Investing in Rock and Roll – Memorabilia and Collectibles – What You Should Know

One of the most common questions I get from people who visit the RARE is where to start as a new collector. Collecting historically significant rock-n-roll items has definitely turned from a fan’s hobby into a lucrative investment opportunity. But, if you are just getting into the game, here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your investments.

1. Supply & Demand
Autographed memorabilia is a great collectible. It is limited just by the fact that the Artist had to take the time to sign it. Be sure the item is authentic and comes with pictures of the signing of at all possible.

The best way to collect signed items is to get them yourself at an artist appearance. Michael Anthony (Original bassist for Van Halen) was at the store this summer singing autographs and taking photos with fans to promote his hot sauces and a new product – miniature replicas of his most famous bass guitars.

One of the new miniature guitars Michael was promoting was a replica Yamaha bass. He noticed that certain marks were missing on the back of one of the models he was signing and said, “this is from the first batch and doesn’t have the marks on the back. The next batch should be corrected.” This means the item is even more limited and more valuable.

If an item is numbered, look for lower numbers. Typically, the lower the number, the more valuable the item. An example would be a Limited Edition photograph of David Bowie by Jeanne Rice – number 1 of 100. Size, print quality and framing also contribute to the value of this item, but most important is that it is 1 of 100 that will ever be sold in the marketplace.

Limited pieces will be accompanied by some sort of documentation declaring the total number of pieces in the collection. In some cases the piece itself is not numbered, but the number is noted on the documentation or box. One example is this Elvis 1968 Comeback Cookie Jar. This is one of only 2400 to ever be manufactured. Limited and breakable – now that’s the recipe for a great collectible.

2. Age AND Beauty
Older is typically better, but if the item is in disrepair, it can bring the value down significantly. It is increasingly important to keep Rock-n-Roll collectibles protected. The fastest way to preserve and protect your memorabilia is to frame it in acid-free mat and UV glass.

A great example is a laundry ticket signed by Jim Morrison of The Doors in 1969 worth $ 6,000 in its current presentation. Unframed and unprotected, the signature could fade away and item become a worthless piece of paper.

Framing can also instantly increase the value of the item just by improving the presentation. One example is a Rolling Stones Autographed Guitar unframed for $ 4950. A very similar guitar protected in framed presentation is priced significantly higher at $ 6995. Another great example are Picture Discs. Picture discs are limited promotional pressings of vinyl records to promote bands. Just by knowing the number of discs in the pressing and putting that information on a plaque in a nice frame, you take an unframed item that might sell for under $ 50 and make it worth 2-4 times that amount.

Original packaging is also important. Not only does the condition of the item affect the value, but the packaging plays a great part as well. Purchase toys and figurines in pairs. One to play with and one to keep tucked away in the original package as an investment. The trick is to buy when the item comes into the marketplace, not after they stop making it. A great example are three 18″ action figures with sound made by the same manufacturer. The Iron Maiden 18″ Eddie figure was available for a couple of years, but now is no longer available (like a lot of Iron Maiden, get ready for an IM drought). The Freddy Mercury of Queen 18″ figure has the same story, no longer available. Lastly, John Lennon 18″ figure is still available, but we don’t know how long. At any time, they too could go off the market and instantly increase in value due to rule #1 (supply and demand). If you can find these items in original packaging, they will appreciate more than those without.

3. Value is Highly Subjective
Collecting rock-n-roll memorabilia is a labor of love. The value of an item is ultimately decided by the person who collects it. If you love the Grateful Dead, always went to their shows, always bought a concert poster at every show, and you missed the Day on the Green October 9, 1976 at Oakland Coliseum Stadium where the Who opened for the Dead; then you’ll pay more for the original concert poster for that show. Why? Because you love the Grateful Dead. That poster may be worthless to someone else who doesn’t dig the Dead. Even Original Concert posters from the most modern and recent bands may have been $ 25 at the concert, but worth $ 100 to a fan who missed out on that concert. An item is only worth what the market will bear.

Below are some great examples of what the market can do for the value of Rock-n-Roll Memorabilia.

A Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album signed by all four Beatles recently sold for $ 27,500 to a private collector increasing it’s value 90 times in 23 years.

Bo Diddley’s autographed square-shape guitar with travel-stickered case hand-made for Dick Clarke – sold at auction for $ 9,600 in 2006. Today’s estimated value ($ 30,000 – $ 40,000).

Eric Clapton’s guitar, otherwise known as “Blackie” sold at auction for $ 959,500 in 2004 far beyond Christie’s Auction House Estimate of $ 100,000-150,000.

Whether you collect for re-sale, investment or just for bragging rights, now is a great time to own a piece of Rock & Roll history. Happy collecting!

Diana Birdsall, The Rock and Roll Emporium
Kate Kirby, Owners

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