If you’re a dedicated music fan, collecting rock and pop memorabilia could turn out to be a lucrative investment in years to come. But what kind of items are the most sought after?
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.
The Beatles have a unique place in the history of pop music. Although Beatles memorabilia comes up for sale quite regularly, almost any object which celebrates their fame is of interest to collectors.
- Beatles dolls. The wide range of commercial Beatles merchandise made during the 1960s reflects the group’s phenomenal popularity. Among the diverse Beatles objects that come up for sale are lamps, scrapbooks, wigs and stockings. These Beatles dolls, dressed in Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band costumes, are worth £100 to £200.
- Lennon drawings. This hand-drawn Christmas card was given to Cynthia Powell by John Lennon in 1958 and encloses a revealing eight-page letter to Cynthia, whom he married five years later. Drawings by John Lennon are among the most desirable pieces of Beatles memorabilia and can fetch very high prices. This one is valued at £8,000.
- Ringo drum set. Although this drum set is a toy it would attract collectors because it’s rare to find these in near-perfect condition, complete with stand, sticks, original box and instructions. This set would cost £250 to £400.
What to look for
- handwritten lyrics to famous songs
- autographed and handwritten letters
- autographed photographs
- artwork for record sleeves
- animation cells from Yellow Submarine
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.
The guitar above was 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.
- 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 at the top of the page. 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. This silver presentation disc for Madonna’s You Can Dance is worth £300 to £350.