Southern California residents this week will have what a Los Angeles auction house is describing as a “rare” opportunity to buy some of the personal effects of “Unbroken” icon, USC Olympian and Torrance hometown hero Louis Zamperini. Abell Auction Co. will sell off to the highest bidders Thursday about 25 items of furniture and other belongings once owned by Zamperini, who died last year at the age of 97.
The company’s online catalog, with descriptions of the items for sale, will go live Tuesday at Abell.com. The story of Zamperini, a high school and college track star who ran in the 1936 Olympics and was captured by the Japanese during World War II after his U.S. Air Force airplane crashed, was immortalized in a best-selling book that Angelina Jolie later made into a movie released last year. The Zamperini family is in the process of selling his $2.9 million Hollywood Hills home, said his son, Luke Zamperini. “These are couches and furniture that we just don’t have room for in our own houses,” he said. “My sister, myself and my son have picked the things we want.” As many as 25 lots will be sold, said Joe Baratta, vice president of business development for Abell Auction Co. “The draw is in the name and curiosity of someone who was obviously a major historical figure nationally and locally,” he said, adding that the items’ provenance are estimated to increase their value by 15-20 percent. “You’re looking at items that will sell for a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars,” he added. They include an Italian carved figure that will bring an expected $200-$300, decorative African masks and a Chinese lacquered cabinet and narrow chest that will likely bring up to $800, Baratta said. The auction begins at 9 a.m. Thursday; an all-day preview is set for Wednesday. The family-operated company, which will mark its centenary next year, specializes in estate sales. Collectors hoping to snag any Zamperini memorabilia will be disappointed. The family has donated that to the Torrance Historical Society, which will curate and display the collection at its old Torrance museum. “We’re extremely proud of our father, and we’re also proud of the city of Torrance for recognizing our dad for who he was and what he stood for,” Luke Zamperini said. There are hundreds of items, said Debbie Hays, the society’s first vice president who was a close friend of Zamperini. “We have his bomber jacket, they just found it in his closet,” she said. “We have the suitcase that the city of Torrance purchased for him when he went to the Olympics as well as the wallet the city purchased for him … that was in his back pocket when he crashed.” “We have fabulous items,” she added. “The long-term plan is to purchase new display cases for the museum, and we will rotate displays based on them.”