People love collecting items from their favorite musicians. Having something that was owned or touched by an artist makes a person feel connected to that artist. It also shows all their friends how much of a fan they really are of that person. In terms of music memorabilia, it can be something as small as an old vinyl record from a band or it can be something much more expensive.
The single most expensive piece of music memorabilia was sold for $3,000,000. It is the handwritten music for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Unlike the memorabilia here, this sheet of music is not only extremely historically important but it is also very old. Popular music as we know it has a much shorter history than the classical pieces we all heard about in grade school. Popular music only dates back to the 1920s. However, music as we know it really started in the 1950s. This was the dawn of Rock and Roll, the most popular style of music in history.
Typically music memorabilia includes things that were actually owned, written, touched, or commissioned by the artist. Some consider a gold statue of Michael Jackson, which sold for $5,000,000, to be the most expensive piece of music memorabilia ever sold. However, the King of Pop actually had nothing to do with this piece of art. Though it is creative, it cannot necessarily be consider music memorabilia. Think about it this way: music memorabilia is from a specific musician, not an artist who is portraying one.
Rock and Roll memorabilia encompasses a number of things. It could be an instrument, a piece of clothing, handwritten lyrics, or even something as simple as an autograph. These things were all owned or created by that specific artist or musician. These are the things music fan really treasure. These are the types of items that demand a very high price tag to acquire. As you would imagine, the more high profile the musician, the more people will pay for something attached to that musician.
10 Jerry Garcia’s “Tiger” -- $957,000
This first piece may surprise you. After all, though Jerry Garcia was an excellent guitarist for an amazing band, he is not remembered in the same way Elvis Presley is. However, when one takes into consideration how devoted his fans, the Dead Heads, were it begins to make sense why one of them would pay $957,000 for one of his guitars. That buyer was actually Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay. “Tiger” was Garica’s main guitar from 1979 to 1989. The Grateful Dead’s guitarist had it hand built to his exact specifications by Doug Irwin. The nickname comes from the tiger emblem that was placed over the guitar’s preamp cover. Due to all its state of the art electronics and combination of exotic woods, Tiger was actually an incredibly heavy instrument. In 1989, Garcia commissioned Irwin to build him a lighter version of Tiger which was named “Rosebud”. Rosebud became Garcia’s primary guitar until his death. However, during the final Grateful Dead show on July 9th, 1995, Garcia was forced to use Tiger due to problems with Rosebud.
9 Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” -- $959,000
In the early 1970s, Eric Clapton switched from playing Gibson guitars to playing Fender Stratocasters. This was a trend that was occurring all over the music industry after the death of Jimi Hendrix. Clapton bought a number of 1950s Stratocasters. His favorite was his black one which he lovingly named “Blackie”. Clapton played Blackie almost exclusively from 1974 to 1985. He wrote and recorded some of his most famous songs on the instrument including “Cocaine”, “I Shot The Sheriff”, and “Wonderful Tonight”. Blackie was sold in 2004 at an auction run by English auction house Christie’s for $959,000.
8 John Lennon’s Handwritten Lyrics To “All You Need Is Love” -- $1,000,000
Beatles’ memorabilia is highly sought after; however, none of the band members' items are nearly as valuable as John Lennon's. Lennon was the first band member to die. He was assassinated on December 8th, 1980. Think about the wording we use to describe his murder. We say he was “assassinated”. This is a term used when major world figures are murdered. We typically do not say a rock star was assassinated. Obviously, Lennon’s impact on the world went far beyond his musical contributions. John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics to “All You Need Is Love” were sold in a Beatles’ memorabilia auction run by the English auction house Cooper Owen in 2005. The manuscript sold for $1,000,000. At this time this was the most money ever paid for a pop music manuscript.
7 The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper Drum Head -- $1,070,000
The drum head featured on the cover of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sold in a Beatles’ memorabilia auction run by Christie’s in 2008 for $1,070,000. This was actually over four times more than the original estimated price. The drum head was actually never played by Ringo Starr. It was only used for this album’s cover.
6 John Lennon’s Handwritten Lyrics To “A Day In The Life” -- $1,200,000
“A Day In The Life” is considered among the finest of all the Beatles’ songs. It is really the last true collaborative effort from songwriters Paul McCartney and John Lennon. According to Rolling Stone magazine this song was the song that “made rock’s possibilities seem endless.” It is no wonder why someone would have paid $1,200,000 in a Sotheby’s auction in 2010 for John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics to the song. The sheet of paper is two-sided and written in ball-point pen. The front side is a rough draft including crossed out words and misspellings. The backside is a much more polished version of the song. It even includes space for Paul McCartney’s addition to the song which begins with the lines “Woke up, fell out of bed…”
5 Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock Stratocaster -- $2,000,000
4 Bob Dylan’s Handwritten Lyrics To “Like A Rolling Stone” -- $2,075,000
3 John Lennon’s Steinway Piano -- $2,100,000
Singer and songwriter George Michael purchased John Lennon’s Steinway piano in a 2000 auction for $2,100,000. This piano was purchased in 1970 for John and Yoko's living room. It is the piano that Lennon used to write “Imagine”. It is also featured in the first known performance of the song. Michael purchased the piano because he felt that it was a piece of English history which should stay in the United Kingdom. Many residents of the United Kingdom were very afraid when the piano went up on the auction block because rumors circulated that there were many more American bidders interested in buying it than English bidders.
2 John Lennon’s Rolls Royce Phantom V -- $2,300,000
1 “Reach Out To Asia” Stratocaster -- $2,700,000
The “Reach Out To Asia” Stratocaster is the most expensive guitar ever sold. It was started as a project to raise money for the countries ravaged by the tsunamis in Southeast Asia in 2004. The “Reach Out To Asia” campaign was started by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams. Adams held an auction of rock and roll memorabilia to support his cause. The center piece of the auction was white Fender Stratocaster signed by Adams, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Brian May, Liam and Noel Gallagher, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Ray Davies, David Gilmour, Tony Iommi, Mark Knofler, Angus and Malcolm Young, Sting, and Paul McCartney. The heiress to the throne of Qatar, Her Highness Sheihka Miyyassah Al Thani, bought the guitar for $2,700,000.