Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Blue Chip Beatles

QUESTION: I loved the Beatles when I was a kid. I had all their albums and even got to see them in concert where I purchased a signed photo of them. I was digging around in some old boxes yesterday and came across it. After they became superstars, I imagine any kind of memorabilia would be worth a good bit. Do you think I have an authentic autographed photo?

ANSWER: The fact that you have a photo is definite—in the early years, photos of the Beatles were a dime a dozen, as the old saying goes. But whether you have one with authentic signatures from all four of the Beatles is another matter altogether.

It’s been 53 years since the Beatles invaded our shores and turned the music world upside down. They seemed the prim and proper teenagers, dressed in black suits and ties, until they opened their mouths and hit their guitars and such.

In 1964, the Beatles became the rage of American popular culture, seemingly overnight. Due to a combination of timing, luck and the expertise of their manager Brian Epstein, they were able to take their music and communicate it to an audience of teens that wanted something different—and they got it.

In the beginning, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison performed with Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe in clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg. Though they were accessible to their fans, they weren’t pursued for autographs as they would be in the years to follow. As a result, finding authentic autographs of the original five Beatles together on a single item is the Holy Grail of Beatles memorabilia collecting.

After Sutcliffe's sudden death from a cerebral hemorrhage, music store owner Brian Epstein, who had a desire to manage a pop group, took over the group’s management. From late 1961 through 1962, John, Paul, George and Pete played gigs every night, often in clubs, meeting fans and signing autographs freely. Mostly, they signed on autograph book pages for girls. who carried them around in their purses. Fans went into shock when Epstein replaced Pete with drummer Richard "Ringo Starr" Starkey. The new Beatles began performing in large concerts, usually sharing the bill with several other acts, and their music and their lives changed forever. In fact, Epstein was only their manager for a little over a year.

The reality is that most Beatles autographs available today are probably not authentic and those that are sell for stratospheric prices.

So how would you know if you have a real autograph signed by one or more of the Beatles? The best advice is to speak to an expert.

There are several hundred authentic autographs that came from signing sessions in England. The first event was at Dawson's Music Shop in Liverpool on October 6, 1962, one day after the release of their first Parlophone single,“Lone Me Do.” The Beatles reportedly signed their autographs directly onto the records' labels. The second signing session took place on January 24, 1963, at Brian Epstein's music store in central Liverpool, coinciding with the release of their second single, “Please, Please Me.”

Again, the band applied their signatures to the records' labels. The third event, organized by the band's British fan club, took place December 14, 1963, in London. It was a signing session organized by the band's British fan club, and this time the Beatles signed some copies of the albums “Please, Please Me” and “With The Beatles.” Experts believes there are numerous authentic autographed records from these sessions that remain unaccounted for.

Many people may not know this, but "Beatles” signatures have been signed by many people over the years, sometimes on the Beatles' behalf. The group authorized many of the people working for them to sign the band members' signatures. Their roadies, Mal Evans, Neil Aspinall and Alf Bicknell, were all "signers." Aspinall, who became the Beatles' road manager in 1963, signed hundreds of items for the group. Fan club presidents and secretaries also signed many requests for signatures sent through the mail.

Most important with Beatles’ autographs is the item on which the autograph occurs. A signed record album cover from the 1960s, for example, is the most desirable, selling for between $20,000 and $60,000, based on a series of important criteria. But because signed record covers are so valuable, they’re usually what the most forged. “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Meet The Beatles” are the most commonly forged LPs.

Original photographs are very rare and particularly prone to forgery. An authentic signed 8 by 11-inch photograph sells for $15,000 to $25,000, depending on the condition of the photo, the boldness and completeness of the signatures, the time period, and even the identity of the photographer.

Signed tour programs are also very desirable. Most examples from British concerts in 1963, when the Beatles were still accessible – especially from the Beatles with Roy Orbison tour—sell in the vicinity of $15,000-20,000. Autograph album pages are the most commonly encountered examples, selling for $8,000-10,000, depending on size, condition, whether they include drummer Pete Best or Ringo Starr, and whether or not one or more of the members has added "Beatles," "Love" or "xxx" to the autograph. When the word "Beatles" appeared, Paul McCartney was the one who penned it..

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