12 August 2010

Pop memorabilia strikes a chord with investors

From: The Telegraph

"The Sixties was the start of a cultural revolution. It's where it all started, when the most iconic bands existed. Every generation is interested- from the ones who were young in the sixties and watched these bands, who aspire to recreate their youth and everyone since that date has been influenced by The Beatles, The Stones, by Elvis."

That's the view of Neil Roberts, head of the department for Popular Culture for auction house Christie's and it's why sixties pop memorabilia hasn't felt the effects of the recession. He expects just as many bidders as ever at the house's Rock and Pop sale on July 1 and puts this down to the unique nature of music culture collectables.

While the art world in general may have suffered losses, with reserve prices not being met and dwindled sales, this area of alternative investment continues to grow. This is because, although pop culture collectables may offer a healthy return on sale, profit is not the driving force behind the investment.

The Sixties is the most popular and prevalent decade for music memorabilia. Within this sub sector, The Beatles are the most popular group. There are thousands of Beatles fan-sites on the internet, and hundreds are devoted to the buying, selling and trading of the so-called fab four's memorabilia.

Pop and rock memorabilia became sought after as collectables in the Eighties and the value of items have generally increased dramatically over this time. The most expensive and probably well-known sale in this sector was John Lennon's piano on which he composed 'Imagine'. It was bought in October 2000 by the singer George Michael for a hammer price of £1.45m, with an extra 15pc commission bringing the total sale price to £1.67m.

Though this sector generates some high end items, music memorabilia is a good starting sector for the budding collector or investor.

Mr Roberts points out tickets and flyers as an undervalued area- one that he predicts will do well in the future.

He said: "Tickets and flyers for old concerts have almost fallen under the radar. I think they are an interesting area and certainly more accessible. They have the band name, time and date- they represent a time in culture and I think that area will evolve and become more sought after."

These are easier to source for new collectors with the internet opening up a world wide trading forum, though Mr Roberts warns to check for authenticity.

He also recommends going direct to the source for these type of collectables, try to buy off people who collected themselves through experience, scour car boot sales and older family members lofts and garages.

Another area which Mr Roberts thinks is up and coming is original artwork. As CDs and digital downloads have taken over the music industry, LP sleeves and the original artwork on them become rarer and more sought after.

He said: "Album sleeves played such an important role in the past, you went and picked up your vinyl every Saturday and what was on the LP sleeve was important. I think that's an area that's going to be more in demand in the future."

Old LPs can currently be picked up in charity shops and traditional record stores for £5-£20 and with correct storage may be worth considerably more in twenty years time.

As with all art work, correct storage is important to protect against damage. Mr Roberts recommends keeping posters, vinyl and tickets on display so they can be enjoyed but in specially frames out of the dangers of damp and direct sunlight.

Though a bit of damage does not degrade the items' worth too much, as he says, "You expect all records to have a bit of damage just because down the years they do get slight tears or a bit scuffed. The only time it really matters is when there's a tear over the signature or there's a bit missing. Sometimes people like a little bit of damage as it adds to the authentic look."

Photos should be looked after similarly. The Christie's sale includes a 21 print archive of the 1997 photographic exhibition 'Was There Then' featuring the members of Brit-Pop band Oasis.

The lot includes a signed copy of the exhibition book by all four members and carries an estimate of £18,000 to £20,000. Mr Roberts predicts that just as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are the holy grail for collectors now, Oasis, Blur and The Stone Roses will be in the future.

He said: "Pop memorabilia is and always will be very popular. The only problem being that through time things become more mass produced and the rarity side of it will disappear. But then again maybe it won't as things become more throwaway, you just don't know."

"The good thing about items like these is you can enjoy them while they grow in value, hang them like pictures on the wall. As for instruments, they're meant really for display, but if you had a Jimi Hendrix guitar I'd be tempted to pick it up and give it a quick strum!"

Emma Wall

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