July 09, 1990 12:00 PM

Thirty-one years after Buddy Holly, the rock original who gave the world “Peggy Sue,” “Rave On” and “That’ll Be the Day,” died in a plane crash at 23, Sotheby’s auction house in New York City decked the halls with bits of Holly memorabilia. The artifacts included, among other oddments, sweaters, lyric sheets, boots, a jackknife, two guitars and a business card from one of Holly’s early bands that read BUDDY AND BOB: WESTERN AND BOP. By day’s end 125 lots had been knocked down for $703,615, to be divided—after Sotheby’s 10 percent cut—among Holly’s widow, Maria, and other relatives. “This is not the easiest thing to do,” said Maria, 50ish, who traveled from Texas with Buddy’s brother, Larry, 64, for the occasion. “There’s not a day I don’t have Buddy on my mind. But it was a mutual decision of the family. We wanted to share with the fans.”

Most winning bids far exceeded Sotheby’s original estimates. A Fender Stratocaster guitar, assessed at $60,000, brought $110,000. An acoustic guitar with a leather cover hand-tooled by Holly and valued at $35,000 brought an eye-popping $242,000 from actor Gary Busey, who played the singer in the 1978 film The Buddy Holly Story. Smithereens singer Pat DiNizio forked over $14,300 for Holly’s reel-to-reel tape recorder, and the Hard Rock Cafe paid $45,100 for a pair of Holly’s trademark horn-rims. Even his first-grade report card scored high, bringing $3,850. Said auctioneer David Redden: “Nice report card.”

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