The origin story of Profiles in History is a modest but ambitious one. Company president Joseph Maddalena was born into a family of antique dealers in Rhode Island. As a youth, while traveling with his parents to antiques shows, inspiration struck. As a young collector of baseball cards, Joseph realized that there was a community of collectors in the New England area, but not enough shows to accommodate them. So, at 12-years old he organized the 1st baseball card show in Rhode Island. Using money he’d saved from his paper route, young Joe rented the hometown American Legion hall in Cranston and staged the 1st-ever local card show, which proved so successful, Joe branched into comic book shows. By the age of 14, he’d amassed over a million baseball cards, thousands of autographs and more than a hundred thousand comic books.
Next, Joseph moved to the west coast to attend Pepperdine University in pursuit of a career in broadcasting. To support himself, he turned to his passion for collecting and selling historical autographs. On weekends, he scoured the Hollywood bookshops for letters and rare books by authors like Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Raymond Chandler and other greats. Upon graduation from Pepperdine, Joseph had established himself as a full-time dealer of rare, historical documents and in 1985 opened his first office. His inventory had grown to include materials dating from the Revolutionary War to contemporary world events in fields ranging from arts and sciences to U.S. Presidents, aviators, explorers, the Wild West, and business leaders. Time in Hollywood and a life-long love of movies ultimately lead Joseph to include all facets of entertainment and memorabilia to his offerings, a category that took on a life of its own, evolving to establish Profiles in History as the premiere auction house of Hollywood memorabilia.
Today, as a lifetime member of the Manuscript Society, Joseph Maddalena is recognized as the nation’s leading authority on entertainment memorabilia and historical documents. In addition to many world record auction results, Joseph earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Recordsfor paying a world record $749,000 for a January 8, 1863 handwritten letter of Abraham Lincoln regarding the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1997, Joseph was instrumental in exposing the notorious Lex Cusak $13 million dollar John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe forgery scandal and was the industry expert interviewed by Peter Jennings about the hoax on 20/20. In 2009 Joseph worked with the Library of Congress to stage “With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Exhibition” attended by then President Barrack Obama.
Profiles in History has gone on to hold the most prestigious and successful auctions earning virtually every world record for prices realized for original screen-used entertainment memorabilia. Highlights include the “Cowardly Lion” costume from The Wizard of Ozfor $805,000 and Steve McQueen’s “Michael Delaney” racing suit from Le Mansfor $960,000. In the historic Debbie Reynolds Auction of 2011, Marilyn Monroe’s iconic “Subway Dress” from The Seven Year Itchsold for $5.52 Million and the Audrey Hepburn Ascot Dress from My Fair Ladyfetched $4.44 Million. In 2012, Profiles in History arranged the sale of Judy Garland’s screen-worn “Dorothy” ruby slippers from the Wizard of Ozto the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2017 the Gary Canavo collection of Battlestar Gallacticafilming miniature spaceships went for $1.8 Million and in 2018 Joseph sold the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymousfor $2.4 Million. Meanwhile, Joseph Maddalena’s broadcasting education came back to serve him as the star of SyFy channel’s hit series Hollywood Treasure, which transported viewers to the exciting world of show-biz and pop culture memorabilia, which Joseph Maddalena has been instrumental in establishing and purveying.