KISS memorabilia snapped up at auction

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fake blood and leather codpieces. It must be the two-day auction of KISS rock 'n' roll memorabilia, sold by the group's members, which kicked off Saturday.

Rock fans and collectors spent almost $876,000 on an eclectic array of KISS paraphernalia during the event's first day. All items were sold by the group's leaders, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, who had accumulated several warehouses full of gear over a career spanning almost 30 years.

Officials said the duo organized the yard sale of more than 800 lots because they wanted to allow their fans to share in the KISS experience. KISS, whose lineup also includes Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, is currently performing throughout North America on what the group is billing as a farewell tour.

Organized jointly by Butterfields, a unit of eBay Inc., and Greg Manning Auctions Inc., the six-hour sale took place at a theater on the Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood. About 300 people turned up, and they competed with phone and Internet bidders from around the world.

The top price of $189,500 was paid for a set of four original costumes from the group's ``Alive'' reunion world tour of 1996-1997. The campy black garb came displayed on mannequins depicting the quartet in full face makeup. The collection had an estimated value of $60,000-$80,000, and went to a phone bidder just seconds after bids opened. (All figures include a buyer's premium of 15 percent of the first $50,000, and 10 percent thereafter.)

Four similar costumes, taken from the group's ``Psycho Circus'' tour of 1998-1999, sold for $145,500, within their estimated range of $100,000-$150,000.

Fans did not need deep pockets to partake. A bucket of stage blood produced for Simmons to spew on stage sold for $546 (estimated range $100-$200); while a pair of Simmons' custom- made platform shoes made of pink leather and snakeskin was a steal at just $632 (range $1,000-$1,500).

Dozens of affordably priced photos, speaker cabinets, belts, flight cases and even beverage coolers were eagerly snapped up.

Guitars and concert posters were especially popular. A Spector electric bass used by Simmons on various tours between 1977 and 1998 fetched the top price for a guitar, selling for $21,850 (range $5,000-$7,000). A poster from a 1973 New York City show, when admission was just $3.00, went for $3,162 (range price $500-$700).

A spectacular Simmons codpiece/belt combo, adorned with metal studs, plates, buckles and straps, sold for $1,725 to a phone bidder (range $500-$750). Simmons wore the hot number on tours during the 1980s.

Many bidders were saving their money for the auction's second day, Sunday. Items include original handwritten lyrics to such songs as ``Christine Sixteen'' and the unreleased ''Shadows,'' as well as costumes from the group's 1970s heyday.

Just in case buyers had visions of reproducing their acquisitions, a stern note in the catalog warns that Simmons and Stanley own the copyright to anything KISS-related. And they zealously guard that right.

``We sue everybody all the time and without mercy,'' Simmons once told Reuters. ``We will sue you so hard it will hurt your ancestors.''