Many of us love the Beatles but how many of us examine why we collect their old stuff? Not just records but virtually anything connected to the group. And I’m including myself here since I have a very small piece of memorabilia attached to the world’s most famous band.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because of the news that someone paid $2.4 million for John Lennon’s lost-but-now-found acoustic guitar and then, like a day later, Baltimore Colts’ owner Jim Irsay paid $2.125 million for the drumhead Ringo used while performing on the boys’ famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.
On one hand, these things are just that — things. There is no intrinsic magic in that guitar or that drumhead. The magic was in John Lennon’s mind and Ringo’s hands and wrists. I always imagine the winning bidders — after paying gobs of money — taking the guitar or drumhead home and just looking at the items, wondering what do I do with this now?
You might say this type of collecting is all about bragging rights, yes? You place John’s guitar on a stand, in a prominent place in your house, insure it for a zillion bucks and then show everyone who visits the priceless artifact. Do you dare to play it? Yeah of course, maybe even in your jammies because you paid all that freaking money.
And what about Ringo’s drumhead, the one with the iconic Beatles logo? There’s nothing to play there. But if someone offered me a choice between the guitar or the drumhead, I dare say I would pick the drumhead because that Beatles logo is so iconic, the stuff of dreams!
But I don’t think bragging rights is the paramount reasons we collect. No, it’s something else, something almost indescribable. I think, speaking for myself, these items fill the onlooker with a sense of wonder — THE John Lennon wrote songs on THIS guitar. THE Ringo Starr played drums with THIS drumhead on them. It’s an awesome thing, that wonder and I think it’s the No. 1 reason why we collect. It’s a euphoric feeling, at least to me.
I once read that Picasso, later in life, could never write a check that would clear the bank because all those who received one, kept the check for the autograph. Certainly, Sir Paul and Ringo have achieved that status.
Okay back to me and my piece of memorabilia in case you’re wondering. I have one beautifully preserved stock certificate that Beatles manager Brian Epstein signed when he created his American music company called Nemperor Music Limited. He and lawyer Nat Weiss started the company back in 1966.
The certificate I have is signed by Epstein and Nat Weiss on the front and by Epstein’s mother Queenie on the back. It is the 4th stock certificate in the company and it is made out to Brian Epstein, as you can see.
I also like that it is dated 6/6/66 — Epstein of course was doomed and died a little more than a year later. The authenticity of this signature is guaranteed since I know the fellow who found the entire set of stock certificates with all the other financial documents associated with the company.
When I look closely at his signature, it is the wonder I feel. This is the man who believed in the Beatles before all others and who introduced them to the world. If not for Epstein, you and I might not have heard of the Beatles and that guitar and drum skin? They’d be worthless.