Succession’s ‘ludicrously capacious’ bag sells at prop auction – for a luxe price

By Jocelyn Noveck

Someday soon, someone will be walking down the street proudly carrying a ludicrously capacious bag, bought for a ludicrously capacious price.

The voluminous Burberry tote is one of the most famous props used on Succession, the famed HBO saga of the Roy family dynasty, and it sold at auction on Saturday for $US18,750 ($28,000).

“Ludicrously capacious” … Francesca Root-Dodson and Nicholas Braun in a scene from Succession featuring the infamous Burberry handbag.
“Ludicrously capacious” … Francesca Root-Dodson and Nicholas Braun in a scene from Succession featuring the infamous Burberry handbag.Credit: HBO

The bag became notorious after Matthew Macfadyen’s Tom Wambsgans savagely ridiculed it – “What’s even in there, huh? Flat shoes for the subway?” – when it was carried by an outsider to a family event.

But the tote wasn’t even the priciest item sold from the set of the addictive drama expected to also clean up at Monday’s Emmy Awards, on the heels of its Golden Globes wins.

No, that was a set of pink index cards containing Roman Roy’s eulogy notes for his father’s funeral — a speech he never gave. Beginning with “my father Logan Roy was a great man”, the four cards represent the tragic failure of Roman (Kieran Culkin) to meet the moment. They have a new life now with someone who paid $US25,000 and will hopefully frame them nicely.

Collectors could also bid for Lukas Matsson’s (Alexander Skarsgard) vape pen and Roman’s Walmart kid’s T-shirt.

The show led to Instagram accounts documenting the characters’ outfits and is credited with sparking the so-called “quiet luxury” fashion trend.

Collectors were able to get their hands on Kendall’s Saint Laurent suits or Shiv Roy’s (Sarah Snook) Max Mara power outfits.

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Some of the iconic outfits up for auction had starting bids that were less than what it would cost to get them in stores.

Just take Naomi Pierce’s (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) black and white Proenza Schouler ensemble, going for $US420, or a lot comprising a Prada silk shirt, Dries Van Noten blouse and Zadig & Voltaire coat that had a starting bid of just $US310.

Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy in Succession, which helped spark the so-called “quiet luxury” fashion trend.
Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy in Succession, which helped spark the so-called “quiet luxury” fashion trend.Credit: David M. Russell/HBO

The online auction on behalf of HBO at Heritage Auctions in Dallas brought in a total of $US627,825 for 236 lots. The results showed not only that people loved the show, says Heritage spokesperson Robert Wilonsky, but also that meaningful objects – and not the show’s high-end “stealth” fashion – clicked most with bidders.

“At the end of the day, it was key moments of the show that resonated with fans,” says Heritage’s Wilonsky.

Props often take a back seat to costumes. After all, there’s no award for “best props” at awards shows, like there is for costumes, notes Succession prop master Monica Jacobs, who joined the show after the pilot episode. But prop departments go to extreme lengths to secure just the right item — even if it only appears for a few seconds. Jacobs shared the origin stories of some of the show’s most iconic props.

Succession stars Nicholas Braun, J. Smith-Cameron, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck and Matthew Macfayden with the Golden Globe that Succession won for best television series.
Succession stars Nicholas Braun, J. Smith-Cameron, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck and Matthew Macfayden with the Golden Globe that Succession won for best television series.Credit: AP

Dried scorpions in the oven

Why did Tom give wife Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) a paperweight of a dried scorpion encased in resin? Who knows? It certainly illustrated the turbulence of their marriage — and also caused a few turbulent hours in Jacobs’ kitchen at home.

“It turns out you can buy [dead] scorpions pretty easily,” she says, “but they’re small. Getting them large enough was not easy.”

The index card containing Roman Roy’s (played by Kieran Culkin) eulogy notes for his father’s funeral.
The index card containing Roman Roy’s (played by Kieran Culkin) eulogy notes for his father’s funeral.Credit: Heritage Auctions

Once she had a bunch — duplicates are always needed — she had to soak them to loosen up the glue so that she could reposition them for maximum effect. She stabilised them with wire and slow-baked them for hours on low heat until they were dry enough to be encased. All for a brief appearance. And maybe a spot on someone’s desk: a duplicate sold for a cool (and baked) $US10,000.

Mournful words

Roman’s sad, pink notecards with that eulogy never spoken were not the only scribbled words that went for a fortune. On the day Logan died on his private plane, Shiv was the one who spoke to the waiting press.

“You’ll understand I won’t be taking questions,” she said, in part, “but my brothers and I just want to say Logan Roy built a great American family company…”

The words were written in block letters in Snook’s handwriting. She did the first card and then, for duplicates, her writing was recreated. Likewise, Culkin’s handwriting inspired his pink notecards, Jacobs says. As for Jeremy Strong, who played Kendall, he often preferred to write every copy himself. Shiv’s speech card went for $US17,500.

That … bag

Let’s just say Bridget, the date of Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) at Logan’s birthday party, made an unfortunate accessory choice. Tom, in his worst “human-grease-stain” way, imagined aloud what could be in the “ludicrously capacious” tote: “Flat shoes for the subway? Her lunch pail? … You could take it camping. You could slide it across the floor after a bank job.”

Jacobs explains that finding the perfect bag to match the script was a collaboration between the props and wardrobe departments. “Everybody brought in a version,” she says. “We had to decide, how big IS this bag, actually?” Also, it needed to be just the right level of high-end. “Not enough for the Roy world, but still higher end than I am,” she quips. Ultimately, costume designer Michelle Matland “had the vision”, Jacobs says.

The winning bidder also got an embroidered Sandro dress.

Making those magazines look real

When the Roys appear on the cover of New York magazine, you might think it’s just a matter of slapping together a few pages in the art studio. But no.

It begins with a real issue of the magazine, to get the weight and the size exactly right. Then, not just the cover but inner pages are created too, and carefully incorporated. “It’s a very delicate process” to make the magazine look authentic, Jacobs says. “We’re very picky about how we do it.”

The cover sold for $US10,000.

Some of those sausages were real

Remember that horrific game, or hazing ritual, that Logan inflicted on his poor executives, forcing them to grunt like pigs and beg for sausages? Some sausages were real, as needed, and some fake. (A group of prop sausages went for $US5250.)

But mostly, food — at weddings, or other gatherings — was not only real but intricate, evocative of the locale, and fun to create, says Jacobs.

“Every cheese board has to be a little different than the last time we did a cheese board,” she says. “We got very creative.”

The drugs, though? Not real

Ever wonder what serves for cocaine on set? A set of vials containing a white powder went for $US2000. Jacobs and her colleagues had to use substances that looked real and were also … snortable.

In this case, it was a naturally occurring sugar, inositol. At other times, lactose powder was used — “as long as the person could tolerate lactose”.

Same with the credit cards

Three lots of Roy family credit cards were auctioned, but they won’t be accepted at your local supermarket. The cards were crafted by a graphic designer, then sent for printing at a special shop in New York, on either plastic or metal.

“The plastic ones are actually much more durable as props,” says Jacobs. “But,” she adds, “with Succession characters, it made sense for most of them to be metal.”

Indeed. Kendall’s cards — two American Express Platinums, two Mastercards and one driver’s licence — went for $US10,000.

AP, Bloomberg

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