Monroe’s Estate Sale Like Garage Sale — Only Pricier

Legends can be packrats, too.

This fact was painfully evident Friday (Dec. 21) as the bric-a-brac and butt-ends of Bill Monroe’s home life went on sale at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Except for a clearly personalized item here and there, it could have been any Music City yard sale. Only the prices set Monroe’s junk apart from our own.

Laid out in a small room close by the Hall of Fame ticket counter were state commemorative plates, pots and pans, a rack of old (but not “vintage”) clothes, black-and-white publicity photos, a steel trap, Bibles, books and magazines and old cancelled checks. A larger-than-life mounted photo of the Father of Bluegrass stood in one corner, resting on a gaudy red, white and blue American bicentennial rug.

An official at the sale said there was a sizable crowd when the event opened at 9 a.m. But an hour and a half later, only a dozen or so browsed through the goods at any one time.

One of the early birds paid $450 for an unpainted wooden wagon seat with leaf springs. Nearby sat two weathered church benches that Monroe kept on the front porch of his farmhouse. One bench carried the notation that it was among the items that will be up for auction tomorrow and that its estimated value was $1,000 to $1,500. The auction will also be conducted at the Hall of Fame, with the first two hours being held simultaneously on eBay. About 600 high-dollar pieces are designated to go under the hammer.

Monroe’s cancelled checks carried price tags of $25 and up each. For $50, you could buy, for example, the $18 check he wrote on Dec. 16, 1981, to the Dayton, Ohio, Musicians Union. The steel trap would set you back $25, and you could carry away a tarnished 10-inch-high statue of a saddled horse (with a missing hind leg) for $45.

There were a number of fiddles on sale in the $450 to $600 range, although they had no tags explaining their history and relevance to Monroe. Except for a pink-labeled Decca 45 rpm single — “Dark as the Night, Blue as the Day”/”Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone” — there was little of the Old Master’s actual music in evidence. The asking price for the single was $50.

Probably the most gawked-at offering was Monroe’s 1982 cream-colored Zimmer coupe parked on the Hall of Fame steps. Looking suspiciously racy for a man of such stoic mien, the car boasts running boards, bullet-shaped headlights, a front-fender-mounted spare tire and a landau roof. Whether this was the vehicle Monroe had in mind when he sang “I’m on my way back to the old home” is a question not addressed in the sale’s promotional literature.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to