Fifty years ago this Sunday—Feb. 9, 1964—some 73 million people tuned into the Ed Sullivan Show for The Beatle’s first appearance. Since then, Beatle merchandise and collectibles have been coveted by fans and collectors.
If you were on this earth on Feb. 9, 1964, I’ll bet dollars to donuts you remember what you were doing that evening.
Well, that might be pushing it a little. I was 4 years old and I sitting on the floor watching the Ed Sullivan show with my parents and, unbeknownst to us, we were watching a musical group that was going to go down in history.
It is now believed that 40 percent of the American population at the time—73 million people—were watching Ed Sullivan that night as The Beatles sang five songs. It was very difficult to hear them over the screaming of the girls in the audience, but I scooted close to our black-and-white TV, turned up the volume and—over my mom’s incessant “turn it down”—clearly heard the words to “All My Loving.”
The Mop Topped-Brits inspired Americans—both boys and girls—to mimic the Fab Four’s distinctive haircuts.
I was hooked. I recall the next day asking my little friend, Lyle Land—a.k.a. Hominy—if he saw those guys on TV. He did not because his bedtime was 7 p.m.
I wanted that song on a record. I wanted all of their music. I was going to grow-up and marry Ringo Starr. In 1965, when the song “Michelle,” was released I was positive that it was about me and as the years passed, anytime I would meet someone for the first time and tell them my name, they would chime in with “Michelle my belle.”
The marriage part never happened, but over the next few years I did get all of The Beatles LPs and 45 RPM records. I had Beatlemania! For Christmas and birthdays, my presents consisted of Beatle items and the required collectible doll. By the time I was 12 I had accumulated a pretty impressive collection of Beatles items, such as the bobble head dolls, bongos and even a bottle of Beatles perfume.
The Beatles hit America like nothing ever seen before in a band. The country was already undergoing a cultural change; President Kennedy had been assassinated only three months prior, the Vietnam War was looming over us, and racial conflict was running rampant. And then in come these four young men singing of love, beauty and peace. It was a message that we wanted and needed and the kind of light, airy music that we craved.
The Beatles were much more than a group of guys who sang and played instruments; they were a phenomenon. They influenced hair styles, fashion, art, introduced Eastern religion and beliefs to the West and, most importantly, changed music. After the band broke-up, John Lennon and Yoko Ono showed us how to peacefully protest the war (not me, since I was too young to protest anything at the time but you know what I mean).
When “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released in 1967, some radio stations around the country played it on a loop for two or three days in a row. Some 32 million copies of this album have been sold—rating it among the best-selling albums of all time—and it won four Grammy Awards in 1968. This album was way ahead of its time making use of all the recording technology available and the use of an orchestra.
“Meet the Beatles!” was released in the United States in January of 1964. It had the same cover photo as the 1963 British album, “With the Beatles.”
Beatles memorabilia has always commanded a high price on the secondary market, from the record album to a decayed molar that once was in the mouth of John Lennon. Yes, in 2011 a dentist paid more than $30,000 for a Lennon chewer.
If you are in the market for Beatles memorabilia, it is a buyer-beware market, as reproductions and new items are everywhere. A good website to research these items is BeatleBay, which has a wealth of information about Beatles memorabilia. The Internet has quite a few websites where you can sell your Beatles items and allegedly get “top dollar.”
So, what are the prices that Beatles items have sold for?
• In 1986, Lennon’s psychedelically painted Rolls Royce Phantom V sold for $2.23 million;
• Over the years, handwritten lyrics to several popular songs by Lennon have each exceeded the $1 million mark;
• In early 2013, Heritage Auction sold an original 1967 “Sgt. Pepper’s” on the Parlophone Records label, signed by all four of the Beatles, for $290,500. Prior to this auction, the highest price paid for a Beatles album was $150,000 for a signed “Meet the Beatles”;
• March 2010 saw the sale of a NEMS Beatles record player from 1964 (like the one I used to own) for $6,500;
• 2012, Bonham’s Auction sold a leather jacket worn by George Harrison during many concert performances for $177,686;
• In the same auction a pair of George’s Beatle boots brought $98,535;
• Bonham’s also sold the guitar used by Paul McCartney during the 1950s when he was a member of The Quarry Men for $69,578.40;
• They also had an autographed concert ticket for The Beatles’ Grosevenor, Norwich concert, held May 17, 1963, which sold for $12,065.60.
The above is a very short list of prices for Beatles memorabilia but it is an impressive list just the same and goes to show that The Beatles still live in the hearts and wallets of many people.
Perhaps the most sought after bobble head dolls of all just might be a set of the four Beatles. Made in 1964. This foursome featured John, Paul, George and Ringo on gold square bases, playing their respective instruments. Each is “signed” on the front with the performer’s facsimile autograph. These came in three sizes: a 4-inch cake topper size; a 7-inch car mascot size; and a very unusual 15-inch store display size. A set of the 15-inch Beatle bobble head dolls sold for $15,000 in 2010.
The Beatles nodders featured “lifelike” hair. Don’t set these too close to your bed, as they would definitely give you a fright in the middle of the night.
As for my large collection of Beatles items, in 1972—when I was just 12 years-old—my mama sold everything, including all of my Barbie paraphernalia, at a garage sale. We were moving overseas and while she put many of her items in storage, she sold my future retirement for less than $20.
I would love to hear your Beatles memories, please share them in the comments section below.
“There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all.”
— “In My Life,” written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney,
released in 1965 on the “Rubber Soul” album on the Parlophone label.
Michelle Staley, who insists that collectors are the happiest people, is an antique collector and dealer. Her shop, My Granny’s Attic Antiques, Collectibles and Memorabilia, is in Lenexa, Kansas.
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