29/10/2015 6:32 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST

Cheap Fame Is Driving Up The Price Of History


In 1968, Andy Warhol claimed that 'in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes'.

He was close.

With the advent of Insta-twit-face-gram, more people than ever have been able to enjoy a moment in the sun, although it's more like 15 seconds than 15 minutes. Most whiffs of fame in today's world are fleeting. As a result, 'getting noticed' is worth far less than ever before.

Once upon a time, having five minutes in front of the watching world could start a lifelong and lucrative career. In 1986, a little-known stand-up comic was handed her big break, scoring a gig on arguably the most famous chat show in US television history -- the Johnny Carson Show. The routine lasted only a few minutes. But that was enough. The comedian's name was Ellen DeGeneres.

Fast forward to early October 2015, when eight sorority girls were mocked around the world for being caught on camera taking a near endless stream of selfies instead of watching the baseball game they were attending.

Showing true spunk, the girls not only shook off the ridicule, they took things up a notch by asking that donations of game tickets from the sheepish television network involved be donated to a charity for victims of domestic violence.

Ellen DeGeneres invited the young students to appear on her chat show. Unlike Ellen, however, the girls' 15 seconds are now up. They've all but vanished from the cyber-sphere, soon to be replaced by the next firework to flash and wink out just as quickly.

Given their already generous display of charity, it probably doesn't faze these girls that their experience wasn't worth very much career-wise or in financial terms.

Interestingly, this devaluation of instant fame has had an acute inverse effect on the value of fixed moments in history that have remained iconic for generations. Owning a small piece of a moment in time that was shared as a common experience by millions has become the new gold rush.

Last month, two separate auctions were held in London and Los Angeles with some of the most iconic pieces of movie and cultural history going under the hammer. So significant were some of the items that both auctions were covered in the global mainstream media.

In Los Angeles, the model starship used in the opening scene from Star Wars -- the vessel carrying Princess Leia -- sold for an incredible US$375,000. Other sales included the bull whip used by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, for US$170,000, and Mr Spock's uniform from the original Star Trek series for US$70,000.

And it's not just owning a piece of history that has grown as a highly marketable commodity. Now you can bid for a chance to become a part of history.

Omaze is an online company that specialises in marketing incredible experiences as competition prizes to raise money for charity. The most widely reported of these was a chance to win a brief onscreen appearance in the soon to be released Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A small donation made you eligible for one entry. Holding a $50,000 private screening of episode VII, organised by Omaze, made you eligible for thousands of chances to win the prize.

Even this humble Star Wars-phile bought a T-shirt that gave me 10 chances to win the competition.

I didn't win.

The latest Omaze fundraising competition has just closed -- an opportunity to meet Daniel Craig and ride in an Aston Martin Vanquish at 325kmph before attending the premier of the new Bond film in London.

All indications are that people are willing to pay top dollar for a place in history, which begs the obvious question: how far will it go? How much will people pay for, say, a chance to stand behind the President of the United States at an inauguration ceremony? What sort of coin would Royal lovers shell out for the chance to win a seat in Westminster Abbey for the crowning of the next Monarch of Great Britain?

As with all things, time will tell. However, I know the one I'd be willing to bid the house on. Sitting in NASA mission control when the first human steps onto the surface of Mars. One small step for man... one giant pay day for charity auctions.