A Piece of History in Your Hand

Every day, I comb through my favorite news sites to keep up on what’s going on here at home and across the globe. And more often than not, I run across a news item declaring a collectible or collection has sold at auction for a record-breaking price.

As I stumble across those articles, I collect them (I’m a collector, after all). Once I have a few notable ones, I’ll write up an update on the market and shoot you an email so you’re always up to date on what’s hot in collectibles.

And so far this year, there have been plenty of areas on the uptrend.

Today, though, let’s focus on music.

This year classic music poster art, in particular, has been a popular area. For example, a rare Mouse and Kelley’s “Skeleton and Roses” poster, created for the Grateful Dead’s 1966 concert at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, went on auction where bidding rose to a record of $19,000, crushing the $3,000 pre-sale estimate. In fact, because of the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary this year, anything related to the group was a hit.

As a tip: Anniversary dates are something you should always keep in mind as an investor in this market.

But Grateful Dead memorabilia wasn’t the only hot type of poster art this year. Just last month, a poster created by John Lennon and Paul McCartney for the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival — the famous festival that hosted artists such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane — sold for $175,000. The poster was created while the Beatles were recording the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, and that title was included in the poster, which definitely increased collector interest.

It probably goes without saying, but if you can get your hands on anything related to a notorious or much-beloved moment from a popular artist’s career — well, I’ll probably be reading about your auction in one of my news perusals.

If you’re interested in learning more tips about investing in this area, I suggest reading our report on collecting music posters here.

There are also other areas of the collectible music market that are making waves. In early November, Julien’s Auctions made history by selling what’s arguably the most important Beatles guitar at auction for a world record of $2.4 million. The guitar was John Lennon’s 1962 J-160E Gibson acoustic, which most had assumed lost for the past 50 years. Its notoriety stems from the fact that George Harrison had purchased an identical one and that Lennon used his to write some of the Beatles’ top hits. Think: “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Please Please Me,” “All My Loving,” “From Me to You,” “This Boy” and more. So it’s no surprise the guitar commanded a record-breaking price.

And just to show how popular the Grateful Dead were this year, it’s worth noting a commemorative electric guitar signed by members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann was auctioned for $526,000 in July during the band’s good-bye tour. The six-string featured the band’s skull logo and the words “Fare Thee Well.” It was sold by D’Angelico Guitars and HeadCount, a nonprofit.

To read more about the guitar market, I recommend taking a look at the report my colleague Ted Bauman wrote here. Vintage guitars are a fascinating area to get involved in, painted with the nostalgia of the great rock stars of decades past. Like most collectibles, it’s not just the aesthetic of the guitar that draws interest (although that can be a significant source of appeal) — it’s also the story behind it.

I like to think of collectors as lovers of history, who’re just looking to capture a story for a while. It’s why the collectibles market is such a great store of quiet wealth that’s not subject to the whims of the market, like many other investments. Collectors are willing to hold onto their assets, even if volatility is rattling the economy.

So while you may not be able to get your hands on items as rare as the ones listed above, that shouldn’t dissuade you from jumping into the market if you’re interested. There are plenty of opportunities to get in before an artist’s popularity rises to Beatles’ level stardom. You just have to make sure you do your homework and that you’re keeping an eye on current trends.

And then you’ll have a piece of history in your hands that could bring you a nice chunk of cash in the years ahead.

Until next time, happy hunting…

Jeff Opdyke
Editor, Private Assets Report