A coat worn by Bruce Lee in his last film, Game of Death, sold for US$77,000 at a rare auction of the late kung fu icon’s items in Hong Kong yesterday, far above pre-sale estimates.
Thirteen items went under the hammer at the sale, believed to be the largest-scale auction of Lee memorabilia in Hong Kong, where the martial arts star was raised before moving to the US in his late teens.
They smashed pre-sale estimates and raised a total of HK$1.78 million (US$227,000), including the dark-blue fur-lined coat that was made around 1973 for the film Game of Death, which was released after Lee’s death.
The coat — the priciest item in the sale — was originally expected to fetch about HK$70,000, but was sold to a US collector for HK$600,000, almost nine times initial estimates.
A letter that Lee wrote 45 years ago to a friend in which the martial arts legend talked about the television series The Green Hornet, in which he played Kato — the kung fu-kicking valet of the masked crime fighter — was sold for HK$400,000.
Other items that were sold, including a membership card for his kung fu institute, a name card of Lee and an envelope addressed by Lee to a friend.
“I am very happy,” said a jovial Albert Wong, deputy chairman of real-estate firm Midland Holdings, who spent HK$265,000 to buy four items at the auction, including the membership card that was sold for HK$200,000.
“I would like people to remember there was a very important person in search of excellence throughout his life,” Wong said in reference to the kung fu hero, adding that his favorite Lee movie was Game of Death.
The sale was jointly organized by US-based Kelleher Auctions and Hong Kong’s Phila China.
The Hong Kong government said in June that it had shelved a plan to turn Lee’s old home in the city — which later became a rundown love hotel — into a museum, citing differences with the property owner.
Fans of the icon, who died in 1973 at the age of 32, have long called for a museum dedicated to Lee in the city.
His widow, now living in the US, had provided a rough copy of the home’s original layout to help restoration efforts and his daughter Shannon has previously said the museum would be “great for my father and his legacy.”
Lee — credited with catapulting the martial arts film genre into the mainstream with films including Fists of Fury and the posthumously released Enter the Dragon — died in Hong Kong after a severe reaction to medication.
A statue of Lee sits on Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars, but fans have criticized the lack of a more significant memorial to their hero.