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Seventies nostalgia is driving a music memorabilia boom


Sought-after: Elton John's platform boots

Sought-after: Elton John’s platform boots

Elton John fans have the chance to buy a memento from the pop star’s glittering career as a collection of his possessions goes under the hammer at Christie’s in New York on Wednesday. 

Among the 900 items on offer is an ivory and gold jumpsuit worn by the Tiny Dancer singer in one of his first stage performances in 1971, which is expected to fetch up to £9,700. The outfit was loaned to make costumes for the star’s 2019 Rocketman biopic starring Taron Egerton.

Those who fancy tinkling Elton’s own ivories can take home his Yamaha grand piano, on which he is said to have written several of his Grammy Award-winning songs, for an estimated £39,000.

A pair of silver platform boots with red leather letters E and J on the sides and worn throughout the 70s are expected to fetch up to £8,000.

Interest in 1970s music memorabilia is booming as investors realise they can own their own piece of performance history whilst also enjoying a link to their favourite singer or band.

The Elton John sale is the latest in a series of high-profile auctions from musicians including Freddie Mercury, Eric Clapton and Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts.

In September, 1,406 items from Freddie Mercury: A World Of His Own auction were snapped by buyers from more than 50 countries including Japan, Mexico and Brazil. Auction house Sotheby’s says the £40 million sale demonstrates ‘the allure and fascination Freddie Mercury continues to exert today’.

Among the most sought-after items were a sheet of paper with lyrics to hit Don’t Stop Me Now which sold for £317,500 and a solid silver moustache comb, which was expected to fetch £400, went under the hammer for more than £150,000.

Claire Tole-Moir, of auction house Bonhams, says the 1970s is a great era to collect items from as it was a very important time for music. ‘This was the decade where creativity and diversity flourished, boundaries were pushed and with that came eccentric melodies, costumes, dance routines and lyrics,’ she says.

‘Items associated with those musicians who were part of this pivotal movement are considered important and therefore collectable.’

Martin Hughes, auctioneer at Wessex Auction Rooms, says the majority of music collectors are driven by nostalgia and their desire to recapture how they felt when they listened to an artist for the first time.

‘Investing in music- related items is a real balancing act,’ he says. ‘Items of clothing and general memorabilia from musical icons will, of course, have a broader appeal and potentially be a safer long-term investment.’

Last year, 300 Fleetwood Mac contracts and letters documenting the band’s rise to fame were sold at auction for more than £20,000.

Owner of the collection, Clifford Adams, worked as the group’s manager, agent and co-songwriter from 1967 to 1974. A letter from the band’s founder Peter Green which explained why he quit the group fetched £2,000, while another bidder paid £460 for his driving licence.

Meanwhile, a set of sheets documenting the band’s performance schedule sold for £4,400, smashing the £400-£600 estimate. Mr Hughes says paper items such as tickets or handbills are very popular as they were never designed to be keepsakes.

‘Scarcity sells. I had the great pleasure of selling a large private collection of music handbills, flyers and posters from big name artists such as The Who, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac,’ he says. ‘The seller said, ‘I didn’t think anyone would want them’, when in fact the collection sold for over £60,000.’

When looking to start your own collection, consider the popularity of the group or singer first, recommends Claire Howell, head of music and film at auctioneer Hansons.

‘Artists such as David Bowie still have high collectable value in a way that contemporary artists including Taylor Swift do not,’ she says. ‘It’s amazing what people will buy and what they aspire to own from a big musician. I once sold John Lennon’s car keys.’

You may even be lucky enough to have mementoes at home if you went to concerts and bought records in the 1970s. An old tour programme of the Rolling Stones and a ticket found lying around at home could be worth up to £200, says Howell.

Meanwhile, the acetate discs which are used to test a single before it is released could be worth hundreds of pounds. An acetate of a David Bowie album could be worth up to £600, while one from the rock band T. Rex could sell for £750, Ms Howell says. Make sure to check the provenance of an item that was owned by an artist or signed by them before you make a purchase.

Mr Hughes says: ‘The world of forgeries is as rife in music memorabilia as it is in the art world. Buy things from reputable sources such as specialist auctions.’

Often items sold at auction will come with a certificate to prove authenticity but if you are unsure whether an item is genuine you can also speak to the auction house.

If an item was mass produced, such as a vinyl record or CD, consider its condition and rarity before you make a purchase, recommends Ms Tole-Moir. ‘Depending on your budget, try to buy the best example out there,’ she says ‘Do your research and see what has been on the market before and how prices have performed.’

An original copy of the Beatles’ White Album which was donated to the British Heart Foundation charity shop sold for £2,350 on eBay.

The album was one of just 10,000 copies made and features 30 songs including Blackbird and Dear Prudence.

In comparison, the 50th anniversary edition of the same vinyl is worth less than £50.

But above all, buy items that you enjoy, she says. A record you listened to as a teenager may now only be worth a few pounds, but it’s priceless to you.

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