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Back in the 1960s, who would have guessed Mick Jagger would still be stalking the stage at 62 or that rock 'n' roll history would be chronicled in major museums? The music's enduring appeal has spawned one of the hottest hobbies around: collecting rock 'n' roll memorabilia. Everything from old records, intact concert tickets, and performers' clothing is collectible, but guitars and hand-written lyrics often fetch the biggest bucks. Last year the English auction house Cooper Owen sold the page on which Beatle John Lennon hashed out the lyrics to All You Need is Love for $1.2 million.
Baby boomers like Joe Armstrong, 56, a top executive at Sterling Internet Solutions in Irvine, Calif., are the main collectors. He has amassed some 20,000 concert posters (vintageconcertposters.com), partly because they remind him of playing in a rock band as a teen and hanging out in San Francisco during 1967's Summer of Love before heading off to college.
A cool thing about the hobby is you can log on to the Internet right now and probably find good material to buy without spending a fortune. Collector John Shiely, 53, CEO of Milwaukee's Briggs & Stratton (BGG ), recommends consulting sales at www.cooperowen.com and itsonlyrocknroll.com. He also tracks occasional sales by Sotheby's (BID ), Christie's, and Bonhams & Butterfields and peruses catalogs from dealers such as R&R Enterprises Autograph Auctions (rrauction.com) of Amherst, N.H.
A good source for vintage t-shirts, photos, and other items starting at under $100 is Wolfgangsvault.com, recently launched by Bill Sagan, 56, who bought the archives of the late San Francisco rock promoter Bill Graham. You'll find lots of material on eBay (EBAY ), too, but "make sure you know that what you're buying is the real deal because there are lots of forgeries," advises Don Bernstein, who assembles the rock memorabilia Hard Rock International features in its cafés, hotels, and casinos.
By Thane Peterson