Marilyn Monroe’s Grave Marker Goes Up for Auction

By on January 26, 2017

A bronze marker that once graced the granite face of Marilyn Monroe’s burial vault will be up for grabs next month.
The grave of Marilyn Monroe
The grave of Marilyn Monroe. Photo by Courtney “Coco” Mault/Flickr

The grave marker from Marilyn Monroe’s crypt is hitting the auction block next month. Well, not the marker, but one of them. Thousands of fans and tourists visit Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles every year to pay homage to the Hollywood icon, touching the bronze marker and leaving red lipstick prints. Over time this causes oxidation, so the marker has to be replaced periodically.

According to the Heritage Auctions listing, the plaque up for grabs was obtained by an employee of the cemetery when it was removed about 20 years ago in the 1990s. The front reads “Marilyn Monroe 1926-1962.” Engravings on the back, from the Gasser-Olds Company who produces all of Marilyn’s markers, reads “Make Two Patterns for Marge” and “415 Westwood.”

In November of 2016 this same marker was included in a sale of Hollywood memorabilia through Nate D Sanders Auctions, but failed to garner even a single bid. Maybe the $50,000 starting bid was a bit steep, but it was no doubt inspired by a similar sale the previous year. Marilyn’s original marker, which was replaced sometime in the 1970s, was sold by Julien’s Auctions to an unknown overseas bidder in June 2015 for $212,500.

Marilyn Monroe's grave marker
Grave marker of Marilyn Monroe c.1990s

Marilyn Monroe memorbilia regularly fetches high prices, including screen-worn dresses, autographed copies of Playboy, chest and pelvis x-rays, and more. But apparently even being in the vicinity of her remains comes with a hefty price tag. In 2014, a seller was looking to unload a plot near Marilyn’s on eBay for $659,000, discounted from his original asking price of $699,000.

Even stranger is the case of Richard Poncher, who bought the vault directly above Marilyn’s from her then-husband Joe DiMaggio during the celebrity couple’s 1955 divorce. On his death bed in 1986, Richard told his wife Elsie, “If I croak, if you don’t put me upside down over Marilyn, I’ll haunt you the rest of my life.”

Whether or not Richard was actually interred face down seems to be up for debate, but the book Biggest Secrets by William Poundstone relates a story that Poncher’s close friends waited until everyone had left the funeral, then flipped him over before the crypt was sealed to honor his wishes.

23 years later, In 2009, Elsie decided to move her husband and sell the vault on eBay to pay off the $1.6 million mortgage on their Beverly Hills home so it would be “free and clear” for their children. The description read, “Here is a once in a lifetime and into eternity opportunity to spend your eternal days directly above Marilyn Monroe.”

The crypt sold to an anonymous bidder for $4.6 million.

The grave of Richard Poncher above Marilyn Monroe

Beside Marilyn, the currently empty vault belongs to Hugh Hefner. He purchased it in 1992 for $75,000, though he never even met the “ultimate blonde,” as he called her, who helped launch his magazine with the very first centerfold spread in December 1953. Hefner was a Chicago native, and Marilyn was dead long before he made it out to California. In a 2012 interview he said, “I will be laid to rest in a vault next to hers. It has a completion notion to it. I will be spending the rest of my eternity with Marilyn.”

Other notable residents of Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery include Psycho author Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Bettie Page, Janis Joplin, Frank Zappa, and many more.

Online bidding for Marilyn’s grave marker begins February 27th at $10,000.

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