The Surprising Reason David Bowie’s Hair Was Auctioned

When David Bowie fans first discovered a lock of the late rock icon’s hair would be auctioned nearly six months after his death, many probably thought the woman behind the sale was out to make a quick buck. The outfit hosting the sale, Heritage Auctions, predicted an ultimate selling price of $4,000 USD. On Sunday, it sold for $18,750 USD. But according to a report by Newsweek, Wendy Farrier doesn’t plan on putting that money into a retirement account.

Farrier, a life long Bowie fan, met the singer in her early 20s while an employee at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London. In 1983, Bowie was posing for a statute of his likeness, and, as was customary, several hair samples were taken to ensure an accurate copy was made. All of the samples were destroyed except one that Farrier kept, placed in a frame, and displayed on the wall of her home in England. She never unpacked the framed hair when she moved to Wales.

The fact that Farrier was even in Bowie’s presence was a bit unusual — Tussaud’s normally taps senior staffers to take the samples, but her boss at the time knew she was a big David Bowie fan. But what started off as a treasure for Farrier ultimately lost its importance as she aged. As she told Newsweek, over the years she grew to value other things that took precedence over the lock of a legend’s hair.

“At the end of the day you can’t take these things with you — I’ve got my memories, I know I took the hair sample, I was lucky enough to meet him. I cherish other things more now.”

Among those things that she cherishes are animals, and has therefore chosen to donate some of the proceeds of the auction to the Soi Dog Foundation, which cares for dogs in need in Thailand.

“I wanted to give something back. I’m not a wealthy lady and Soi Dogs does such good work. It will go to helping them to feed the dogs, rehabilitate them, get them off to good homes. I hope people understand the reason why I’m selling it.”

Farrier described Bowie as “easygoing” and without ego, even though she approached his sculpted hair with nervousness.

“I remember my scissors were shaking as I did it. He was totally calm, he didn’t make a fuss.”

In order to account for the different colors in Bowie’s hair at the time, Farrier had to take several different samples. She told Newsweek she weighed several factors before deciding to sell her 30-year-old memento, including the timing.

“I can understand that people think I’m cashing in on his death. But I wanted to do it now while I’ve got all the evidence [proving its authenticity] and also, because I can now give more money to the Soi Dog Foundation. I had to weigh up whether I was going to sell it or not, and what was the best time to sell it.”

A guitar owned by Prince sold for $137,500 USD at the same auction.

David Bowie demonstrated there was a significant market for his artifacts even before his death. In 2013, the exhibition “David Bowie Is” debuted at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and has since continued to tour the globe. The exhibition included items from David Bowie’s own massive archive, including costumes, sketches, handwritten song lyrics, recording equipment, childhood memorabilia, song and video clips. Even those who wanted a more personal touch were not disappointed, as the exhibit displayed a tissue smeared with Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust-era lipstick.

David Bowie died of cancer on January 10, 2016, two days after his 69th birthday.

[Photo by Keystone/Getty Images]