In 1999, Sotheby’s hired Leila to head the Collectibles Department, which in her nine-year tenure sold more than $75 million of memorabilia via live and online auctions of pop culture memorabilia, largely in the areas of sports memorabilia, entertainment and music memorabilia, toys, animation art, comic books and art, vehicles and movie posters.


Leila and collegue Laura Woolley, at the 2000 Sotheby’s Marilyn Monroe Memorabilia exhibition


The bat Ruth used to hit the first home run on Grand Opening Day of the New Yankee Stadium, April 16, 1923, sold for $1,250,000 in 2004. The home run was against the Red Sox, of course.

Sports memorabilia sales totaled more than $36 million, including the 2004 sale of the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run ever on Grand Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, for $1.25 million, a record for a bat (sales total $4.7 million), and the 2005 sale of the 1919 contract selling Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees for $996,000, a record for a sports contract (sale total $5.5 million).

From 1999-2003, Sotheby’s Collectibles sold more than $18 million through online sales on, including collections of memorabilia from the Boston Garden including the center court Celtics logo panel ($335,000), the estate of Wilt Chamberlain including his game worn sneakers from his 100 point game ($52,000), the Lone Ranger, Marilyn Monroe, “Seinfeld”, the Beatles, Madonna, Cher, Billy Martin, Muhammad Ali, Secretariat and the Halper Baseball Collection Part II; also Louis Armstrong’s first cornet from the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs in 1912 (Smithsonian Institution), Billy Holiday’s 1950’s original working lyrics to “Lady Sings the Blues” and the Austin Powers “Shagmobile.”

Collections included an NBA Game Used Basketball Jersey featuring Willis Reed’s 1970 NBA Game 7 finals jersey, which sold for $98,000 in 2007. Twenty-panels from the legendary Boston Garden Parquet floor sold for $650,000 in 2000.

The Bundini Brown Collection of Muhammad Ali memorabilia, including Ali’s robe from the 1971 “Fight Of The Century” against Joe Frazier, brought $98,000 in 2003; his 1975 “Thrilla In Manilla” trunks sold for $58,000 in the same sale. The 2007 sale of the Jeff Ellis Antique Golf Club Collection brought $2.2 million, a record for a golf collection. In 2008 Joe Frazier’s personal collection of robes and memorabilia were sold.leila dunbar appraisals

In 2010, Leila again teamed up with Sotheby’s to sell the Original Rules Of Basketball, created by Dr. James Naismith in 1891. The Rules sold for $4.38 million, the second highest price paid for sports related memorabilia and the most expensive sports document ever sold.

Entertainment memorabilia highlights include the Estate of Katharine Hepburn ($6 million); the Estate of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash ($4 million) and Property from the Collection of Cher ($3.5 million) and the Planet Hollywood “From The Vault” Auction ($1.2 Million).

To see Leila’s interview about Katharine Hepburn for the show “On the Block”, click here.

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Katharine Hepburn’s artwork caused the most commotion at the sale as items estimated in the hundreds sol in the tens of thousands. This “self portrait” was painted by Miss Hepburn boating on the Housatonic River in CT.

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Cher’s Bob Mackie gowns were the stars of the auction, selling from several hundred dollars to $75,000 for her 1983 outfit worn in the music video “If I Could Turn Back Time