A mask from Beetlejuice, a cow's uterus, and a bundle of barbed wire

Curious objects at auction

 Lot 1: Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice

Courtesy of Bonhams


This fabulous mask is a screen-used prop from Tim Burton’s 1988 cult comedy, Beetlejuice, starring Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. When Adam Maitland (Baldwin) and his wife Barbara (Davis) realize they’ve died in a car accident, they decide to haunt the new owners of their house. During a scene in which they are practicing how to frighten people, Barbara flicks out her eyes and transforms her mouth into an enormous, toothy, beak-like structure capable of crunching skulls. It’s the kind of talent every woman wishes for, at one time or another.

Part of a London auction of “Entertainment Memorabilia” on December 13, the custom-made mask of latex and resin is estimated by the auctioneer to reach about $2,000, but this film’s rabid fan base might easily bid it higher. A 2012 auction of the movie’s “Handbook for the Recently Deceased,” issued to the Maitlands soon after their untimely demise, realized $6,875. And that popularity extends to reproductions and “officially-licensed” merch too; see ThinkGeek’s 15-inch figurine of Betelgeuse, the titular graveyard ghoul played by Michael Keaton, or Target’s dog costume of the same.


Lot 2: Moo in Utero

Before doctors and medical students enjoyed an ample supply of cadavers upon which to practice their surgical skills, they used anatomical models, some made from wax, others from painted papier mâché and plaster, as in this example depicting a bovine uterus that goes to auction in New York on December 12. According to the auctioneer, this one was made in the French factory of Dr. Louis Thomas Jérôme Auzoux, who specialized in human and veterinary models, as well as larger zoological replicas, all made with detachable pieces for educational use, in the early twentieth century.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Complete with cervix, uterine horns, and ovaries, the model also contains a four-month-old embryo that provokes the desire to pluck it out with tweezers, Operation-style. Buzz!

If cows aren’t your thing, a human version is also on offer. Either way, a dummy uterus will cost about $1,500.


Lot 3: Trade in Barbs

You might trade barbs with your nemesis, but something tells us you’ve never actually traded barbed wire with him. Well, unless you’re a member of the Antique Barbed Wire Society, in which case, a compilation of 125 different varieties of antique barbed wire is exactly the kind of thing you might swap or sell at auction—say, in San Francisco on December 14 for $1,000, give or take.

Courtesy of PBA Galleries

This bundle o’ fun—careful unpacking!—was originally assembled by a member of the New Mexico Barbed Wire Collectors Association, an organization that appears, astoundingly, to still exist. A typed letter from 1984 congratulating the initial buyer on his new “instant” collection, accompanies the prickly parcel.





Rebecca Rego Barry is the author of Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places.