Music memorabilia is the fastest growing area of collecting in the hobby. Having a one-of-a-kind item or one that there are few of, such as a gold record award certainly would make any collector the envy of his or her collecting peers.” The variety of items available is mind-boggling,” said Greg Loescher, editor of Goldmine magazine. “Very popular pieces include posters, concert tickets, handbills, books, photographs, sheet music, concert programs, guitars, music magazines, press kits, buttons, 45 carrying cases, drumsticks, trading cards, backstage passes and autographs.”
Guitar picks draw considerable collector attention and range broadly in value depending upon the artist. Reba McEntire picks are valued between $10 and $15. An Eddie Van Halen can be worth as much as $200.
The more enterprising collectors dig up copies of high school yearbooks for early pictures of their favorite musicians. Letters written by the artists, signed contracts, driver’s licenses, library cards, record label ads from old Billboard and Cashbox magazines, stage-worn clothing, and artists’ vehicles are all part of the memorabilia milieu.
“Strange items have shown up in ads in Goldmine in the last few years including pairs of Madonna’s underwear, Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain’s syringe and the Double Fantasy album that John Lennon signed for Mark Chapman outside The Dakota in New York City just hours before Chapman gunned Lennon down,” Loescher said.
“One wonders who would actually want to bid on any of these items, especially the latter two; but on the other hand, Michael Jackson owns the remains of The Elephant Man.” Another area of memorabilia that is gaining in popularity is licensed products. “The kings in this area are, well, The King himself, Elvis Presley, along with The Beatles, The Monkees, and KISS,” said Loescher. “The amount of toys, lunchboxes, games, action figures, statues and a myriad of other products is staggering just for these four artists alone.” A 1956 board game licensed by Presley recently brought $3,429 at a Just Kids Nostalgia auction. The presale estimate on the item topped out at $2,000.
There are many price guides focusing on each of these artists. Two examples are Goldmine Kiss Collectibles Price Guide and The Beatles Memorabilia Price Guide. One area to avoid, if increasing value is the objective of your collecting endeavors, is that of “instant” collectibles. These include “limited-edition” plates and coins or postage stamps issued by Third World countries.
“These items are not sought after by collectors,” Loescher said. Overall, the memorabilia side of music collecting has taken on a life of its own. High-end memorabilia has captured the eyes of the major auction companies outside the hobby such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
Sotheby’s of London conducted the first rock ’n’ roll memorabilia auction in 1981. Just over 20 years later, wrapped up an auction dedicated to Beatles items last week.
Among the items offered were John Lennon’s 1959 application for a laborer’s position with a starting bid of $9,000. Also up for bid was George Harrison’s first guitar, opening at $38,000.
All of the major auction houses have Web sites, and collectors can access information about upcoming auctions quite easily. A hard copy of of an auction catalog usually runs anywhere from $15 to $40.
Auction houses often post the prices realized on their Web sites, but prices are usually listed by lot number with no description. Purchasing a catalog will help in determining what type of memorabilia each lot contained.
The average collector may find more fertile ground shopping among the advertisers in collector publications such as Discoveries and Goldmine. Though not headline material, the items found in these sources are usually more within reach of the average bank account.
Copyright 2002 by Krause Publications. For a free catalog of Krause Publications books or periodicals on collectibles, write Public Relations, Dept. IC, Krause Publications, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001, or visit on the worldwide web, or e-mail [email protected]

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