A customer of Profiles in History, Dwight Manley, has this week filed a lawsuit against the auction house in Los Angeles Superior Court. Manley is suing over a costume worn by James Gandolfini in the final episode of The Sopranos, and has also named The Golden Closet as a Defendant as the company was the consignor of the item in question. His complaint alleges fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of express warranty.
The complaint was filed on January 23rd by Rutan & Tucker LLP, the attorneys for the Plaintiff. (Case No. BC691115 Superior Court of The State of California for The County of Los Angeles)
The complaint cites Profiles in History’s “Hollywood Auction 56”, held July 28-29, 2013, as the sale in which Plaintiff purchased the item in question at auction.
You can view Page 114, Lot 367 from the catalog (from my archives taken at the time of the auction in 2013) with the full auction description and photo here: LINK
Below is the text from the 2013 Profiles in History catalog description:
367. JAMES GANDOLFINI’S SCREEN-WORN “TONY SOPRANO” COSTUME FROM THE FINAL SCENE OF THE FINAL EPISODE OF THE SOPRANOS. (HBO, 1999-2007)
James Gandolfini’s signature “Tony Soprano” shirt, black slacks and leather shoes featured in the last scene of the final episode of The Sopranos, a media-innovating cable TV series. In Season 6, Episode 21: “Made in America”, “Tony Soprano” and his family sit down to a meal at the local Holstein’s Diner. Just in the midst of building paranoid tension, the screen goes black. After ten seconds of nothingness, the credits roll. A controversial ending to a beloved show that puzzled, delighted and infuriated its audience. The familiar styled green and black paneled shirt bears the internal bias tag with, “P621”. Black pants with tag labeled “Tony 1 CH-5 P619” and one pair of size 13 black Allen Edmonds shoes. An important costume from a game changing, dramatic series. In very good condition. Comes with a COA signed by Gandolfini. $3,000 – $5,000
In the complaint, Page 2 under “OPERATIVE FACTS”, the Plaintiff states:
6. In on around August 2013, Profiles conducted an auction of various Hollywood memorabilia. All of the items were listed in a catalogue along with descriptions of the features and attributes of each item. One such item, Lot #367, was listed as THE very costume worn by James Gandolfini during the iconic final scene of the series finale of The Sopranos, in which Gandolfini played the notorious Tony Soprano. Lot #367 was marketed by Defendants as a “unique collector’s item from one of the most talked about endings in all of television history.” The item was labeled as THE costume worn by Mr. Gandolfini during the series finale. A photo from the final scene is attached as Exhibit A.
7. Plaintiff is informed and believes that Golden Closet is the consignor of Lot #367 and Profiles agreed to act as Golden Closet’s agent in connection with the auction and sale of Lot #367.
8. Plaintiff participated in the auction via telephone from Brea, California. Plaintiff reviewed Lot #367 and, relying on the description contained in the catalogue, bid on the costume. The bid was accepted by Profiles. Plaintiff paid the purchase price for the costume worn by Mr. Gandolfini during the final scene in the series finale of The Sopranos.
Interestingly, the language quoted by the Plaintiff in the complaint – “unique collector’s item from one of the most talked about endings in all of television history” – does not appear in the 2013 catalog auction description. Nor does the characterization (emphasis theirs) as the costume being “THE” costume.
I also checked the traditional opening letter and highlights page (LINK), in the event it was listed as a highlight with alternative language, but it does not get a mention on this page of the catalog either.
Continuing with the Plaintiff’s complaint (Pages 2-3):
9. In or around August 2017, Plaintiff received a catalogue from Profiles for an upcoming auction. Lot #1112 was listed for auction with the following description: “James Gandolfini ‘Tony Soprano’ Holsten’s Costume From the Final Episode of The Sopranos.” Incredibly, Lot #1112, like Lot #367, was listed as “worn” during the “controversial final scene of the series” and consisted of the exact same shirt and pants as those in Lot #367. Lot #112, however, did not describe the costume as a “unique collector’s item.” Lot #1112 ultimately failed to sell.
Referencing my Profiles in History catalog archive, I have retrieved the catalog auction page for this second costume that was sold in a subsequent auction four years later.
The complaint cites Profiles in History’s “Hollywood Auction 89”, held June 26, 27 and 28, 2017, as the sale in which a second costume was placed at auction with a similar description as the one Plaintiff purchased in 2013.
You can view Page 383, Lot 1112 (from my archives taken at the time of the auction in 2017) with the full auction description and photo here: LINK
Below is the text from the 2017 Profiles in History catalog description:
1112. JAMES GANDOLFINI “TONY SOPRANO” HOLSTEN’S COSTUME FROM THE FINAL EPISODE OF THE SOPRANOS. (HBO, 1999-2007)
This costume change was worn by the character Tony Soprano portrayed by actor James Gandolfini in HBO’s award winning series “The Sopranos”. The outfit consists of a Mix Studio short sleeve shirt, black Zanella dress pants, and a pair of Allen Edmonds cap toe shoes. Mr. Gandolfini wore this outfit in “Made In America” (Season 6 Part II, Episode 9) during the controversial final scene of the Sopranos series in which Tony meets his family for dinner at Holstein’s Restaurant. Tony’s family members arrive one by one as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” plays in the background and a mysterious tension develops from the appearance of several suspicious looking characters inside the diner. Meadow finally succeeds in parking her car outside and makes her way to the door of the restaurant. Tony raises his head at the sound of the door opening and then the screen suddenly cuts to black with no explanation, making this signature costume a unique collector’s item from one of the most talked about endings in all of television history. The garments are in good screen worn condition and are accompanied by a letter of authenticity. $4,000 – $6,000
The Plaintiff actually seems to have it wrong in his complaint. As quoted from the complaint above, they state:
Incredibly, Lot #1112, like Lot #367, was listed as “worn” during the “controversial final scene of the series” and consisted of the exact same shirt and pants as those in Lot #367. Lot #1112, however, did not describe the costume as a “unique collector’s item.”
However, it is Lot #1112 in 2017 that DOES describe the costume as a “unique collector’s item”. Lot #367 un 2013 DOES NOT. They have it reversed. Not that the language means anything to me (it seems quite generic and throw away as far as auction catalog descriptions go), but Plaintiff seems to make a point of this in their complaint.
Continuing with the Plaintiff’s complaint (Pages 3):
10. Plaintiff is informed and believes that at the time Profiles and Golden Closets sold Lot #367, they were aware that a second, identical costume (Lot #1112) existed. Profiles and Golden Closet were aware that the costume purchased by Plaintiff was not a “unique” item and nonetheless failed and refused to disclose the existence of the second costume. At no time did any Defendant even suggest that a second costume existed.
11. At the time Plaintiff purchased Lot #367, he was unaware of the existence of another, identical costume that was worn by Mr. Gandolfini during the final scene of The Sopranos series finale. Plaintiff did not learn of the second costume until he received the catalog containing Lot #1112. If Plaintiff had been aware of the existence of a second costume at the time he purchased Lot #367, he would have bid an amount far less of what he ultimately paid.
I have no knowledge of what Profiles in History and The Golden Closet “knew” about multiples of this costume at the time the first one was sold to Plaintiff in 2013, but I would assume that they probably did know… or at least The Golden Closet would have possibly had possession of the second and perhaps more, and if Profiles had given it any thought, I would speculate that they would not be surprised if there was more than one.
Because it comes down to Hollywood Costume Collecting 101… there are almost always multiples of any costume for any lead/principal in a major film or television production. And in this case, we are talking about the final scene in one of the most popular television series of all time… If there was only one such costume, it would be an anomaly. It’s how the industry works. There is so much money involved on set with actors and crew and equipment and other production costs… time is money.
If there was only one costume for James Gandolfini in that scene and he spilled a drink or something on his costume during filming and they only had one costume… it would cost a lot of money to stop production and take the costume to a dry cleaners. That’s why they have multiples and multiples of costumes. There are nearly always several copies of any wardrobe change on shows like The Sopranos for principal characters.
Just a quick search of the web, and it would appear that the final scene set in Holsten’s was produced and filmed over as many as three days… so obviously James Gandolfini would have multiple copies of the same wardrobe to film his scenes. See: “A mob scene in Bloomfield: ‘Sopranos’ shooting is cleared” via NJ.com / The Star-Ledger
The complaint then goes on to list the cause of actions, based on their “operative facts” quoted above.
Interestingly, in each, their two main points are that “Defendants and Does 1 through 20 represented that Lot #367 was the [“the” in italics] costume worn by actor James Gandolfini during the final scene of The Sopranos series and, further, was a “unique collector’s item.”
As noted above, it was actually the description of the second costume offered at auction in 2017 that featured the language “unique collector’s item”. And I don’t see in the auction description for Lot 367 in 2013 the phrase “the costume”… and even if there was such a description (which I don’t see), “the” doesn’t always mean “only”. Nor does “unique” (even though that descriptor does not appear to have been used until four years after the first auction).
My view is, if it was so important to the Plaintiff that he purchase the costume on the condition that it was the one and only one made for production and/or the only one worn by James Gandolfini, he should have asked the auction house before placing a bid.
Profiles in History usually put their auction catalogs out about one month before the live auction event. So prospective buyers have about a month to read the catalog, do their research, and ask questions.
I did not see anything in the complaint about the Plaintiff putting a direct query to the Defendants and getting no answer or a false answer.
It could be that the LOA/COA provided with the item contained different language than what was in the public auction catalog description, but I have no direct knowledge of this either way. I did not see any reference to an LOA or COA in the Plaintiff’s complaint.
Could there have been alternate marketing language used outside of the catalog and the auction description? Possibly. I have not found it.
Should Profiles in History have stated that there was one than one version of this particular costume? I guess they could have… but I would not expect it (and I am firmly pro-consumer/pro-buyer/pro-collector), because most collectors/buyers would know this. Should they provide such information if a prospective buyer contacts them and asks? Absolutely.
Pulling the results of the two auctions in question, it would appear that the Plaintiff paid $22,000 for Lot 367 in “Hollywood Auction 56” in July 2013. 2013 Results Excerpt: LINK
It would appear that Lot 1112 in “Hollywood Auction 89” in June 2017 went unsold, with a pre-sale estimate of $4,000-$6,000. Typically the reserve, if any, is the low estimate or lower… which means it did not sell for even $4,000. 2017 Results Excerpt: LINK (Note: Omission of Lot Typically Indicates Passed Lot/No Sale)
So basically the Plaintiff paid $22,000 for a costume in 2013, and another copy of the same costume failed to sell for $4,000 four years later.
But as readers of this website know, the marketplace is always changing… people’s interests change and evolve. Things that are popular at one time can have less hype surrounding it years later (see “The Hype Premium” and “Follow-Up“). There is always risk of values dropping, and it only takes two people to push the price up on an item at auction.
Would Plaintiff be suing if the second costume sold for $80,000 last year?
I am interested to see how this case unfolds, but I suspect it will just drop off at some point, as I don’t personally feel that Plaintiff has made a case, based on what is included in the four corners of the complaint. But that is just my subjective opinion. Perhaps there is additional information that will be introduced that will change my opinion.
The other problem for the Plaintiff is the set of terms and conditions that he would have agreed to in order to participate in the 2013 auction.
Below are some excerpts from the auction:
10. Warranties: Profiles does not provide any warranties to Bidders or Buyers, whether express or implied, beyond those expressly provided for in these Conditions of Sale. All property and lots are sold “as is” and “where is”. By way of illustration rather than limitation, neither Profiles nor the consignor makes any representation or warranty, expressed or implied, as to merchantability or fitness for intended use, condition of the property (including any condition report), correctness of description, origin, measurement, quality, rarity, importance, exhibition, relevance, attribution, source, provenance, date, authorship, condition, culture, genuineness, value, or period of the property.
11. Limitation of Damages: In the event that Profiles is prevented for any reason from delivering any property to Buyer or Buyer is otherwise dissatisfied with the performance of Profiles, the liability, if any, of Profiles, shall be limited to, and shall not exceed, the amount actually paid for the property by Buyer. In no event shall Profiles be liable for incidental, special, indirect, exemplary or consequential damages of any kind, including but not limited to loss of profits, value of investment or opportunity cost.
Before the Auction: You may attend pre-sale viewing for all of our auctions at no charge. All property to be auctioned is usually on view for several days prior to the sale. You are encouraged to examine lots thoroughly. You may also request condition reports (see below). Profiles in History’s staff are available at viewings and by appointment.
Condition Reports: If you wish to obtain additional information on a particular lot, or cannot appear at the viewing, Profiles in History may provide, upon request, a condition report. We remind prospective buyers that descriptions of property are not warranted and that each lot is sold “as is” in accordance with the terms of the limited warranty. Condition reports, as other descriptions of property, are not warranted; they are only provided as a service to interested clients. Neither Profiles in History nor the consignor make any express or implied representation or warranty concerning the condition of any lot offered for sale; any information furnished does not modify or negate the limited warranty contained in the Conditions of Sale. See Paragraph 10 of the Conditions of Sale for important restrictions as to reliance on condition reports.