There’s only one Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix. Each personified rock and roll in his day. Each changed rock and roll in a different way. Each left a legacy of music, memories, and memorabilia.
That memorabilia now sells for big bucks. Fans, collectors and even other musicians want to buy rock and roll memorabilia. The music memorabilia market has expanded significantly since its early days in the 1970s. Today, auction houses like Goldin Auctions include rock memorabilia right next to game-worn baseball jerseys and autographed football helmets.
How Much Is It Worth?
Musical preference and genre do not play a role in the value of items when you buy rock and roll memorabilia. Some rock musicians are beloved across a wide spectrum of music fans. In terms of worth, it turns out that the same factors that make sports cards valuable apply to rock memorabilia, such as:
- Desirability of the musician: Just like Mickey Mantle memorabilia are valued higher than Jacoby Ellsbury’s, items from Stevie Ray Vaughan are worth more than items from Norman Greenbaum (of “Spirit in the Sky” fame). Even diehard Norman Greenbaum fans would agree.
- Rarity: Rare items have inherent value. Buddy Holly, for example, died tragically young. If you have his autograph, it’s a rare find that’s even more valuable than Bob Dylan’s autograph. As great an artist as Dylan is, he’s still signing things; Buddy Holly isn’t.
- Age: When you look to buy rock and roll memorabilia, look for items from the older groups. They hold the most value. For example, a letter signed by Jim Morrison is worth a lot more than a letter signed by Michael Stipe. Nothing against Michael Stipe.
- Condition: Just as a mint condition Roberto Clemente rookie card is worth more than a beat-up copy of the same card, a vintage poster advertising an early concert by The Rolling Stones generates more interest and value than a worn version of the same poster.
- Original Value: A guitar costs more than a tambourine. So, it’s obvious that John Lennon’s psychedelic-painted 1965 Rolls Royce is going to be significantly more valuable than a signed poster of him and Yoko.
Buy Rock and Roll Memorabilia!
You may not be able to afford Jimi Hendrix’s guitar or John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics to a Beatles’ tune, but you can collect smaller items or newer items to build your music memorabilia collection. Start with items such as:
- Signed items — such as letters, posters, drum skins, lyric sheets, concert tickets or even napkins. Their value can increase dramatically. Michael Jackson’s autograph increased 1000 percent from 2000 to 2013.
- Items from iconic newer bands — such as Madonna, Nirvana and Prince — are expected to increase in value over the next 20 years. Nothing is guaranteed, however, so invest wisely.
- Bob Dylan has seen his memorabilia sell for millions of dollars. But not all of it is that expensive. Now may be a good time to collect what you can while prices are still reasonable.
- Punk music made a splash in the 1990s. Memorabilia from that time may bring big dividends in the future.
- Buy rock and roll memorabilia of the rock classics like the Beatles, Stones, Elvis and others. Just like vintage baseball cards, these items won’t ever fall out of fashion.
When you buy sports memorabilia, you should know what you’re purchasing. The sports memorabilia market is different from the sports card market. In many ways, it’s easier to buy baseball cards or basketball cards because you know what you’re getting and can examine the card. When it comes to sports memorabilia and autographed items, though, you have to do a little digging to authenticate the item.
Don’t buy sports memorabilia before you know that what you’re buying is the real deal. If you buy from an established auction house like Goldin Auctions, you can be sure the item — whether it’s a jersey, a ball or whatever — has been authenticated. Even if it’s not signed, a game-worn jersey still adds value to any collection. Here are some tips to help you separate the bargains from the scams:
Tips for How to Buy Sports Memorabilia
- Game-worn vs. game-issued, team-issued or game-prepped. Only a game-worn jersey has been worn by a player in an actual big-league game. Other jerseys may be back-ups, used in preseason games or prepared for a player who never wore it. Teams have many reasons for having extra jerseys. Some players are traded. Some are sent back to the minor leagues. Teams may dump unused jerseys on the market at the end of a season. When you buy sports memorabilia, make sure you can authenticate that it’s game-worn.
- Read the fine print. Dealers who sell game-worn jerseys want you to know the items are genuine. Authentication markedly enhances a jersey’s value. Look in the jersey’s description for the proof, called provenance, of the game-worn claim. If it merely suggests that the player wore it, beware, regardless how it looks. Unscrupulous dealers have stained or rubbed dirt on a jersey to fool you. Since making a false claim is a federal offense, dishonest dealers would rather trick you. If you don’t see the proof, it’s not there.
- Authenticating game-worn jerseys. On the other hand, just because a dealer can’t produce a letter of authenticity, especially for older jerseys, that doesn’t mean the jersey is a fake. A written guarantee of authentication is just as good. Examine the tagging — for customized alterations and the size — of the jersey for further proof. If you want to have a jersey authenticated when you buy sports memorabilia, take it to MEARS or MeiGray (hockey jerseys only).
- Examine the jersey for use and wear. Use shows itself in the way a jersey was tucked in. A game-worn jersey hasn’t been tampered with, so the numbers shouldn’t look like they’ve been changed. The use throughout the jersey should be the same, so you can compare the number on the back to the team name on the front. It should look the same. Wear of a jersey describes how it’s been handled and laundered. Don’t look for wear; look for use. For old jerseys, see if you can detect the scent of mothballs, instead of detergent.
- Buy from a reputable dealer. All honest dealers of game-worn jerseys offer a money-back guarantee if you can prove the jersey is a fake. Think about it: if a large sports auction house didn’t stand behind its memorabilia, who would buy from them?
Don’t buy from a pushy dealer on Craigslist. Instead, take your time and do your homework. That’s the way to buy sports memorabilia that’s both authentic and valuable.