An Essence Captured

The Sydney Morning Herald
December 5, 2012
By James Cockington

At their peak … Tony Rafty drew Alfred Hitchcock.

In this digital age, the newspaper artist is becoming an endangered species. This was once a prestigious profession, and Australia has been blessed with some rare talents.

One of the best is Tony Rafty (real name Anthony Raftopoulis), born in Sydney in 1915. Fast approaching 100, he’s still with us.

He is a prolific artist, completing more than 15,000 caricatures. Some would say this is a conservative figure.

The Beatles when they came to Australia in the 1960s.
Some works he especially treasures because they are personally signed by the subject. On December 16, a selection of these – 30 or so – will be sold through Leonard Joel in Melbourne.

This style of art rarely comes up for sale so the results will be interesting, especially for the feature attraction, a rare drawing of the Beatles signed by all four members.

Rafty did the sketch during the group’s 1964 tour of Australia. After finishing the drawing, he asked the tour publicist to show them the work and ask if they would sign it. They happily agreed. Fortunately for him, he drew the group after Ringo Starr had arrived in Australia a few days late because of laryngitis. So how much is it worth?

A Sydney Morning Herald artist and admirer of Rafty’s work, Rocco Fazzari, says Tony once told him he kept his Beatles drawing in a bank vault because it was worth $250,000.17

Not quite.

The Leonard Joel specialist, Giles Moon, has given the drawing a more realistic estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. He has already received some overseas interest.

Other subjects score less well. Rafty drew Alfred Hitchcock when the director visited Australia in 1960 to launch Vertigo. Hitchcock was then the most bankable director in Hollywood. Now he’s worth $100 to $150. Sadly, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis jnr, Nat King Cole and Bob Hope have suffered much the same fate. Moon explains that the sale estimates are largely determined by the value of the signatures to collectors. These can comprise up to 95 per cent of the total value.

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Giles Moon
Head of Collectables
t: 03 8825 5635
e: Giles Moon