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Recovered Mickey poster nets Yuba City family $100K at auction
A 1928 poster of Mickey Mouse sold for more than $100,000 in Dallas last week after it was stolen, and eventually returned, to a Yuba City family.
Tracy Beech Leighton and her family became caretakers to one of the earliest surviving Mickey Mouse posters after Leighton's father, Crowell Havens Beech, died in 2008. The problem? They didn't know where it was.
The story of the Yuba City family and their Mickey Mouse poster started in 1988, when Crowell Beech bought it with a friend in San Francisco. Since then, it was lost, stolen and sent around the country.
The poster dates back to Mickey's creation — the days of Steamboat Willie. It centers around the iconic mouse, who is smiling and waving with the words "The World's funniest Cartoon Character" written beside him.
Crowell Beech, an avid collector of Hollywood artifacts, kept the poster hidden in a place that nobody else knew about. Beech knew it would be very valuable."He was like, 'this is going to be the biggest poster ever,'" Leighton said.
After Beech's death, his family began to hunt for the poster. They scoured the three-story Victorian home on several occasions, but with no luck.
The family presumed it was lost or stolen until family friend Grey Smith spotted it online.
Smith, a Heritage Auctions dealer, had come across a blog that showed the poster being sold by a New York collector, who didn't realize it had been stolen. Working with the New York collector, Smith tracked the poster back to a man in the Bay Area who had worked on the Beech home as a handyman a few months earlier. Belvedere police arrested the handyman who later pleaded guilty, Leighton said.
Leighton sent the poster to Smith in Dallas, where it was locked away in a vault for several months. It stayed that way until it was auctioned last week for $101,575 to an undisclosed buyer.
Mickey Mouse posters from the 1930s and '40s typically sell for about $40,000, Smith said, but Beech's 1928 piece "is a Mickey Mouse premiere poster."
In the end, Leighton said she couldn't believe how well things turned out, and she hopes her father's poster ends up in a museum one day.
"I'm happy for the happy ending," she said.
CONTACT Griffin Rogers at email@example.com or 749-4783.