Music Memorabilia

Photo Credit: Elvis Presley: © Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

By David Cohea, ReMIND Magazine

There’s something about the songs that played on the radio when we were hitting puberty and are treasured forever in memory. The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” at my first dance; Grand Funk Railroad’s “Are You Ready,” the first song played by the first rock band I ever heard live; “Close to You” by the Carpenters for my first kiss. I hear that music today and remember it all.

It’s no wonder so many people keep some relic of that past by collecting music memorabilia. Have a 1965 Beatles lunchbox lying around? Even beat-up versions can sell for $200 or $300, with one mint-condition lunchbox selling for $1,625 in 2013.

A music collection is not just a stash of LPs or laser discs (though it could be). It’s posters and guitars and concert tickets and LP art; it’s performance clothes, concert T-shirts and just about any licensed item from your favorite artist. Yeah, Elvis, we are looking at you!

Long-playing records (LPs) have made quite a comeback since the days of CDs, with retro enthusiasts everywhere enjoying the deeper, more nuanced sounds of analog recording on record players. Vintage LPs can be quite collectible, too; a promotional 45 with the Beatles’ “Ask Me Why” and “Anna” sold at auction for $35,000, and the 1938 78 rpm recording of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues” sold on eBay for $12,000 in 2010.

Concert posters mount and show well in a home. They turn up in flea markets and can cause quite a fervor on eBay. They can range in price from a few dollars to many thousands. In May 2019, a 1996 Grateful Dead “Skull & Roses” poster sold for a whopping $56,400! The problem is, these posters can be easily faked, and so the wise collector needs to bone up on things like provenance and artist.

Keith Richards, Rick Nielsen (of Cheap Trick) and Jimmy Page are rock guitarists who have legendary guitar collections, with Richards said to own more than 3,000. The most valuable rock guitars include the 1964 Stratocaster Bob Dylan played at the Newport Folk Festival, valued at nearly $1 million, and the 1962 Gibson J-160E acoustic-electric used by John Lennon when he composed such Beatles classics as “I Saw Her Standing There.” That guitar sold at auction in 2015 for $2.41 million. Even for the everyday collector, some of the 1950s Fender Strats or the 1960s Gibson Les Paul Standards can still net a good resale value.
Some collectors specialize by artist. California-based collector Stan Panenka is said to have the best and most pristine collection of Beatles albums. A woman in Oregon has assembled a museum-grade collection of Fleetwood Mac memorabilia by carefully monitoring eBay auctions and keeping tabs on managers and roadies who have worked for the band over time. She’s assembled unreleased photos from various album shoots, flowers from Stevie Nicks’ mic stand and Fleetwood Mac CDs from China to Czechoslovakia. Australian collector Rusty Roberts has more than 20,000 pieces of Elvis oddities including Elvis-related taffy, aftershave, golf balls, shower curtains, napkins, umbrellas, socks, mugs, books, Pez dispensers, candles, postcards, coffee, cardboard cutouts and board games.

As stars age and die, unusual things come available out of their estates, like Leonard Cohen’s love letters or David Bowie’s personal art collection or stage outfits from the estate of Greg Lake, bass player and singer of both King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

Then there are promotional items, like a Johnny Paycheck shot glass or Rod Stewart belt buckle. In his later concerts, Elvis Presley threw out silk scarves with his image printed on them; these can now fetch many thousands of dollars. A 1991 U2 Achtung Baby inflatable car, sent to record stores to help promote the album, sells for $500.

One thing is for sure: Once you start your collection of music memorabilia, you’ll always be making room for more!

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