 11-inch-tall Santa were grouped together as one lot.

>> Reindeer for sale: Rudolph from iconic stop-motion Christmas special up for auction

The buyer was not identified, according to the AP. The seller was Peter Lutrario, 65, of New York.

Lutrario bought the figures 15 years ago after seeing them on the PBS television show “Antiques Roadshow,” according to the AP.

The Santa and Rudolph puppets were given by Arthur Rankin Jr. to his secretary, Barbara Adams, The New York Times reported. Her family showed them off as Christmas heirlooms and occasional playthings, the newspaper reported.

The characters were given to a nephew and they wound up in an attic. In 2005, the nephew (who requested anonymity) brought them to “Antiques Roadshow” the Times reported. The appraiser, Simeon Lipman, gave a pre-auction estimate of $8,000-$10,000. The nephew then offered the puppets on eBay, where they were bought by Kevin Kriess of Time and Space Toys of Zelienople, Pennsylvania, according to the Times.

“Once the news was announced that I’d bought them,” Kriess told the newspaper, “Peter was making me offers.”

Kreiss sold the figures separately to Lutrario in 2008, the Times reported, for “very significantly more than $30,000.”

“I’m very sentimental about them,” Lutrario told the newspaper. “I was watching when ‘Rudolph’ premiered on Dec. 6, 1964. I bought a VCR in 1977 for $1,500 to tape that show. I thought I would die with them. But I’m putting my family’s needs ahead of the dolls.”

The figures, created by Japanese puppet maker Ichiro Komuro, were constructed from wood, wire, cloth and leather. Santa’s beard is made from yak hair. And Rudolph’s nose still glows.

The movie remains a Christmas staple.

“It’s the jewel in the Rankin-Bass canon because it opened the doors for everything that came afterward,” Rick Goldschmidt, the Rankin-Bass historian, told the Times, noting that the movie paved the way for other productions such as ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town," “The Year Without a Santa Claus” and more.

Other items that sold during the two-day auction included Marilyn Monroe’s tiger-striped gown from “The Seven Year Itch,” which fetched $593,750. A gown Monroe wore when she met Queen Elizabeth II at a London film premiere sold for $294,000, according to the AP.

One of the dresses Vivien Leigh wore as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind” and Gene Kelly’s rain suit from “Singin' in the Rain” sold for $150,000 apiece, according to the AP.

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