Money can’t buy you love, and love can’t buy you a Beatles’ guitar. So bring money.
Otherwise, forget about fetching any of the several hundred Fab Four artifacts to be auctioned in Atlanta Nov. 14-15.
An acoustic guitar used by John Lennon in the group’s pre-Beatlemania Liverpool days is expected to be the most expensive item. The auction house – undaunted by the recent auction of an early Elvis Presley guitar that sold for half of the anticipated top bid – expects the guitar to bring up to $300,000 (U.S.).
“We thought it (Lennon’s) could bring in seven figures, but with the market being what it is today and the depressed economy, I think it will bring in the $200,000 to $300,000 range,” said Ted Tzavaras, president of Great Gatsby’s auction house.
Tzavaras said the market’s better now for Beatles’ memorabilia than for the king’s. “I think the Beatles created a phenomenon in rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “Elvis, of course, was the American father of rock ‘n’ roll, but the Beatles created the phenomenon.
“This guy (Lennon) didn’t die of an overdose. He’s a martyr, a rock ‘n’ roll martyr. The name’s still magic.”
The items associated with Lennon, who was murdered in New York in 1980, are expected to draw the most attention. Besides the guitar, there’s a harmonica Lennon used in recording the Beatles’ first album, a cigarette lighter, personal letters, autographed photographs and gold records.
Also available: sculptures, rare concert programs and a record-store display promoting the Beatles’ 1965 Rubber Soul album (“Great for giving! Or just groovy listening!”).
Macabre as it sounds, dead rock stars are plainly worth more than living ones in the auction market, Tzavaras said. Though fans still love Paul, George and Ringo, their items should sell for much less than Lennon’s.
“They’re still alive, still producing, still writing songs, so they’re less valuable,” he said.
The investment value of such rock ‘n’ roll mementos may shut out fans who simply want a keepsake of the 1960s pop icons.
“It’s really big bucks,” said Bill King, publisher of the magazine, Beatlefan.
Even Tzavaras, who like millions of Americans were introduced to the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan TV show in the sixties, admits to a twinge of nostalgia as he sees big-money investors snatching up the memories.
“But if the guy has the wherewithal to own it, I say sell to the highest bidder,” Tzavaras said. “Emotionally, probably it ought to be part of the family, Yoko and Sean. But it came from them – they sold it in the early ’80s.”
The Elvis guitar, which he used in his seminal Sun Records sessions, was sold by another Atlanta auctioneer in early October for $180,000, about half what had been anticipated.
Tzavaras acknowledged the low price was a disappointment but said recent auctions overseas saw a Jimi Hendrix guitar go for $248,000 and a Buddy Holly guitar sell for $300,000.
“Rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia has been a very hot segment of the collectible business, and prices are still going up,’ he said.
Tzavaras said most of the Beatles’ items in his auction came from a private collection, the owner of which he would not identify. The auction house would not disclose the value of the collection, though Great Gatsby’s executive vice-president, Allan Baitcher, said it has been insured for $10-million.