Money can buy you love(or at least the t-shirt)
You've bought the album, DVD and T-shirt. Now what about that rhinestone studded jacket worn by your rock 'n' roll idol? It probably doesn't come cheap, though, as Ed Reed found out.
Rock 'n'roll has always been about excess - whether you're talking about the clothes, on-stage antics or bedroom shenanigans of the stars! All that over-the-top behaviour has largely been thanks to the gargantuan cash flows feeding the music industry for the past 50 years.
And now memorabilia linked with performers like John Lennon and hell-raisers Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison is fetching staggering sums at auction as the big money trickles down to items collected by countless fans. If you were a child of the sixties, who knows what pricey limited edition albums, signed T-shirts, posters, flyers and rare band ephemera could be lost in your attic? Sets of Beatles autographs changed hands for £45 just before Lennon's death in 1980. Die-hard Beatlemaniacs now expect to pay £45,000 for the same scrawled signatures.
Virtually any object connected to a well-known star is collectable, right down to concert tickets, flyers and posters. The best quality music memorabilia from the 60s and 70s is valued just as highly as the compositions of Mozart or Beethoven in both artistic and monetary terms. The Beatles in particular have a unique place in the history of pop music.
"When you get a unique piece like a hand-written lyric or a waistcoat Hendrix wore at Monterey you're not going to get another one so there are a lot of people looking for the same thing. It's becoming more and more competitive."
Ted Owen is a director of auction house Cooper Owen, based in Egham, Surrey, which oversaw the £600,000 sale of Lennon's hand-written lyrics for All You Need is Love earlier in the summer. That huge price reflected the booming market in collectibles linked to The Beatles and other acts such as the Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Elvis. "The prices that are being achieved now are just monumental," says Owen.
"If that document got £600,000 today God knows what it's going to be worth in 20 years' time." By his estimate, prices have been doubling or even trebling every 10 years. Of course, in a small market which is skyrocketing, you always need to be wary of fakes. One unsuccessful seller tried to pass off a signed Lennon album released in 1984 - four years after the artist's murder. Clothes are a very popular area.
The most expensive garments will be flamboyant items linked inextricably to their owners. A necklace worn by Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 fetched $125,000 at the latest Cooper Owen auction.
Further down the scale, prices for a roadie's jacket or a T-shirt sporting a tour or album logo can cost less than £100 but are still very saleable.
Limited supply has pushed prices up for both one-off items like guitars and more common artefacts such as Ringo Starr toy drumkits. "It's become rarer and rarer," explains Owen. "When you get a unique piece like a hand-written lyric or a waistcoat Hendrix wore at Monterey you're not going to get another one so there are a lot of people looking for the same thing. It's becoming more and more competitive. With Hendrix, he had such a short career. He was only there for four years. If someone like that dies there's less chance of finding anything and the price goes up."
In the modern era there was a huge surge in demand for Nirvana memorabilia after singer Kurt Cobain committed suicide. The Rock & Roll and Film Memorabilia Department at London auction house Bonhams holds two sales per year at their Knightsbridge salerooms. For Bonhams consultant Stephen Maycock there will always be one pre-eminent force in collectibles. "As far as memorabilia is concerned, it's The Beatles all the way ever since the very first sale organised by any major London auction house, which was Sotheby's back in 1981." Maycock describes the sum paid for All You Need is Love as a 'quantum leap', adding: "£600,000 is an extraordinary amount for pop memorabilia. Not every Lennon lyric is going to be worth that money. This was something special. It was a piece of paper photographed in front of Lennon as he sang the song to a huge world audience. It puts Lennon certainly and McCartney into the realms of Beethoven, Bach and Mozart."
For true fans, the price of a lyric sheet penned by their pop idol is irrelevant. "People value these bits of paper not in a commercial sense but in their importance as a piece of history - as a document produced by the hand of Lennon. It has that importance in social terms. It's not just pounds and shillings," he adds.
He warns that although the market is growing and there is the chance to make money, it is not wise to start visiting auction houses as a way to invest. "I have never really met, in all these years, anyone who says 'I buy to invest'. There's obviously some of that but it's not quite the same as the impressionist paintings market in the days when Japanese money men came into the market and bought everything. Most buyers are first and foremost fans who have a bit of cash. They've got all the records. They've got all the videos and DVDs and it's the next step. If you have got all the records what else can you buy? A piece of Jimi's clothing that gets you a little bit closer to the star - that gives you something that little bit more that no-one else has got. You get that buzz from knowing Jimi wore it or played it.
"It's a piece of magic encapsulated in that shirt. It's a moment in time and that object is an embodiment of it. It's a religious icon! A lot of buyers are in their 40s and 50s and they were alive, for example, when The Beatles were performing."
The modern market for clothing and trinkets thrives when stars are doing well yet dives quickly as they fall out of the limelight. Items connected to Elton John, Prince and Michael Jackson sold well when they were at the peak of their powers yet demand weakened with declining record sales. Prince and Michael Jackson were at their height in the late 1980s.
"The market reflected that and pieces of memorabilia associated with Prince and Michael Jackson did make a lot of money. As their music career has tailed off the massive profit has disappeared, so has interest in the memorabilia."
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