Rare Trove of Marilyn Monroe's Belongings Going Up for Auction – Including Haunting Descriptions from Her Time at a Sanitarium

A collection from the estate of the Lee Strasberg family, including Marilyn Monroe's furs, jewels, and letters to her psychiatrist, will go on sale in November

Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty

Julien’s Auction House of Los Angeles will auction off Marilyn Monroe’s personal items from the estate of her acting teacher Lee Strasberg, the auction house announced on Tuesday. It will include everything from a fur coat and fur stoles, to a ladies’ platinum-and-diamond cocktail watch and a minaudiere purse with three compartments for powder, Phillip Morris cigarettes and a tube of her used Revlon “Bachelor’s Carnation” lipstick from 1947. Many personal letters will also be for sale.

The auction, which will be held on Nov. 19 and 20 in Los Angeles, also includes Monroe’s 1950s brown alligator handbag from I. Magnin department store, and a gray pony purse containing three peso bills.

Notably, a haunting letter to her California psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson – who treated her in the period leading up to her death – is also available. The note details her time and what she described as the “inhumanity” she witnessed while at the Payne-Whitney psychiatric clinic.

Wrote Monroe to her doctor: “They asked me why I wasn’t happy there (everything was under lock and key: things like electric lights, dresser drawers, bathrooms, closets, bars concealed on the windows – the doors have windows so patients can be visible all the time, also the violence and markings still remain on the walls from the former patients.) I answered: ‘Well, I’d have to be nuts if I liked it here.’ ”

Together, the collection of items forms a time capsule of the life of the legendary sex symbol, who died on Aug. 5, 1962 from a barbiturate overdose in her Hollywood home.

In addition to her costume jewelry, the auction also features a pair of platform sandals that Monroe wore in her early modeling days, and a men’s accessory case from her second husband, Joe DiMaggio. The case has a custom initial “J Dim” on the lid, with a combination lock closure set to 555 – a repetition of DiMaggio’s New York Yankees jersey number.

Among the artifacts are also receipts for the care of her mother, Gladys Eley, while she was staying at the Rockhaven Sanitarium, including prescription medication and toothpaste. Other tax documents list her expenditures in detail – including a 1959 federal tax return for her and third husband Arthur Miller, and her 1962 checkbook with stubs from every check written in the last year of her life.

There are also lighter items, such as her recipe for stuffing.

“This is one of the most important and historic auctions of Marilyn Monroe ever,” says Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions. “This diverse collection gives us a most intimate glimpse of the screen legend. Never before has there been so many important artifacts from the life and career of the much loved global icon.”

Monroe developed a close (and controversial) relationship with Strasberg and, in her will, bequeathed him her personal belongings.

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Strasberg’s widow, Anna Strasberg, says in a statement: “No one person ever really knew every facet of Marilyn Monroe, though countless books have attempted to piece together every first, second and third-hand account of each encounter, often embellished through passage of time. Marilyn was a complex and beguiling figure in her lifetime, leaving generations of adoring fans to speculate, infer and debate about her life. What has resulted in a prismatic kaleidoscope image built upon both fact and fantasy.”

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