Several statuettes of the Maltese Falcon were made for the 1941 movie of the same name, and they have unsurprisingly become sought after items among collectors. If you want to be the owner of one of these statuettes, you need deep pockets because they have a tendency to fetch a pretty penny at auctions.
Directed and scripted by John Huston, The Maltese Falcon is a film noir based on a 1930 novel by Dashiell Hammett. The movie stars Humphrey Bogart as the private investigator Sam Spade and Mary Astor as the femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy. The film received three nominations at the 14th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Sydney Greenstreet for Best Supporting Actor, and John Huston for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Two of the statuettes created for the movie were made from lead and weigh over 40 lbs each. There is also a resin statuette, weighing just 7 lbs, which is much more finely crafted than the metal ones. All three has been handled by Humphrey Bogart.
Inspiration for the statues in the movie comes from the famous Kniphausen Hawk, a ceremonial pouring vessel created in 1697 for Georg Whilhelm von Kniphausen, a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. This vessel, which is modelled after a hawk perched on a rock, is encrusted with emeralds, sapphires, amethysts, and red garnets. It is still in existence and belongs to the Cavendish family (Duke of Devonshire).
William Conrad´s lead falcon
After narrating the documentary Design For Disaster, the actor William Conrad received one of the lead Maltese Falcons, with bronze patina, as a token of appreciation from Jack L. Warner, the head of Warner Bros. Design For Disaster was a documentary produced by the Los Angeles City Fire Department about the 1961 Bel Air wildfire – at the time the worst conflagration in the history of Los Angeles.
William Conrad placed the 11.5 inch falcon on a bookshelf in his house. This falcon had been damaged during the making of the movie the Maltese Falcon, because the character Kasper Gutman (played by Sydney Greenstreet) slashed the falcon in a scene, leaving deep cuts in the bronze coating.
After Conrad´s death in February 1994, his widow Tippy Conrad asked Christie’s to auction it, and the auction house estimated that it would bring in $30,000 – $50,000. The auction was held in December that year, and the end price widely exceeded Christie’s estimation as Ronald Winston, the president of Harry Winston Inc, ended up paying $398,500 for it. It was the highest price paid for a film prop at that time.
In 1996, Winston sold the falcon, but the details about this sale has been kept under wraps. The buyer has just been said to be “a European collector” and Wiston allegedly make a huge profit. Allegedly, the European collector paid $1 million for the bird, but this number has not been confirmed.
Lead falcon sells for $4 million at auction
On November 25, 2013, one of the lead falcons (weighing 45 lbs) sold at auction for $3,500,000 ($4,085,000 including buyer’s premium). Originally anonymous, the buyer was later revealed to be a representative of the U.S. businessman and casino owner Steve Wynn, who is a big art collector.
Who has the real resin falcon?
The documentary director Ara Chekmayan and the entrepreneur Han Risan have both simultaneously claimed to own the real resin Maltese Falcon from the movie set.
In the year 2000, Chekmayan sold his bird at auction for $92,000. Ten years later, a group that included Leonardo DiCaprio purchased it for over $300,000.