Top-of-the-range mementos fetch top-of' the-range prices, but perseverance and an autograph book are all you need to start a collection.

The teenager who wrote to John Lennon in the early 1960s had no idea that one day his handwritten replies would bring hundreds of pounds at auction. , The photographer who snapped a young
factory worker called Norma Jean Dogherty in 1945 little realised that his pictures of the future Marilyn Monroe would come to he regarded as important historical images of one of the century's most idolised women.
Most people associate memorabilia with signatures but, although these form the start
of most collections, almost MUSIC MEMORABILIAany kind of memento can be collected, often at little cost. Originality and provenance are of great importance. If you are unsure about the authenticity of an item consult an expert.


Movie enthusiasts have an enormous range of artefacts to collect, but the size of the film industry means care has to he taken. Signed photographs of screen stars are highly prized, hut only those with a handwritten signature are valuable. Clear dedications and signatures of cult stars can fetch up to £500 at auction. Most prized of all are unpublished shots of cult idols, such as James Dean.

Objects associated with a particular film are much rarer and can command huge prices. The ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, for example, went for $ 165,000 (£82,500), and the piano in Casablanca sold for $154,000 (£77,000), both in 1988 at New York auctions.

The large studios sometimes sell off film props and costumes, and not all have the same rarity and desirability. Dick van Dyke's waist' coat from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang might sell for £40-£8o, but Janet Suzman's dress from Nicholas and Alexandra for £300-£400.

Cinema historians are always keen to acquire a screenplay or script, especially one annotated by a well-known director or actor. Prices reflect the importance of the script, but are usually in the hundreds. Artists' contract letters are valuable if they relate to an important star or film, starting at £500. Such material is most collectable when handwrit­ten, dated, signed and undamaged.

Film publicity material, including premiere tickets and programmes, photographs and extremely high prices - £ 198,000 was recently paid at auction for the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at the Woodstock festival of 1969. Although instruments may be signed by the player, it is documentary proof of origin that counts. This can be a photograph of the owner receiving the item from the star, a letter from the player confirming former ownership of the object, or an affidavit from the owner and a witness establishing a connection.

Painted bass drums, fashionable in the 1960s and 70s, are much in demand. The combination of graphic art and the name of an important band has led to high prices when drum skins from the The Beatles, The Who and Cream have come up for sale. Costume as well as instruments can be directly associated with well-known performers and attract great interest. Michael Jackson's leather jacket and trousers worn on stage during his Bad world tour in 1988 fetched £15,000 in 1990. And Madonna's gold basque, designed by fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier and worn on her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990, was sold the following year for £9000.

Collectors on a more limited budget may be able to afford costumes worn for film or video performances, which are generally available for under £ 1000. Provenance is again vital.

Artists' own record collections are of par­ticular interest to music historians. Apart from these, most records are classified as a separate collecting area from memorabilia. Other exceptions are acetates (trial pressings of a recording made in the recording studio) and demonstration discs. These may be slightly different recordings from known releases or, better still, previously unknownposters, is most desirable when it relates to hugely popular films, cult stars or a particular movie genre. Today there is great interest in the graphics of low-budget science fiction and teenage thrillers which packed the drive-in cinemas of 1950s and 60s America.

Condition is particularly important with all types of mass-produced material. Posters should be without tears or holes and foyer photographs should be bright and clear, without any signs of fading.


As with cinema memorabilia, the greatest stage performers or productions create the greatest demand from collectors. Costumes, letters, programmes, posters, signed photo­graphs and ballet shoes are all popular, although ballet costume and design are col­lected as a specialist field. This stems from interest in the work of 20th-century ballet designers and choreographers, such as French fashion designer Erte, Russian artist and theatre designer Leon Bakst and his fellow- countryman, impressario Sergei Diaghilev. They were responsible for the highly original productions of the Ballets Russes from 1911.



The first-ever auction of rock memorabilia was as recent as 1981, but specialised auction sales are now held in many countries and there is a network of specialist dealers.

Essentially the music is what makes a group famous, and it is the items directly related to the music that are the most sought after. Instruments used in memorable live perform­ances or during recording sessions can fetch recordings. Rarities of both kinds have been found in second-hand record shops and have fetched hundreds of pounds in the saleroom. Recorded interviews, home movies or video recordings of performers that have never heen issued or broadcast are always sought after.

The most desirable signatures are those written on something connected with the music of the group, such as a concert pro­gramme or ticket, record sleeve or sheet music. But beware: many forgeries of leading group members' signatures exist. Manuscript material, song lyrics or letters giving an insight into a group's history are always popular, and thousands of pounds change hands for the most important examples.

Merchandise related to music, such as T-shirts, badges, posters and keyrings can make high prices at auction, if they are in good condition. For example, £440 was paid recently for a late 1960s teapot made in the shape of an apple - the name and symbol of The Beatles' shop, record label and company.


There is an active circle of enthusiastic collectors of royal commemorative wares of all types - made of glass, wood or metal as well as ceramics The most scarce of royal mementos, and by far the most valuable, are signed photographs or letters. These were usually presented by a member of the royal family to a member of the household, an estate worker or an ambassador. Some of them sell at auction for hundreds of pounds.

Letters written by well-known politicians, writers, artists, poets and other influential figures are certainly worth preserving, par­ticularly if the text refers to a historic event or an important incident in the writer's life. Proofs and working drafts with alterations in a writer's own hand may give an insight into their mind, and new-found documents can lead to a reinterpretation of someone's char­acter or throw new light over a particular event or controversy.

Among the most valuable and headline- grabbing of all finds, of course, are previously unknown manuscripts by great writers or composers -of which there have been recent instances. In July 1990, two music manu­scripts were found in an old safe in an American theological college. They had been donated 40 years earlier by the daughter of a music collector, but had never been identi­fied. They were found to be Mozart's working manuscripts of two of his greatest piano compositions, the K.475 Fantasia and the K.457 Sonata, both in C minor, and sold at auction for some £880,000.

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