Q & A with a Beatles memorabilia seller…

John Lennon 1951 Letter
John’s letter to his aunt, written when he was 11 years old

By Donovan Day

From time to time, I imagine myself in a dusty auction house or garage sale or used bookstore somewhere coming across a priceless piece of Beatles memorabilia. An inscribed book or one of John Lennon’s old doodles. Hasn’t happened yet but we can all dream.

Some people don’t have to dream. They can see Beatles memorabilia first hand. Collectors yes but I’m talking about the sellers of Beatles memorabilia who scour the internet for any mention of some rare piece of Beatles trivia. A guy like Jason Cornthwaite who helps run TracksAuctions, a Beatles memorabilia website based not far from Liverpool.

In a few days (March 24th), the website will begin taking bids on what is perhaps the earliest extant letter written by John Lennon. If there’s an earlier one, it hasn’t surfaced yet. There will be a live auction on the website starting at 3pm (GMT) on April 3rd and the letter is expected to fetch 30,000 pounds though likely it will go for much more.

Jason is an acquaintance so I had a chance to ask him a few questions by email:

Q. What got you into this line of business?

A. I knew the owner of Tracks–Paul Wane–here in the town that we live in. I have always been a fan of The Beatles music so I managed to land a minor role in the company, this was around 25 years ago.

Q. You’re based near Liverpool so is that what fueled your business/fascination?

A. Our location being near Liverpool has certainly helped over the years. Obviously The Beatles spent much of their early years in and around Liverpool so a great deal of memorabilia has been found there. As things have now moved on and the company has grown we travel worldwide looking for BEATLES and music memorabilia.

With regards to my fascination, this began with the music but after working here I become increasingly interested in the history of the group and any memorabilia associated with the group, I have spent years studying the handwriting and autographs of each member of The Beatles.

Q. How do you find items to auction off?

A. It’s not easy. We advertise, scour the internet for anything written (this is how I came across that friend of yours and the material he owned that featured Brian Epstein and James Taylor), contact collectors etc.

Q. Tell me the story of that early John letter? What makes it valuable? After all, it’s just a child’s note?

A. John’s letter is valuable because it’s the earliest ever note written by John Lennon, a truly amazing piece of history.

Q. Are you a collector?

A. I do collect, but not Beatles items. The owner of Tracks Paul Wane has collected since the ’60s. Paul has items that he won’t sell. He owns one of the most fantastic collections of Beatles photographs with copyright I have ever seen. He will not sell those.

Well, there you have it. I’m still looking and, if I do find something, it’s likely that I will keep it to myself, like Jason’s boss.

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