Tom Petty’s Family Alleges Auction Items Were ‘Outright Stolen’

An auction of apparel, accessories, albums, concert posters and other keepsakes related to Tom Petty or alleged personal belongings has caused a kerfuffle weeks before the bidding is set to close.

Relatives of the late lead singer of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers publicized their plans to explore all legal options against RR Auction to have the personal belongings that the family believes were “outright stolen from a secured archive.” Those claims were made based on prior knowledge, staff observations and documentation.

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A press release issued on behalf of Petty’s family asked fans and collectors to refrain from participating in the auction until the matter is resolved and to “avoid getting further involved in this legal action.”

Petty’s kin alleged that RR Auction is offering “stolen Tom Petty memorabilia with a completely false provenance inaccurate to fact and in complete denial of clear evidence they have been presented. They will not disclose the cosigner who has provided these items or how they were acquired. But they are clearly stolen, there is no other word for it.”

An interview request to an RR Auction executive was returned by a spokesperson for RR Auction’s Washington, D.C.-based attorney Mark Zaid. His issued statement read, “RR Auction has been cooperating with the Petty family from the moment they reached out to us just days ago and will happily continue to do so without unnecessary hostile threats of litigation.”

Zaid continued, “We take theft allegations such as these very seriously. Indeed, in the years I have represented the company, we have never failed to reach an amicable resolution, when on the rare occasion items presented by our consignors turned out to have provenance concerns. We continue to diligently investigate this situation and have requested the Petty family to cooperate with us as well. That said, we also take seriously any defamatory allegations against our company, which has developed a stellar reputation over the last half-a-century of auctions, many of which are often in the news.”

Petty’s relatives declined interview requests through a family spokesperson.

Online bidders can find a selection of jackets, hats, boots, jeans, autographed items and recent exclusive limited editions that the family claims “are easily traced back to family members and more.” In addition, they described the items as having “irreplaceable sentimental and educational value for the family and legacy of Tom Petty and we look forward to their safe return.”

The auction is scheduled to end on June 22.

Following his band’s 40th anniversary tour, Petty died in October 2017 of an accidental overdose. He was 66 and had reportedly suffered a series of physical ailments, including touring for more than seven weeks with a fractured hip. Before forming his own band, Petty, who went on to become a three-time Grammy winner, was the lead vocalist for Mudcrutch and had been part of the Traveling Wilburys.

As of Thursday, the most sought-after item was Petty’s 1977 black-and-white striped satin jacket that had a high bid of $5,724 — nearly six times the pre-auction estimate of $1,000. The musician wore it on the cover of the “Listen to Her Heart” U.K. single. An Aviatic jean jacket was at $1,100 compared to $600. In terms of accessories, a pair of black Zodiac boots at $1,700 had attracted bids well above the pre-sale estimate of $600. And a black Western hat with a feather was among the select other items with multiple bids at $1,655 — double the estimate of $800. A black duffle bag imprinted with the MTV logo at $569 was another style outperforming its estimate. These three styles were among multiple ones that are said to have belonged to Petty.

Most of the promotional and concert posters, and records up-for-grabs had not reached pre-sale estimates. One exception was a signed Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album that had a high bid of $805, as of Thursday — more than $300 above the pre-sale estimate. A color photograph of Petty and Stevie Nicks by Herbert W. Worthington was at $326 Thursday.

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