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Thousands of items belonging to the charismatic Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, from manuscripts of his band's biggest hits to furniture, paintings and knick-knacks, go under the hammer in London. Image Credit: AFP

London: A sale of thousands of items belonging to the charismatic Queen frontman Freddie Mercury got under way Wednesday in London, with the graffiti-covered green door of Mercury's home first to go under the hammer.

The door of his Garden Lodge home in west London sold for #412,750 ($516,000) including buyer's premium and fees - far in excess of the #15,000-25,000 estimate.

Other items up for grabs at the Sotheby's auction range from manuscripts of Queen's biggest hits to furniture, paintings and knick-knacks.

Among the highlights of Wednesday's "evening sale", which will be followed by two other live auctions and three online sales over the next week, is Mercury's piano.

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Freddie Mercury's Yamaha Grand Piano, estimated at 2-3 million pounds, on display at Sotheby's auction rooms in London. Image Credit: AP

The Yamaha quarter-tail piano was bought by Mercury in 1975 and was used to create almost all of his greatest songs.

It is expected to sell for #2 million-#3 million ($2.5 million-$3.75 million).

Also on sale is the original manuscript for epic hit "Bohemian Rhapsody", whose 15 pages of pencil and ballpoint pen remarks reveal the different directions Mercury envisaged for the track.

It also reveals that it was originally going to be called "Mongolian Rhapsody".

Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John Aids Foundation, two organisations involved in the fight against AIDS.

In a message read out before the auction began by auctioneer Oliver Barker, John paid tribute to his friend.

"I miss Freddie to this day. He was a wonderful friend more full of love and life than anyone I've ever met, as well as a brilliant performer whose music has inspired and thrilled millions," he said.

"He was kind, generous and funny and it is a tragedy that AIDS took him from the world much too soon," he added.

Auction fan

Paintings by Chagall, Dali and Picasso that adorned Mercury's home, as well as the last painting he bought a month before his death from AIDS in 1991 - an oil on canvas by James Jacques Joseph Tissot - are also going under the hammer.

The entire collection is being offered for sale by Mary Austin, a close friend and one-time fiancee of Mercury's.

"Mary Austin has lived with the collection and has cared for the collection for more than three decades," Gabriel Heaton, a books and manuscripts specialist at Sotheby's, told AFP.

Mercury "was not interested in having a museum of his life but he loved auctions", to the point of being a regular at Sotheby's sales, said Heaton.

Austin believes the artist - who was 45 when he died - would have "loved" this sale, he added.

Some 1,469 lots are going under the hammer at the famous London auction house, whose facade has been decorated with a huge moustache for the occasion.

Many reveal another side of Mercury, including his passion for cats and for Japan - as evidenced by his collection of kimonos and prints.

Moustache comb

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A Sotheby's employee displays a moustache comb from Freddie Mercury's personal items at Sotheby's auction rooms in London. Image Credit: AP

Mercury's most flamboyant stage costumes, Hawaiian shirt and Superman tank top will also find new homes along with his personal polaroids and legendary snapper Mick Rock's shots.

The finest bottles from his cellar are up for grabs alongside more intimate items, such as a book of personally annotated poetry and a moustache comb.

Among the more playful items are a set of games including travel Scrabble, at which Mercury excelled.

Before the sale, the auction house hosted the collection at a month-long exhibition, open to the public free of charge.

Sotheby's estimated when the auction was announced in April that the lots would fetch at least #6 million.

The auction house says it is the largest collection, by volume, of a cultural icon to go to auction since the Elton John sale in 1988, when 2,000 lots sold for a total of #4.8 million.