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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Stardust memories for sale

20 November 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Naturally, Friday's auction of items from the shuttered Stardust attracted Dr. Lonnie Hammargren, whose east Las Vegas home contains thousands of historical Nevada casino items and artifacts.

On this day, though, Hammargren was just window shopping.

For more than 2,500 other bidders, the auction gave them a chance to own a piece of an iconic Strip casino, but at what some thought were inflated prices.

"The bidding was just plain stupid," said Jim Gensbechler of Las Vegas, who was hoping to pick up one of nearly 60 plasma screen televisions from the Stardust's sports book. "A new 42-inch screen plasma was advertised in the newspaper for $1,400. These ones were going for $1,100, $1,200, and you don't know how long they have been used."

Jay Bank of Las Vegas had his eyes, and wallet, set on one of several big-screen televisions. But his hoped-for price of $500 was well below the final bids.

The sale of some 50,000 items from the Stardust runs through Tuesday, which gave Hammargren, the former Nevada lieutenant governor and retired neurosurgeon, time to search for bargains.

Sitting in the front row of the auction, Hammargren said several components from the hotel's showroom, which was home to the "Lido de Paris" production show, Siegfried and Roy, and Wayne Newton, were attractive items. He was also interested in a replica of the famous Stardust spaceship, used in numerous 1960s publicity photos.

"It's both a time capsule and a rocket ship, so, of course it interests me," Hammargren said Friday afternoon as the auctioneer sold off slot-machine-carousel signs from the Stardust's casino. "I'm actually not really bidding, just looking right now."

Hammargren would have liked to make an offer on the Stardust's Strip sign and marquee, but that item is headed to the Neon Museum. The 12-foot replica, however, did catch Hammargren's interest.

Jackie Reau, a spokeswoman for Great American Group, which is handling the auction, said the response on the first day was better than expected. Potential bidders signed up in person and through the auction's Web site at www.greatamerican.com. Participants buying on the Internet were able to bid live against buyers at the Stardust.

"The number keeps on climbing," Reau said.

Chairs from the Stardust race and sports book went for about $10 each, but televisions drew the most attention.

"There was some pretty active bidding right from the beginning," Reau said. "People really had an interest in the televisions."

The auction got off to a frenzied start Friday morning when the last craps table that saw action at the Stardust, complete with signatures of the dealers, sold for $7,000 to a Las Vegan and longtime Stardust customer who didn't want to be identified.

Meanwhile, potential bidders browsed preview tables in the Stardust convention center filled with auction items.

Miriam, a woman who did not want to give a last name, was checking out boxes of costumes from the "Lido de Paris" show. She was having a hard time determining the size of the outfits.

"Its too bad they won't let you try it on first," she said.