The beginning of Profiles in History was modest but driven. Born into a family of antiques dealers in Rhode Island, Joseph Maddalena learned early on how to turn his passion of collecting historical autographs into a career. As a child, while traveling with his parents to various antiques shows, a great idea was born. An avid card collector, Maddalena saw that there was a community of collectors around the New England area, but not enough shows to accommodate them. At 12 years old, he decided to organize the first baseball card show in Rhode Island. With the money he saved from his paper route, young Maddalena rented the American Legion hall in his hometown of Cranston, Rhode Island and staged the first-ever local card show. With his parents serving hot dogs and sodas to the attendees, Maddalena’s show proved so successful, that he branched out to comic book conventions as well. By the age of 14 he had amassed over one million baseball cards, thousands of autographs and over 100,000 comic books and original pieces of art!
Still more a hobby than a career, Maddalena moved west in 1980 to attend Pepperdine University and pursue a career in broadcasting. Needing to support himself, Maddalena turned to his hobby of buying and selling historical documents. On weekends he scoured the old bookstores of Hollywood for letters and rare books from such famous writers as Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Raymond Chandler, etc. that would fetch a fair price to collectors back east. Upon graduation from Pepperdine, realizing that a career in broadcasting was not in the stars, Maddalena pursued his passion becoming a full-time dealer of historical documents.
Expanding his horizons to include all facets of entertainment and historic memorabilia, Maddalena opened his first office in 1985. His inventory grew to include quality historical material dating from the Revolutionary War through contemporary world events, in fields ranging from the arts and sciences to U.S. presidents, aviators, explorers, the Wild West, business leaders, literature and Hollywood icons.
A lifetime member of the Manuscript Society, Maddalena is widely recognized as the nation’s leading authority on entertainment memorabilia and historical documents. Maddalena won a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for paying a world record price at public auction for a handwritten letter of Abraham Lincoln dated January 8, 1863 regarding his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation for $749,000. Maddalena sits on the boards of various private foundation and has built a permanent display of historical documents at the Beverly Hills Public Library and another at the Portland Oregon Historical Society to further the public’s awareness of U.S. history.
His expertise is well known and relied on. In 1997, he was instrumental in exposing the Lex Cusak $13 million dollar JFK/Marilyn Monroe forgery hoax, and was interviewed by Peter Jennings of 20/20 as an industry expert. In February 2009 Maddalena worked with the Library of Congress to stage “With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Exhibition”, the most successful exhibition in its history, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday. The exhibition ran from February through May, 2009, after which it traveled to five U.S. cities.
Maddalena’s clients include business leaders, rock stars, sports heroes, world-renowned journalists, entertainment executives and A-list celebrities. His clients have included Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Tip O’Neill, Henry Kissinger, Malcolm Forbes, H. Ross Perot and the late Michael Jackson, to name a few. Through the years, Maddalena has earned his reputation for being a keen, fair businessman who knows the history and value of historical and pop culture artifacts.
Active in supporting his community as well as at-risk and underprivileged children, Maddalena is a board member of the Hollywood Entertainment Museum and the Calmont School. Joe worked with his friends Janet and Wayne Gretzky to raise funds for building the new baseball field at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village. He also founded the Topanga Canyon Fire Fund to protect and shelter community residents in the event of brush fires, and is a generous benefactor to numerous children’s organizations.
In 1995 Profiles in History held its first auction of original Hollywood costumes, props, set pieces and memorabilia. Maddalena recognized that this field of collecting was going to grow over the next decade and positioned Profiles in History as the largest auction house in the world devoted exclusively to this field. To date, Profiles in History has had record breaking sales, highlights include the “Cowardly Lion” costume from The Wizard of Oz ($805,000); Steve McQueen’s “Michael Delaney” racing suit from Le Mans ($960,000); a Panavision motion picture camera used by George Lucas to film Star Wars ($624,000); a full-scale model T-800 Endoskeleton from Terminator 2: Judgment Day ($488,750); Marilyn Monroe’s platinum & diamond wedding band from her marriage to Joe DiMaggio ($504,000); Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds” dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ($356,500); a King Kong 1933 six-sheet movie poster ($345,000); Luke Skywalker’s light saber from Star Wars ($240,000); Margaret Hamilton’s “Wicked Witch” hat from The Wizard Of Oz ($230,000); and The Invisible Man 1933 one-sheet movie poster ($230,000). From the history-making Debbie Reynolds Auction in June 2011, Profiles in History sold the Marilyn Monroe “Subway” Dress from The Seven Year Itch for a record breaking $5.52M, the Marilyn Monroe signature red-sequined showgirl gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for $1.44M and the Audrey Hepburn Ascot Dress from My Fair Lady for $4.44M. In February 2012, Profiles in History arranged the sale of a pair of Judy Garland screen-used Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. At their July 2012 Hollywood Auction, high selling items included Steve McQueen’s Heuer wrist watch from Le Mans ($799,500); a Chewbacca headpiece from Star Wars ($172,000); a screen used Proton Pack from Ghostbusters ($159,900); Patrick Stewart’s “Professor X” wheel chair from all three X-Men films ($135,300); Jeff Bridges “The Dude” ensemble from The Big Lebowski ($116,850.)
In addition, Joe Maddalena is the star of Hollywood Treasure, which just ended its second season on Syfy. Hollywood Treasure takes viewers into the fascinating world of showbiz and pop culture memorabilia.