Disney’s Not-So-Secret Sale of California Tower of Terror Props Brings Big Money

This post may contain affiliate links; please read the disclosure for more information.

A few weeks back, we reported that Disneyland had quietly offered up a number of props and signs from recently removed attractions through a Van Eaton Galleries auction. While Disney’s sale of surplus goods, even iconic pieces from beloved attractions, is no great news, the fact that the sale was conducted through a third-party auction house with no public acknowledgment by Disney is peculiar, to say the least. The auction was held, as planned, at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, California, on December 16, 2017.

The results, more than anything, confirmed what we all already knew—that there is quite a bit of nostalgia, and the money that comes with it, for these literal pieces of the Disneyland Resort. Van Eaton Galleries offered hundreds of lots of memorabilia from Disney theme parks in this sale. Compared to many of the other lots in the sale, those that seemed to carry the “fresh from Disney” pedigree performed extremely well. While these Disney-direct items were only a small fraction of the auction, they consistently brought the highest prices and collectively represented a significant chunk of the total auction proceeds.

All told, the Disneyland props and signs from recently removed or renovated attractions totaled something in the neighborhood of $147,000 before buyer’s fees are added. The Tower of Terror props from Disney California Adventure brought in $106,650 of this total, also before buyer’s fees. A few of the top selling items are featured with photos below. The prices shown are the final winning bid and are before Van Eaton Galleries adds its 18% buyer’s fees to the final bid price. Notably, especially if you are Disney, these hammer prices are also before Van Eaton Galleries subtracts its customary sellers fees (typically around 15%) from the final bid price.

The strong sales of these items through Van Eaton Galleries surely pleased whatever lines of business knew that it was Disney, itself, offering the items for sale. Those that were not informed of the sale of Disney-owned items are no doubt asking questions and finding answers based on Disney news stories reporting the auction results like this one. Nevertheless, now that Disney has proven what it already knew—that there is a market for its own nostalgia—it’s worth wondering what comes next… because there’s always a next. Are more similar, secret sales of beloved Disney “nostalgic assets” on the horizon? As WDWNT discussed before, a number of beloved attractions have recently been removed, leaving plenty of potential items to offer up to the collecting community. Could the prices achieved by Disney have been even higher by selling the items with Disney’s own name attached to them? Disney has done it before, having built whole special events around the offering of these items.

Regardless, we thought it would be worthwhile to crunch the numbers on the most-recent “secret sale” of Disneyland props to find out what Disney gained from the sale and to put the profits in context.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll focus on the 28 items from Tower of Terror at Disney’s California Adventure that sold at the Van Eaton Galleries auction. Those 28 items grossed a total of $106,650, by far the largest chunk of value of the Disney-offered items in the sale. Once the customary seller’s fees of 15% are subtracted, totaling $15,997.50, the net proceeds to Disney total $90,652.50 of extra spending money in Disney’s coffers. By the measures of “normal” people, that’s a whole lot of money from the extra stuff that Disney has hanging around… but the Disney Company should not be held to “normal” people standards. Instead, here’s the breakdown of Disney’s “secret sale” in a corporate context:

The $90,652.50 “profit” from the Tower of Terror props—a profit because they are presumably depreciated assets on Disney’s balance books—is equivalent to:

  • .000173 percent of Disney’s recently-announced purchase of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 Billion. That means all Disney has to do is close and sell the assets of 578,030 more attractions and it will have the 21st Century Fox deal covered.
  • .002 percent (two thousandths of one percent) of CEO Bob Iger’s reported 2016 salary of $43.9 million.
  • Approximately 116 WDW Platinum Passes at their current price of $779.
  • Around 3,239 of Disneyland Tower of Terror Final Check Out T-Shirts at $27.99 each, celebrating Disney’s first attempt to make money by celebrating the removal of this attraction.
  • 22,720 of Bob Chapek’s beloved dill pickles on Main Street at Disneyland (current price $3.99 per pickle). That means that Disneyland could use their newfound cash to buy (at full retail) one pickle for every person who comes through its turnstiles on a lighter attendance day—if you can find one of those.
  • And of course, it is $90,533.50 more than a Disney After Hours ticket.

We’d love to hear from you with additional ideas of how Disney’s $90,652.50 “profit” from the Tower of Terror props could best be spent. Hit us up in the comments below or on social media with your thoughts.

Tower of Terror Sales Results

682 Tower of Terror Lobby Elevator Floor Indicator Prop $9000
685 Tower of Terror Service Elevator Sign Prop $3400
686 Maintenance Staff Only Tower of Terror Sign $600
687 Tower of Terror Load Instructions Sign $3000
688 Emergency Exit Only Tower of Terror Sign $700
689 Tower of Terror Exit Sign $1200
690 Tower of Terror Room Key Cabinet $11000
691 Tower of Terror Lobby Fireplace Grate $4500
692 Pair of Tower of Terror Large Lobby Floor Lamp Props $4750
693 Tower of Terror Main Lobby Chandelier No Lot
694 Tower of Terror Large Hanging Lobby Light $2000
695 Tower of Terror Retractable Chandelier $3250
696 Tower of Terror Entrance Outdoor Wall Light $2000
697 Tower of Terror Amber Outdoor Wall Light $2250
698 Tower of Terror Entrance Outdoor Wall Light $2000
699 Tower of Terror Foo Dog Outdoor Wall Light $2000
700 Tower of Terror Amber Outdoor Wall Light $1800
701 Tower of Terror Repaired Chair Prop $4250
702 Tower of Terror Marble-top Cabinet Prop $4500
703 The Tip Top Club Anthony Freemont Poster and Lightbox $6000
704 Tower of Terror Chair Prop $1600
705 Tower of Terror Pressure Gauge Prop $1300
706 Authorized Staff Only Tower of Terror Sign $700
707 Tower of Terror Pressure Gauge Prop $1600
708 Tower of Terror Library Television Prop – Right Side $10000
709 Tower of Terror Library Television Prop – Left Side $12000
710 Picture If You Will Sign $4500
711 Tower Hotel Gifts Entrance Sign $4500
712 Tower of Terror Hotel Display Case with Props $2250

Tower of Terror Subtotal: $106,650
Van Eaton Proceeds: $15,997.50
Net to Disney: $90,652.50
Total Sales (TOT and Other): $147,000

About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]