KENNER, La. – A crowd of enthusiastic Carnival collectors turned out Thursday for an auction of more than 200 pieces of Mardi Gras memorabilia from Kenner’s shuttered Mardi Gras Museum, with some pieces fetching more than $1,000.
A framed invitation from the 1893 Rex ball was among the highest-priced purchases, with a final price tag of $2,000. A framed Rex Queen’s scroll brought in $1,000, while the bidding on an 1891 Rex invitation ended at $950.
Bidding on an elaborate king’s costume and feathered headpiece from the defunct Krewe of Poseidon topped $1,500 earlier in the day, while a neon sign from the Mardi Gras Courts motel brought in $2,000.
The 19th century items were among the pieces which saw more spirited bidding, but came near the end of a four-hour auction of everything from beads, doubloons and printed ephemera to krewe favors, costumes, props and other historical pieces.
The auction was organized by the City of Kenner, which said it had to close the Mardi Gras Museum because of sagging attendance and tightening budgets. The facility opened in 1992 in the city’s Rivertown district.
More than 100 bidders turned out for Thursday’s auction, including many Carnival memorabilia collectors and others who are themselves members of parade krewes. The group moved from room to room of the now-closed museum, with auctioneers rattling off the list of more than 250 lots at this museum and the Toy Train Museum nearby.
The Carnival items auctioned ranged from the mundane (mannequins on which costumes once were displayed) to the offbeat (a Gremlin car decorated in Mardi Gras beads, which brought in $800). A large, but somewhat tattered replica of the iconic Rex Boeuf Gras float fetched just $200, while a bidder paid $250 for a St. Augustine Marching 100 uniform.
Some pieces of memorabilia came from krewes that are now extinct, including Omardz and the all-female krewes of Venus, Rhea and Diana. Other items were symbolic of a different time, when favors handed out by krewes at their balls and supper dances ranged from butter dishes, cigarette lighters and egg coddlers (one that was sold bore the Krewe of Mid-City emblem) to Old Fashioned glasses (Thor) and perfume atomizers (Zeus).
A final tally on how much money was raised during the auction was not yet available, but was expected to be several thousand dollars.
Ken Marroccoli, the city’s director of recreation and community services, said that the high prices brought in by some items surprised him and the organizers.
“We are pleasantly surprised by the turnout and the money that’s coming in,” he said.
Marroccoli said no firm decision has been made as to the future of the museum building or how it will figure in to bigger plans for revamping the museum district.