We love them, yeah, yeah, yeah. When it comes to Beatles memorabilia, anything written, played, used, or owned by any of the Fab Four continues to soar in value. And we do mean anything: In 2011, a dentist paid $31,200 for one of John Lennon’s teeth—and a decayed one at that. George Michael paid $2.1 million for Lennon’s Steinway Model Z piano; and a signed door from the Ed Sullivan Theater, where the Beatles first performed 50 years ago, is expected to fetch a cool $1 million. “It’s a wonderful item because of its connection to that first historic TV show,” says Pete Siegel, who owns New York’s Gotta Have It! Collectibles on 57th Street. “The Beatles not only signed their names, but also doodled on the door.”
But not all Beatles memorabilia is wildly expensive: You can buy autographs for less than $10,000, and the old Beatles lunchboxes can sometimes be had for just a few hundred dollars.
Experts like Siegel caution that many of the Beatles items sold today are counterfeit. That spanking-new guitar offered at a charity auction and signed by all four Beatles is likely to be a fake—especially if it’s selling for $500. “Always buy from a reputable dealer,” says Siegel. “It’s like buying a house. You need an inspection.”
Rules of Collecting
Behind every object is a story, and it is these stories that connect collectors to their passions. Jeff Figler, author of Collecting for Beginners, has a vast collection of political, sports, and pop-culture memorabilia, including John Lennon’s eyeglasses.
He offers these tips:
Narrow your vision, since the variety of items that can be collected is vast. If you like Mickey Mantle, stick with Yankees baseball cards. You like beautifully made plates? Stick to a specific period.
Go with your passion.
Set realistic goals. Consider the size of your collectibles and the space that they will require for display.
Go early, if you are going to go to garage or estate sales. But know that people rarely find valuable finds at those venues.
Be skeptical of an item without a track record of belonging to another buyer; it could be counterfeit. ‘Provenance’ is a word we use. Do your research about an item. Look to see where it sold before. This is why dealers are often better bets for investment pieces.
Visit the auction site before the day of the auction so you can pinpoint what you like. Auction sites are where many treasures exist.
Carefully examine the items for flaws. Flaws reduce the value of any item.
Know your limit. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment and spend too much.