Ed “Big Daddy” Roth And Von Dutch Net Big Bids At Sotheby’s Sale

Collectors scooped up Kustom Kulture as works of Big Daddy Roth and Von Dutch went on Sotheby’s auction block

Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s signature Rat Fink
Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s signature Rat Fink hits the auction block.Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Their personas are still larger than life, and their legacies still linger in the wings of a flying eyeball and the bug eyes of a big green rat. Kenny Howard, a.k.a. Von Dutch, and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth propagated Kustom Kulture in Southern California’s hot-rod and motorcycle scene, and their work is still highly prized. This was evident by the big bucks collectors shelled out for original works from Roth and Von Dutch at the RM Sotheby’s auction last weekend at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

SoCal’s Kustom Kulture
The biggest original hits of SoCal’s Kustom Kulture were on full display at the Sotheby’s auction at the Petersen Museum.Karissa Hosek/RM Sotheby’s

Their work was part of a themed collection the auction house put together, with Petersen namesake Robert E. Petersen in mind. Petersen was a prominent figure in the Los Angeles scene who played his own major role in the culture by creating Hot Rod Magazine. The publishing magnate also once owned our sister publication Motorcyclist.

Ed Roth’s Mysterion
A re-creation of Ed Roth’s Mysterion hot rod went for $246,400.Karissa Hosek/RM Sotheby’s

Up for grabs in Sotheby’s auction were many of Roth’s iconic works, like original T-shirt and decal art including Swinger by Dodge, 426 Ramcharger, and Ford Man. On the motorcycle side, Roth’s Kawasaki sold for $3,300 while Mini Choppers of America and Abominable Snowman (a V-8 snowmobile) sold as a pair for $4,500. One of the higher-priced items was a framed painting of Roth’s signature Rat Fink creature that garnered $12,600. The highest-priced item in the Roth montage was a re-creation of his 1962 Mysterion, the alien-looking hot rod with the twin 390ci Ford big blocks. Jeff Jones built this version based on magazine articles and Revell’s scaled-down Mysterion model kits because the original had been disassembled long ago. Apparently Jones did a bang-up job of re-creating the first Ed Roth “Mysterion” because the winning bidder paid $246,400 to take it home.

Von Dutch signs
This pair of Von Dutch signs hand painted for Movie World shows he was more than just a pinstriper.Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

The variety of Von Dutch works in the Sotheby’s sale demonstrated that he was much more than just a motorcycle pinstriper, as it included knives, paintings, cartoons, and signs. One of the most interesting items was Von Dutch’s personal photo album. The cover is made out of a stop sign, and intermingled among the family photographs are pictures of the motorcycles and cars he pinstriped along with timeless shots of the hot-rod scene. That album sold for $7,200. A pair of handcrafted signs he painted for Movie World, one a “Wanted” sign for old BB guns, the other for Jungle Jim’s Shooting Gallery, fetched $5,040. But it was the “Von Dutch Originator of Modern ‘Pin’ Striping” sign that easily eclipsed everything else in his lot, selling for an eye-popping $75,000. It’s a solid score as the metal sign features his flying eyeball and was the original tailgate to his Kenford pickup.

Von Dutch works
The range of Von Dutch works at the auction was pretty mind-blowing, in every sense.Beserra Photo/RM Sotheby’s

Check out these other Kustom Kulture originals auctioned off last weekend along with prices they sold for.

  • 373 Cal Backwards Pistol by Von Dutch - $5,100
  • Danny's Knife by Von Dutch, 1986 - $2,400
  • Dept of Petty Tyrants by Von Dutch, 1991 - $1,680
  • TriCentennial by Von Dutch, 1976 - $10,800
  • Truck Driver Lessons by Von Dutch, 1991 - $1,440
Von Dutch
The biggest hit in the Von Dutch lot was this bitchin’ metal sign, featuring his iconic flying eyeball illustration.Beserra Photo/RM Sotheby’s
Von Dutch’s personal photo album
Von Dutch’s personal photo album was a wild look into the custom bike scene of the day.Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s