Question: What's the first step in building an enviable rock 'n' roll memorabilia collection? Answer: Start collecting a long time ago.
Seriously, though, assembling an interesting group of music-related collectibles can be fun and profitable.
Consider autographs, photos, ticket stubs, guitar picks, toys, rare albums, picture sleeves, concert posters, stage costumes, musical instruments and backstage passes.
There are three reasons to collect such memorabilia: nostalgia, investment and decoration. College kids, short on cash, buy old albums for their covers which provide cheap artwork to decorate dorm rooms. Folks with deep pockets, like the owners of the Hard Rock Cafe, aren't afraid to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction to buy the personal effects of well-known musicians like John Lennon, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix or Johnny Cash.
Within those perimeters are many opportunities to assemble a satisfying collection of music memorabilia. Original items from the fifties and sixties are increasingly difficult to find. But in the period since various companies and musicians themselves have jumped on the memorabilia bandwagon. The rock group Kiss licensed dozens of products ranging from Halloween masks to snow domes, then topped it off with a Kiss casket retailing for $5,000.
Millions of people buy and sell on eBay, the giant Internet website. However, this method requires some caution. For instance, some experts estimate that 90 percent of the autographs listed on eBay are fake. Consequently, buy only from people you trust and require the provenance of signatures you want.
Still, autographs are among the most sought after items by collectors. A complete set of Beatles autographs can fetch $5,000 if the authenticity can be verified. While writing to stars and requesting their autographs is common, many do not have the time to personally respond. Fans then get stamped or auto-pen signatures or autographs by staff members called "secretarials."
Concert posters are also collectible. Especially desirable are those designed for a specific venue which indicates the poster was printed in small numbers. Posters from San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium are in demand due to their psychedelic design and the top-name stars they promoted, as well as the prominent artists who created them. Few such posters survived and those available today may not be first printings and instead merely copies of the original. Condition is also important.
As collectors have known for years, thrift stores run by Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul Society and Salvation Army often offer artifacts from the past culled from the donations they receive. You might have to visit often, but eventually an underpriced collectible album or two will turn up. Don't overlook antique stores in your quest, too. The rock 'n' roll era started over half a century ago and unique items may be found in the nooks and crannies of antique shops if you care to undertake the search.
Many well-known musicians offer items for sale on their own websites. Concerts offer another opportunity for the persistent collector to get a sought-after autograph. Many collectors bring albums or photos to shows and accommodating stars may sign those items, if requested. Keep your ticket stubs and build a collection just by tossing them into a drawer.
Through the years, my wife Sue and I have been fortunate enough to acquire some gratifying collectibles. Some examples: We have a tanktop signed by Cher, cap autographed by Dion, and a Lou Christie shirt with a picture of him wearing it on stage. Our collection includes guitar picks from Carl Perkins and Guns 'n Roses and well as signed Metallica drumsticks. We're the proud owners of a signed Robert Cray guitar and backstage passes from Pink Floyd and Kiss. Other Kiss items in our collection include a transistor radio and lunchbox. We also own lunchboxes from the BeeGees, Beatles and Partridge Family. A Led Zeppelin ticket dated Nov. 12, 1980, for a show cancelled due to the death of drummer John Bonham, also resides in our collection, as does an arrow autographed by Ted Nugent. We've got toys, too, including a Jerry Garcia doll and Beatles' "Flip Your Wig" board game.
With that comes the question: What's the first step in building an enviable rock 'n' roll memorabilia collection? Answer: Start collecting today.