The Casablanca piano: a case of do or buy

Exactly why has a small piano that’s seen far better days fetched a fortune at auction?

The piano from Casablanca on which Sam played As Time Goes By has sold for more than $3 million. (AFP/ Don Emmert)
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If you shop around in the UAE, you can buy a new upright piano for as little as Dh14,000. However, in New York, an 80-year-old piano with 30 fewer keys, a few dents, a paint job that may not be to everyone’s taste and a piece of petrified chewing gum under the keyboard has been sold at auction for US$3.4 million (Dh12.5m), including commission. As you would expect, it is no ordinary instrument.

The piano in question was featured in the classic 1942 film Casablanca. Dooley Wilson, the actor playing Sam, sat at the piano as he sang As Time Goes By, the theme tune for star-crossed lovers Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). The piano is also where Rick chooses to hide a document that is central to the plot.

Many people will not see the value in a movie prop. Others may be wondering which modern movie memorabilia will fetch big money. Perhaps a trip to the Abu Dhabi set of Star Wars VII will reveal something worth saving for 70 years hence.