The market for rock and pop memorabilia is maturing fast despite the fact that pre-1980 there was no real market of note. Today, personal items, lyrics and instruments associated with the Beatles, Hendrix, Rolling Stones and Elvis are considered the creme de la creme of rock and pop collectables. Buyers are increasing in numbers, supply of good material is drying up and prices are rising across the board.
Some interesting facts and auction results
is the bulk of the market with prices for signed material rising A set of autographs in an average plain autograph book are worth about £700, a signed Fab Four photo from the early days around £800-£1,200, programmes and record sleeves that are in very good condition and signed by all four £1,500-£2,000.
Christie’s sold John Lennon’s Mercedes Benz Limo in 1989 for £137,500 and in 1992 achieved £24,200 for John Lennon’s black leather jacket. In 1999 they sold a John Lennon pen & ink drawing from 1965 for £9,775.
When the Hard Rock Cafe first entered the market, many of the top prices paid by the restaurant chain were the result of HRC’s across the world bidding AGAINST each other for item! Today, HRC has a central buyer for all the group’s outlets so they no longer bid against each other
Oasis collectables were very hot a few years ago, but given that the band’s profile is not as high as it was experts say it remains to be seen whether or not this will become a classic Rock and Pop Collectable.
It’s generally thought that the reason for the dramatic rise in pop memorabilia prices and poster prices is because many new collectors want items that remind them of their childhood, favourite group etc and would prefer to pay top money for an item that means something to them. As a result items like 18th century porcelain, religious paintings and some other traditional areas of antiques are failing to really achieve prices that reflect their real value – simply because these items do not connect with today’s buyers.
Provenance is essential – all auction houses check out the proveance of items and if it turns out that the piece is not as described you are entitled to get your money back. Avoid dealers making ambitious claims about items and their proveance unless they have some authentic documentation to back it up
Experts’ wish list of items to find are usually headed up with the Jimi Hendrix Flying V Gibson Psychadelic Guitar painted by Hendrix himself. It’s known to exist and there are photos of Hendrix with this, but it has never turned up at auction and to date no one knows where it is in the world. Most say this could reach £250,000-£500,000 if it ever did come onto the open market.
Even items belonging to members of the groups that played with the famous are rising in value. In April 2000 a collection of guitars was sold by Christie’s in the States and included one played by Scotty Moore who was with Elvis Presley’s band – it made £67,550
Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress sold for £41,320 but has now been immortalised by The Latest Thing, part of Collectible World Studios – it’s resin version designed by Stacey Bayne costs £15 in most gift shops
Sex Pistols souvenirs fetch high prices
Sex Pistols memorabilia fetched unexpectedly high prices at Sotheby’s auction, with singer Johnny Rotten’s “anarchy” shirt being sold for £3,995.
The punk rock group have now entered the big league for memorabilia sales, alongside 60s greats like Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles.
A concert poster for the their “Punk Special” gig at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, London fetched £3,055, more than twice its pre-sale estimate.
But the highest prices were set by Beatles items – including a set of hotel registration forms for the band from Stockholm, which fetched £9,987 against a pre-sale estimate of £5,000-£6,000.
The restaurant chain Hard Rock Cafe purchased many of the top lots, including a three-page letter from George Harrison to one-time Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, dated 1960.
In the letter, which fetched £8,225, Harrison urges Sutcliffe to return to Liverpool from Hamburg as the band had secured a series of gigs.
Harrison writes: “Can’t you or won’t you come home sooner? If we get a new bass player for the time being, it will be crumby as he will have to learn everything and it’s no good Paul playing bass, we’ve decided.”
The desirability of Beatles items at auction is well-known, but the auction house expressed surprise at the prices reached by the Sex Pistols collection.
Stephen Maycock of Sotheby’s said: “I had good feedback about the Sex Pistols-related pieces but the results were much better than I expected.”
One fan from Coventry successfully bid for a copy of the withdrawn single God Save the Queen for £2,820 – against a pre-sale estimate of £1,800. He said that the purchase enabled him to complete his set of all the Sex Pistols singles released in England.
Rock and pop memorabilia is one of the newest, most exciting and accessibly priced collecting areas – although it does have its high prices too. John Lennon’s Rolls Royce was sold for $2.3m in 1985!
The most sought-after pieces are those closely linked with the stars
Almost any object in some way connected with a well-known star can be collectable, so even tickets, posters and other printed ephemera made for concerts and tours are saleable. The most sought-after pieces are those closely linked with the stars themselves. Collectors pay especially high prices for the musical instruments with which a star is associated; electric guitars can fetch several thousand pounds if they were played at a memorable concert.
Clothes are another popular collecting area. The most valuable garments are those recognisably linked with the image of their owner. Perhaps they were photographed wearing them, or used them at an important concert, or in a video. Elton John’s wacky shoes, Madonna’s gold leather corset and Michael Jackson’s rhinestone-studded glove have all attracted huge media attention and prices to match when they’ve come under the hammer. But not all collectable clothes are prohibitively expensive. Prices for a roadie’s jacket, or a T-shirt sporting the name and logo of a tour or album start at less than £100.
The 1950s and 1960s
Many collectors focus on the golden era of rock’n’roll. You’ll find memorabilia from this period is scarce compared with that of the following decades
Buddy Holly continues to enjoy a keen following so memorabilia relating to his career attracts high prices. The signed souvenir programme above marks his group’s only tour to England and is valued at £850.
- Elvis Presley
- Buddy Holly
- Bill Haley
- Bob Dylan
- The Beatles
Even concert programmes and magazines, which were produced in their thousands and once cost only a few shillings, are keenly collected. The most desirable items relate to the big names of the era who are still popular today.
Jim Morrison has always been collectable but his popularity enjoyed an upsurge with the release of Oliver Stone’s film about The Doors in 1991. These working lyrics for The Celebration of the Lizard give a glimpse of Morrison’s creative process and are worth £4,000 to £6,000.
Because of its nostalgic appeal, memorabilia of the 1970s is keenly collected. However, items from the period don’t tend to reach such high prices as collectables relating to more recent superstars.
A guitar owned by Pete Townshend of The Who. Paradoxically, the fact that it’s smashed adds to its value because it highlights its original owner’s rebel image, and it’s worth £4,000 to £6,000.
The guitar is accompanied by a letter by Townshend, detailing its history, which says: “I broke it in 1973 in a rage of frustration in my studio.”
Elton John was one of the first stars to exploit the possibilities of stage costume. Extraordinary glasses and flamboyant shoes such as these became his trademark and are keenly collected. These boots are worth between £300 and £600 a pair.
The Isle of Wight festival
Posters relating to important concerts are among the most affordable pieces of rock and pop memorabilia.
The pop festivals held in the Isle of Wight in 1969 and 1970 were key events and attracted audiences of over a quarter of a million. This promotional poster, from the 1970 concert, is worth £50 to £60.
What to look out for
Influential stars from the decade whose memorabilia is worth watching out for include David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Bruce Springsteen and The Sex Pistols.
The 1980s and 1990s
The most collectable things from the 1980s and 1990s are items from pop superstars’ flamboyant stage outfits. They can fetch extravagant prices, too.
The advent of the pop video was largely responsible for the growing importance stars of the 1980s and 1990s attached to their image. Concerts and tours became increasingly sophisticated, and the star’s visual impact became as significant as the music.
Costumes, often made by leading designers, are an obvious way of establishing a star’s persona. Hence outfits of increasingly extravagant design have become associated with many of the most famous celebrities of the 1980s and 1990s.
Top five collectable stars:
- Michael Jackson. Almost anything is desirable. (Note – we do not condone collecting Jackson for obvious reasons)
- Madonna. She’s changed her image for each tour so anything directly connected with one of these many images will be very attractive.
- Prince. His flamboyant clothes are always sought after.
- Elton John. Shoes, glasses, hats – the more zany they are, the higher the price.
- Queen. Anything connected with Freddie Mercury is appealing to collectors.
Michael Jackson was often photographed wearing the rhinestone-studded glove shown. As a result, it was perhaps the most instantly recognisable piece of rock and pop clothing of this era. The glove sold in 1991 for £16,500 – a record for any piece of Michael Jackson costume.
All Prince’s clothes are specially made for him and because his flamboyant outfits are fundamental to his image, those that come up for sale are very desirable. This suit made from turquoise and blue silk was sold with a letter of authentication stating where it was made and confirming that it was worn at the 1988 Grammy Awards by Prince. It’s worth more than £5,000.
The most valuable awards are the gold and platinum discs presented by the record company to the star. Gold discs are given for over 500,000 albums, or a million singles sold; platinum discs are given for over a million albums or two million singles sold. A silver presentation disc for Madonna’s You Can Dance is worth £300 to £350.
Tips on autograph collecting.
Buy autographs that capture your interest. Don’t purchase items presented as “investments” or sold through pressure. Learn as much as possible the language of autograph collecting. The more you study, the easier it will be for you to determine what items are authentic and which items to purchase. Use common sense when buying a signed piece. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Purchase autographed items from reputable dealers, who will help you avoid risks and problems. Most dealers offer a certificate of authenticity, which is only as good as the reputation of the dealer. If the dealer cannot tell you when and where the item was signed or how it was obtained, go elsewhere.
Autographs have been called “frozen moments in time.” Autograph collectors are curators of history. The most personal item that one person can give is his or her signature. Anything that can be signed can be considered collectible…letters, documents, photographs, books, memorabilia, etc. Few objects give a collector the opportunity to own a unique or one-of-a-kind item that is actually part of someone who is known by millions of people. That is the main reason why autograph collecting has become one of the fastest growing hobbies in recent years.
Collecting modern autographs
When writing a letter to a celebrity, it is advisable to write no more than one page. Although celebrities may be thrilled that you appreciate their work, or liked their acting in a certain TV show or movie, they simply do not have enough time to read multi-page letters from fans. Also, when writing to a celebrity, try to include some specific references to their work that you particularly enjoy. Be very specific in your descriptions. Mention character names that they have played and movies in which they have starred or appeared. This makes a much better impression than just simply saying… “I enjoy all your movies. Send me an autograph”. Be courteous and respectful. My experience has been that celebrities are truly impressed with kind treatment from their fans and they usually reward it.
Determining the price or value of your autographs
Several factors go into determining the price of an autographed item. The content of the photo (is this person known for his/her role shown in photo) and how difficult it is to obtain the autograph. Condition and market are also factors considered in pricing.
Demand also has to be considered, especially if the celebrity has become more popular and the demand has increased suddenly. Examples recently include celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Hilary Duff, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and Bruce Springsteen. Each has either had a very successful film, tour or CD. Here is a breakdown for determining value.
1) Who has signed the autograph?
The key words here are “demand” and “scarcity.” If a particular person’s autograph is in high demand and it happens to be a scarce autograph, then you can expect it to have good value. This is why an autograph of Marilyn Monroe sells for over several thousands of dollars. She remains popular and her signature is in great demand. Her autographs are scarce when compared to those of entertainers George Burns, Jimmy Stewart or Joan Crawford, all of whom were around many decades longer to sign autographs for fans.
2) What item has been signed?
A simple signature on an album page, menu, airline ticket or piece of paper is normally worth less than a signed document, signed photo, typed or handwritten letter. This is because it is the most common type of autograph. All things being equal, a handwritten signed letter demands a premium since not only does it have a name signed at the end but may also reveal something interesting, historical, or personal about the writer. Thus, you’re getting more than just a name signed on paper.
3) Is the signature in ink, pencil or otherwise?
Ink is worth more than pencil. Pencil can fade over time and usually isn’t as dark and bold as a nice ink signature. Many collectors prefer and will pay more for ink signatures. But don’t take this to mean pencil signatures don’t have value. The great Apache Indian chief Geronimo signed pencil autographs at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Today those pencil signatures on small cards can sell for at least $5,000. Today, most collectors prefer that photos and non-flat items be signed in sharpie or paint pen.
4) What is the condition of the autograph?
Any damage to the autograph, photo or paper will lower value. Smears, stains, creases, smudges, fading, tears, holes or other damage will always drop the value of an autograph. To get top dollar and maximum value autographs must be in excellent condition. There are several other small variables that can come into play when attempting to place a value on an autograph, but these four important questions are regarded as the most basic factors that determine an autograph’s value.
Autographed photos on eBay. What are these and is there any value?
These are facsimile reproductions of actual signed photos. With today’s technology, sellers can easily copy an authentic item with great detail and sell at a drastically reduced price. Novice collectors or those on a limited budget are usually the target of these sellers. Unfortunately, many buyers are unaware that the item is a copy because of the vague description. We recommend that collectors avoid these pre-printed photos and be extremely careful when purchasing autographs online.
Memorabilia at Auction
Twenty-nine of Bill Travilla’s “Long Lost Collection” of high-style costumes sketches of dresses and gowns created for Marilyn Monroe and other legendary stars went up for auction Friday, December 10th, 2004, by Profiles In History, for live and simultaneous Internet Hollywood memorabilia auctions.
This collection of sketches is highlighted by the single most famous dress in Hollywood history — the billowy, white crepe halter-top dress and sunburst-pleated skirt he created for Monroe for her classic subway wind scene in the 1955 Billy Wilder film “The Seven Year Itch,” which exposed Marilyn’s legs and thighs to the world. Ranked as the most important costume design ever created for film, it was expected to sell for between $80,000 and $100,000.
The Travilla Collection, long thought to have been lost in a devastating fire in Travilla’s loft in downtown Los Angeles in 1990, was salvaged by his friend and business partner Bill Sarris. Also included were sketches for gowns created by him for Jane Russell, Claudette Colbert, Greta Garbo, Gwen Verdon, Joanne Woodward, Debbie Reynolds, Judy Garland, Lana Turner and others.
This unique collection was the centerpiece among almost 500 movie and television memorabilia items to be auctioned. Continuing to feed movie fans’ hungry appetite for all things Marilyn, Profiles In History offered bidders the opportunity to own the ONLY signed, nude photograph of Marilyn Monroe, autographed to Mr. Travilla.
Highlights of other memorabilia items auctioned include: Original John Alvin poster art for “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” estimated to sell between $100,000 and $150,000; a complete vintage costume of H.R. Pufnstuf, estimated to sell between $25,000 and $35,000; Don Knotts Deputy uniform shirt from “The Andy Griffith Show,” estimated to sell for between $10,000 and $12,000; Johnny Carson’s historic monologue curtains from “The Tonight Show,” estimated to sell between $30,000 and $40,000; Mel Gibson’s hero broadsword used in “Braveheart,” estimated to sell between $10,000 and $12,000; and many more one-of-a-kind collectables.
Reference: Memoribillia Prices Realised