I read the news today, oh boy. And in case you missed it, Beatlemania is back.
Actually, you'd have to be submerged in a yellow submarine not to notice the "return" of the most popular band in rock 'n' roll history. Over three nights in November, ABC ran The Beatles Anthology documentary, which culminated in the premiere of the songs Free As A Bird and Real Love. Capitol Records' two-CD Beatles Anthology set hit stores just after the first TV broadcast, and another volume is due out in February. A 10-hour home video version of the TV special will also appear in 1996, and already new Beatles "collectors edition" magazines are on newsstands.
Yet the second coming of the Fab Four does not mean you can transform your old Beatles records and other Mop Top memorabilia into a lucrative college fund for your post-Ed Sullivan generation kids. Indeed, while interest in Beatles collectibles has always been strong, and experts figure the current craze will lead to higher prices for many objects, early evidence suggests you should keep your expectations in check. "People mistakenly look at an item that has the Beatles pictured on it and think it's worth $1,000," says Rick Glover, an Atlanta collector. "In most cases, it's not."
At a pop memorabilia auction held at New York's Christie's East on Nov. 29, some Fab flotsam fetched decent prices, including a framed album of A Hard Day's Night signed by all the band members ($2,800 before commission), a terry cloth robe worn by John Lennon ($1,900), and a half-dozen cels from the animated Yellow Submarine movie ($5,000). But a number of other lots--which included checks signed "George Harrison" or "R. Starkey"--failed to sell, and many brought final bids below the estimates in the catalog. Sotheby's gets its own shot with a New York auction on Dec. 16. Among the items for sale: a handwritten manuscript by Paul McCartney with orchestration instructions for Hey Jude (estimated price: $40,000 to $45,000) and a Spanish-style acoustic guitar used by the band circa 1960-62 ($9,000 to $12,000).
FAN FARE. Fortunately, a spirited market exists for nostalgic Beatles fans who can't afford to buy things that were actually worn or used by John, Paul, George, and Ringo. This is the paraphernalia you might find stashed away in an attic or, if you're lucky, at a flea market--everything from Beatles dolls and fan club items to lunch boxes and wigs. According to Jeff Augsburger, co-author with fellow collectors Marty Eck and Rick Rann of The Beatles Memorabilia Price Guide ($24.95, Wallace-Homestead Books), a copy of Milton Bradley's 1964 Flip Your Wig board game is worth $100 to $150. Rann says a can of the Beatles Hair Spray, manufactured by Bronson Products in 1964, might bring about $800, though collectors should be warned that replicas are floating around. A difficult-to-locate item is the Beatles four-speed record player. Only about 5,000 were produced in 1964. They sold for $29.95--and one today in excellent condition could command $2,000.
But with rare exceptions, the Beatles records you've held onto probably aren't worth much, simply because so many people own copies. Promotional records that were issued only to radio deejays can be valuable, however. And in top shape, the paper sleeves that some records came in are worth more than the vinyl itself. A hard-to-find sleeve for the Can't Buy Me Love 45 RPM is valued around $300, compared with just a couple of dollars for the platter. Another rarity: the Meet The Beatles cardboard display, in which tiny battery-powered motors rock the Beatles' heads back and forth. It can go for anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000.
CANDLESTICK KARMA. Original tickets and programs to Beatles concerts are also in demand. Augsburger will pay $175 to $200 for stubs to Beatles concerts and twice that for unused tickets. Concerts with historical significance--the Beatles' visit to New York's Shea Stadium in 1965 or San Francisco's Candlestick Park in 1966, which turned out to be their last on tour--are particularly valuable. Tickets with photos of the band on its face are worth more than those without pictures. But Beatles trading cards, which are still fairly easy to find, may only fetch a dollar or two in near mint condition.
Collectors can locate items at the well-attended Beatles conventions, held a few times a year around the country. You can also check out ads in publications such as Beatlefan, ($15 for six issues, P.O. Box 33515, Decatur, Ga. 30033) or buy goodies from like-minded pals in the collectibles forum on CompuServe. Indeed, Beatles maniacs can usually find stuff with a little help from their friends.