Rock 'n' Roll Memorabilia You’ll Need a $6.6 Million Bankroll to Afford
You don't need a rock star's bankroll to collect pop music memorabilia. But when Madonna's stage-worn pointy bras are selling at auction for the price of a new Cadillac, it certainly helps.
From concert posters and handwritten song lyrics to one-of-a-kind treasures owned by famous musicians, we dove deep into the lucrative business of rock collectibles and curated a list of pricey artifacts that even includes mass-market novelties like pinball machines and toy microphones. What you won't see at this gig are vintage vinyl records and star-owned musical instruments (think Hendrix guitars), which are largely considered their own collecting genres.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, in the words of Jack Black in "School of Rock," "You just sit back and enjoy the magic of rock!"
Bob Dylan's Handwritten Lyrics to ‘Like a Rolling Stone’
At auction, handwritten Dylan lyrics routinely rake in astronomical sums, and none higher than the price paid for this four-page final draft of his signature 1965 song, "Like a Rolling Stone."
Scrawled on hotel-room stationary and annotated with doodles and notes, the lyrics include discarded ideas for building the famous "how does it feel" refrain on alternate lines such as "it feels real," "shut up and deal," and "get down and kneel." At a 2014 Sotheby's auction, the sheets sold for $2 million to a mystery tramp who wished to remain a complete unknown.
David Bowie’s 'Ziggy Stardust' Stage Costume
A bisexual alien rock god (is there any other kind?), Ziggy Stardust ranks as the most famous of David Bowie's many personas. So when this flamboyant, flame-adorned jumpsuit Bowie wore for his 1973 final-ever public performance as Ziggy hit the Christie's auction block in 2007, no surprise the Starman's satin threads were snapped up for $21,500.
The Rolling Stones' Tongue-and-Lips Logo, Original Artwork
According to legend, the world's most famous rock 'n' roll logo is directly based on Mick Jagger's ginormous lips. Not necessarily so, says Jon Pasche, the London Royal College of Art student commissioned by Jagger in 1970 to create a logo for the band's concert tour programs. Pasche recalls he was perhaps subconsciously inspired by Mick's oversized kisser, but more so the rebellious notion of sticking one's tongue out at authority.
For his tongue-and-lips logo, which first appeared on the Stones' 1971 album "Sticky Fingers," Pasche was paid £50 (about $63 —how generous of Jagger!). At a 2008 auction, the original artwork was lapped up for $92,500 by London's Victoria and Albert Museum, where it's displayed today.
John Lennon's Phantom V Rolls-Royce
Dubbed the "Psychedelic Rolls" for its custom, hippie-trippy paint job, John Lennon's LSD-inspired Beatlemobile was once attacked by an outraged Englishwoman who, according to Lennon, smacked it with an umbrella and screamed "You swine! How dare you do that to a Rolls-Royce!"
An Austin Powers-style shaggin' wagon, Lennon's 1964 limo sports an electric-yellow spray job bedecked with groovy floral tendrils. Per the Beatle's specifications, it's also equipped with a customized back seat that converts into a double bed. Yeah, baby!
In 1977, Lennon donated his flower-power ride to the Smithsonian Institute, which in turn sold it at a 1985 Sotheby's auction for $2.3 million. The buyer, Canadian billionaire Jim Pattison, later donated it to Victoria, Canada's Royal British Columbia Museum.
'Rolling Stone' Magazine, Issue #1
In 1992, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain famously appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone wearing a t-shirt that read "Corporate Magazines Still Suck." Yes Kurt, they do. But back in the hippie day, before Rolling Stone editor-in-chief Jann Wenner sold out to the man, the San Francisco-based mag was the rock counterculture bible. And Rolling Stone's November 1967 premiere issue, featuring John Lennon on the cover, remains a benchmark relic coveted by collectors. Clean copies can be had on eBay for about $400.
Elvis Presley's 'Aqua Blue Vine' Jumpsuit
Belting out the hits and busting on-stage karate moves throughout 1973-'74, The King often donned this custom-made concert jumpsuit that grabbed $325,000 at a 2016 Graceland Auction. Owing to the record price for an Elvis stage outfit, not only is the gloriously gaudy jumper trimmed with turquoise and gold, it's heavily stained with genuine King sweat. Thank you, thankyavermuch.
Bally 'Wizard' Pinball Machine
From AC/DC to Metallica, band-themed pinball machines have been rocking arcades since the late '60s when the Williams company released a Beatles' knock-off machine featuring "The Bootles." Yet it wasn't until '75 that Bally produced a pin immortalizing The Who's song about playing the silver ball, "Pinball Wizard."
Inspired by the band's rock opera album and subsequent movie "Tommy," the machine's graphic art pops with Roger Daltrey and film co-star Ann Margret striking a provocative pose on the backglass. In an ode to the song lyrics, one of the bumpers bears the words "Bally Table King." In mint operational condition, 'Wizard' pins have sold at auction for as high as $8,000.
KISS Wireless Microphone
In the late '70s, competing for toy store shelf space with Star Wars action figures was a KISS-merch juggernaut that spawned everything from school lunchboxes to radio-controlled vans. To date, it's estimated the band has licensed its name to more than 3,000 different products.
Among the rarest of vintage KISS toys, the Aucoin company's 1979 Wireless Microphone let kids take center stage in their bedrooms and screech "Detroit Rock City" into the mic, which was transmitted and amplified through your own AM radio. Pity the unfortunate souls within earshot.
Extremely scarce, this KISS mic has sold on eBay for as much as $3,400 — 9-volt battery not included.
The Only Authentic Beatle Wig
At the peak of 1960s' Beatlemania, it wasn't enough to swoon and scream over the Fab Four. You wanted to look like them, too. Bronx, New York-based Lowell Toy company answered the mop-top call with its Authentic Beatle Wig, which in 1964 retailed for about $3. Today, a Beatle postiche in its original unopened package sells in the $150 to $200 range on eBay.
Jimi Hendrix Experience 'Flying Eyeball' Concert Poster
The holy grail of 1960s' psychedelic rock concert posters, this mind-altering artwork featuring a bloodshot “flying eyeball” advertised the Jimi Hendrix Experience's February 1968 four-night stand at San Francisco's Fillmore and Winterland venues.
Famed psychedelic artist Rick Griffin based the design on a winged eyeball logo created by legendary California custom car detailer Von Dutch, then added trippy touches like tentacles and a skull. The poster's original print run was limited to 105 copies, which nowadays command serious coin — ranging from $7,000 to $15,000, depending on condition.
'1959 Winter Dance Party' Concert Tour Posters
Rock history's most infamous concert tour would be the last for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, who perished in an Iowa plane crash on February 3, 1959. Only eleven concerts happened prior to "the day the music died." Incredibly rare, original posters from these shows can fetch $25,000 and up. Most desirable is a poster (reproduction pictured) promoting the penultimate February 1 show at Green Bay, Wisconsin's Riverside Ballroom.
As for Holly and the gang's final performance in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 2, hours before the crash, the gig was a last-minute addition to the tour itinerary and there was no time for posters to be made. But that hasn't stopped a proliferation of fakes.
Janis Joplin's Porsche
In song, Janis Joplin prayed for a Mercedes-Benz, but in real life she drove a Porsche just like her friends. Giving John Lennon's Rolls-Royce a run for its psychedelic paint-job money, Joplin's 1964 Porsche 356 Cabriolet is brushed with a custom mural titled "The History of the Universe," featuring butterflies, birds, a mountain landscape, celestial objects, magic mushrooms, “The Eye of God” and even a portrait of Joplin with her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company.
After some 20 years on loan to Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum, Joplin's siblings sold their sister's far-out wheels at a 2015 Sotheby's auction for $1.76 million.
Led Zeppelin 1979 Knebworth ‘Backstage Pass’ T-Shirt
Before you go cleaning your closet of old concert t-shirts that nowadays are two sizes too small for your stomach, be sure you're not throwing away a fortune. Some vintage concert tees have become incredibly valuable, particularly this shirt for Led Zeppelin's two shows at the '79 Knebworth Festival.
The rarity stems from the shirt not being sold at souvenir stands. Rather, it was produced in a strictly limited number and doubled as a backstage pass, which the band gave only to select fans (rock 'n' roll code for "groupies"). In 2011, one sold on eBay for $10,000 to an anonymous buyer with a whole lotta Zep love.
The Clash ‘London Calling’ Album Cover, Original Artwork
One of rock's great album covers, The Clash's seminal 1979 record features a photo of bassist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender bass against a New York City concert stage. Before the now-iconic shot was chosen, graphic designer Ray Lowry had created a series of conceptual sketches for the cover, including his idea to use the same lettering as Elvis Presley's debut album. In 2009, the lot went under a Bonham's gavel and smashed pre-auction estimates by fetching $91,000.
The Beatles' 1966 Candlestick Park Concert Ticket
Somewhere in the garage or closet, most rock fans have a shoebox or photo album stuffed with their collection of old concert ticket stubs. While your cherished, beer-stained Ticketmaster stub from that epic 1985 Iron Maiden show isn't worth much, tickets for 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s concerts can command high dollar, depending on the artist, historical relevance of the performance and whether the ticket features artwork.
The Doors, Dylan and Grateful Dead rank high among collectible tickets and regularly fetch hundreds of dollars. But tops is the Beatles. Unused, mint-condition tickets for their last-ever concert in 1966 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park can sell on eBay for as much as $1,600.