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Category Archives: Music memorabilia

The world’s biggest collection

In some respects Zero Fretas is just like any other obsessive record collector.

He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music.

He has a beard.

But in other ways Fretas is very different.

Largely because he’s one of the richest men in Brazil – and he cannot stop buying records.

Fretas owns the world's biggest record collection

Fretas owns the world’s biggest record collection

He is the owner of the world’s biggest record collection.

In fact it’s the world’s biggest collection, period.

No one is able to put an exact number on it, but cautious estimates place it somewhere in the region of several million.

At present, he employs a host of people to catalogue it – a task that is expected to take around 20 years to complete.

It’s breathtakingly eclectic.

It includes a copy of almost every record ever pressed in Cuba (around 100,000) and a set of 15,000 polka albums.

While many of his records are unique, around 30% are duplicates. He owns 1,793 copies of the first album he ever bought, Roberto Carlos Sings to the Children.

His mission? To own a copy of every record ever produced.

Fretas is certainly not alone.

The Sultan of Brunei, for instance, owns the world’s largest collection of cars – around 7,000 in total.

That’s an astronomical number, particularly when you take into account that we’re talking Ferrari Berlinettas and Lamborghini Diablos rather than Ford Fiestas and Nissan Micras.

At the weirder end of the scale we have Danny Fleming from Grimsby, who owns a collection of 105 pairs of bagpipes.

There is something awe inspiring about a truly vast collection and the same urge, whether or not it takes on this epic scale, is something that drives all collectors.

We can all relate to that heart-pounding moment when you come across the one thing that you’ve been looking for and equally, the satisfaction that a collection brings.

Tom

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Collectors gear up for Elvis auction

A major sale of artefacts from the life of Elvis Presley is due to take place at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee later today. The auction consists of 72 lots and includes everything from his marriage certificate to his front door keys.

Ahead of the event, let’s take a brief look at some of the most interesting lots.

Early signature

The signature is one of the  earliest known examples

The signature is one of the earliest known examples

Elvis signed this library card in 1947 when he was in 7th grade. During that year he was beginning to gain recognition for his singing and performed twice on local personality Mississippi Slim’s radio show.

The piece is one of the earliest known examples of Elvis’ signature, meaning its likely to attract a high degree of interest from collectors.

Shooting target

Elvis was an avid gun collector

Elvis was an avid gun collector

Elvis had an enormous collection of guns. After a number of death threats he carried one on his person at all times, even while he was on stage.

His penchant for firing at the TV whenever singer and longtime rival Robert Goulet appeared onscreen in the stuff of legend.

This target was set up in his smokehouse in the grounds of Graceland, which he used as a shooting range.

Marriage certificate

Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas

Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas

This marriage certificate records Elvis’ wedding to Priscilla in Las Vegas in 1967. The couple spent a total of eight minutes in the chapel before jetting off for their honeymoon.

Ironically it was sent back to the marriage office stamped “return to sender” and was kept by one of the clerks, who sold it at auction in the mid 90s.

Keys

These keys were used in the couple's honeymoon

These keys were used in the couple’s honeymoon

This set of keys for Elvis’ holiday home in Palm Springs, California were taken on his honeymoon with Priscilla. The couple spent a couple of days in the luxury apartment before flying on to Memphis.

A Los Angeles Police Department keyring is a nice touch. Alongside his gun obsession, Elvis was an avid collector of police badges.

by Tom

Kurt Cobain Day makes debut this week

Kurt Cobain’s hometown of Aberdeen, Washington holds its first Kurt Cobain Day this Thursday – on what would have been the Nirvana frontman’s 47th birthday.

The city’s mayor, Bill Simpson, said the day of commemorations is “in recognition of his artistic achievements.

“Aberdeen residents may justifiably take pride in the role our community played in the life of Kurt Cobain and the international recognition our community has gained from its connections with Kurt Cobain”, he added.

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana 1992

Kurt in 1992, two years before his death

The move has caused controversy in some quarters, with complainants arguing that Cobain’s drug taking is not a subject to celebrate.

I can see their qualms, yet if we follow that line of argument the only musician we could celebrate with a clear conscience would be Cliff Richard. No offence, Cliff.

But my reason for discussing Cobain today is this:

Kurt Cobain Day is evidence that he still matters. That his influence is still felt keenly. And that he will continue to be celebrated for years and decades to come.

Which is why I feel Kurt Cobain memorabilia is among the most exciting collectibles markets around. His Mosrite Gospel Mark IV guitar, for example, auctioned for $131,000 in 2006.

You can see the Top 10 Kurt Cobain memorabilia sales here.

One sector that looks undervalued to me is his signature, with signed photos auctioning for around £200 ($333).

And if you’re in the Washington State area, Thursday could be a great place to start your Cobain collection. Because amid the musical performances and the unveiling of a statue, a Cobain-signed guitar will be up for auction.

And if you’re not based in the north-west of the US, why not give us a call and we can source your Kurt Cobain memorabilia for you?

Email info@paulfrasercollectibles.com or call 44 (0)117 933 9500.

Dan

The mystery of The Hollywood Hat – an autographed anomaly

A hat mysteriously appears at auction, covered in the signatures of 400 of the top names of Hollywood’s Golden Age: Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, the list goes on.

The Hollywood Hat has since revealed its secrets

The Hollywood Hat has since revealed its secrets

The huge Stetson cowboy hat is a remarkable relic, but autographs just aren’t what those in attendance are looking for, and bids are slow to appear.

One man, realising the hat’s potential value, puts his hand up and places the winning bid – it’ll make a good talking point, if nothing else.

Yet when our bidder takes the hat home, he’s drawn by its power. Just how does one person get all of those autographs? Where did it come from? How much is it really worth?

You might say our enterprising bidder – Joe Blitman – was hooked on the autograph collecting hobby…

And so, research got underway. With limited experience in autograph collecting, Blitman was uncertain to say the least. However, after hours of pondering, he noticed one thing: all of those that signed the hat worked for either MGM or Fox, as opposed to other major studios Warner Brothers, Paramount or RKO.

What do Fox and MGM have in common? Blitman was at a loss, noticing only one similarity: they’re both on the same side of Hollywood, with the other situated on the other side of town.

Blitman began to dissect the hat (not literally, don’t panic collectors!), grouping together the autographs that fill every inch of space. 90% were actors, with a couple of boxing champions thrown in for good measure.

The history of the hat still eluded its new owner…but then Blitman struck gold.

Four of the names on the hat were those of make-up men. Very few collectors would bother to trouble a make-up artist for their John Hancock, so all clues pointed to an insider…but who?

A guard at the gates, a receptionist, a work experience kid. It could’ve been anyone.

Digging deeper into those four names, Blitman became dismayed at the lack of information. Turns out, very little knowledge of the early make-up artists was passed on to future generations, and there was almost no trace of Jack Dawn, Ward Hamilton, Bob Stephanoff or Cecil Holland to be found.

Just a few short biographies of each exist, yet one mentioned that Cecil Holland had a daughter, who Blitman discovered is still alive. A chance email is fired off, but Blitman isn’t hopeful and is on the verge of giving up.

A week passes and no reply. Then…

Dear Mr. Blitman,

I was delighted to receive your email with a request for information about the cowboy hat. You have reached the right person for its background. It was my father, Cecil Holland, who got all those signatures from the actors who sat in his makeup chair… many of whom later became friends … It was his pride and joy.

Margaret, Cecil Holland’s daughter had replied – and what a reply it was!

Joe Blitman was now the owner of Cecil Holland’s pride and joy. But who was Cecil?

Clark Gable signing the Hollywood Hat

Clark Gable signing the Hollywood Hat

Blitman lists him as an “accomplished actor, engraver, etcher, photographer, painter, jewelry maker, sculptor, wood-carver and most importantly, a dedicated and deeply talented make-up artist”.

An Englishman born in 1887, Cecil Holland shared the same enterprising nature as Blitman, embarking on several varied careers before becoming a make-up artist at the dawn of the silent-era. He went on to provide the make-up of almost every star of the era, as well as acting alongside the likes of Rudolph Valentino.

As each of the stars entered his make-up room, Holland would request their autograph, each dutifully adding their name to the historical hat.

Obviously, Blitman isn’t keen to part with the hat now, but he is eager to tell the story of Cecil Holland, a remarkable star whose name should never have been forgotten. Learn more about Holland’s Hollywood Hat here.

by Joe
IMAGES: JOE BLITMAN/AUTOGRAPH MAGAZINE

Unseen archives – have we already seen the last?

A recent auction of the archive of Martin Burgoyne, a friend of Madonna in the 1980s, included a number of unseen and unpublished photographs that offer a rare glimpse of the singer before she became a global superstar.

They show her in a relaxed state with friends, unencumbered by the burden of living in the public eye. In just a few short years, she would be transformed into one of the most famous people on the planet.

Madonna and Martin Burgoyne in the 1980s.
Image: Myers Fine Art

This transitional period between anonymity and fame is a particular draw to collectors.

In 2011, a set of Beatles photographs taken by 18 year old Mike Mitchell in 1964, just days after their storming performance on the Ed Sullivan show, sold for $362,000.

They capture the band as the hype around them reached fever pitch, reminding us that these pop icons who would go on to define their era were also simply young men in their early twenties.

In a similar vein, a set of photographs of Queen Elizabeth II performing in a series of pantomimes as a child sold in a December 2013 auction, making £3,200 ($5,249).

They too show a playful, youthful side to one of the most significant icons of the 20th century.

It’s not just photographs that can give us an indication of the roots of who these people would become. The upcoming sale of an archive of letters from Lucian Freud, written in his late teens, offer a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest painters of his generation.

These brief insights undoubtedly drive many collectors.

The question is, are the days of the unpublished archive over?

The proliferation of  methods by which celebrities are presented as attainable bring us closer to the figures that shape our culture, but has led to the loss of a level of mystique that was widespread in the analogue age.

It seems unlikely that such archives pertaining to today’s celebrities will be as widespread in the future as the democratising power of the internet systematically removes the barriers between the public and private.

Tom

What makes Beatles records so valuable?

All records signed by all four members of the Beatles are exceptionally rare, but some are rarer than others.

Please Please Me, the debut album which was released in 1963, is the most widespread – with around 70 known examples, according to Autograph Magazine’s census. Despite the record being the most commonly signed, it is not unusual for copies to sell for upwards of $15,000.

Lill-Babs and The Beatles took part in the Swe...

The Beatles performing on Swedish television in 1963

With the Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night are far rarer, with around 15-20 and 8-10 known examples respectively – meaning examples very rarely come up for auction.

However, with preceding albums – including Help, Rubber Soul and Revolver – the number of signed copies available drops dramatically – down to just one or two known examples worldwide.

So why the sudden drop in signed records in the mid 1960s?

Well, at this time the Beatles were at the height of their creative powers, no longer the fresh faced teenagers who had inspired such mania amongst young girls on both sides of the Atlantic. They grew their hair long, tuned into the counterculture and shook off their teenybopper fans – becoming less approachable as they slowly imploded.

This capping of the market early on has ensured that the value of their records will continue to rise as long as demand remains consistent.

In 2011 the record for the most valuable Beatles record was set by Meet the Beatles, which realised an impressive $150,000.

47 - 1963 - Beatles, The - Meet The Beatles - ...

Meet the Beatles was the band’s second album in the US.

That figure has since been outstripped.

So what is the most valuable autographed Beatles record today?

That record was set in April of this year by a copy of the seminal Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which made an incredible $290,500 – soaring past its initial valuation by 868.3%.

The Beatles Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club ban...

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The value of Beatles records keeps on climbing, with the value of a signed album page up a solid 6.3% between 2012 and 2013.

You can view our signed copy of A Hard Day’s Night here, one of the 8-10 in existence.

Tom

An axe to die for – guitars at auction this December

Drummers, I’m sorry to say this, but in the grand scheme of things…nobody cares.

You’re instrument may be the glue that holds a band together, but when it comes to fan favourites, you’re last on the list.

I guess you all ready knew that; it’s an old adage that’s been bandied around since man first began hitting things with sticks.

Bassists, likewise. In the eyes of the adoring crowds, you are the drummer’s girlfriend, or a failed guitarist. Unless you have virtuosic slap-bass skills, you can take your place in that dark area at the back of the stage.

I’m sorry to bring you these truths. Even Paul McCartney – writer of some of the best-known bass lines in history – didn’t want to be a bassist.

Regardless of talent, we all know that it’s the guitarist that’s the coolest member of almost any band – next to the singer, that is. If you happen to do both, you’ve reached the pinnacle of performing prowess.

Its why guitars, signed or not, are some of the most sought after instruments by collectors. Everyone remembers Hendrix’s white Stratocaster, but can you remember the bass that Noel Redding was playing beside him at Woodstock? Thought not.

The double-necked Gibson played by Jimmy Page is something of rock legend, but Jon Paul Jones’ bass? Not a clue.

In December, the auction world will be hit with an influx of guitars played by the top axe-wielding heroes.

The most important of these is the Fender Stratocaster that Bob Dylan controversially played at Newport Folk Festival in 1965.

Dylan's use of an electric guitar caused outrage among folk purists

Dylan’s use of an electric guitar caused outrage among folk purists

The guitar is undoubtedly one of the most important pieces of music memorabilia, marking a pivotal moment in the career of perhaps the most celebrated songwriter of all time.

Also selling is Van Halen’s Frankenstrat, a custom made 1982 Kramer that was used throughout the 1982-1983 Diver Down Tour, and bears the scars of 1980s rock n’ roll excess to prove it. Instantly recognisable to anyone that plays, the Frankenstrat is nothing less than an icon.

The original Frankenstrat was handmade by Van Halen himself from two different guitars

The original Frankenstrat was handmade by Van Halen himself from two different guitars

With Deadheads still as dedicated to the California psych-rockers as ever, two almost identical guitars from the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia will appear at Bonhams and Julien’s Auctions just days apart from each other.

The guitar features a sticker that read, "There is Nothing Like a Grateful Dead Concert".

The guitar features a sticker that read, “There is Nothing Like a Grateful Dead Concert”.

Garcia’s guitars are legendary, and there are no shortage of them to keep collectors interested. The two best-known examples, nicknamed Tiger and Wolf, sold for $957,500 and $789,500 respectively in 2002.

Comparatively, Ginger Baker’s drum kit, a fantastic piece from one of the top-rated and best loved drummers of all time, is valued at just $24,166-32,222 in the Bonhams auction. Sorry drummers, its nothing personal.

Elvis played the acoustic live on stage in Denver

Elvis played the acoustic live on stage in Denver

Completing the line-up of axes at auction this December is Elvis’ limited edition NBN acoustic guitar, which is selling for more than $50,000 at Heritage auctions.

Yet it looks like I spoke to soon on the bassist’s behalf…

One of Paul McCartney’s trademark Hofner basses is  also coming to auction with an estimate of $150,000-200,000; far more than most I’ve listed already.

The violin-shaped Hofner bass is McCartney's trademark instrument, yet there's no proof he ever played this example

The violin-shaped Hofner bass is McCartney’s trademark instrument, yet there’s no proof he ever played this example

But don’t get your hopes up just yet bassists, you’ve a lot of catching up to do before you can compete with a Beatle! On the plus side, whether drummer or bassist you are likely to be less egotistical and likely to live for longer than your limelight-loving guitarist – at least you can take comfort in that.

See our music memorabilia for sale, and take a look at our top five electric guitars at auction list.

Joe

PS, if any readers fancy buying me one of the these for Christmas, in thanks for my fascinating posts, I’ll take the Dylan Strat or Elvis Acoustic! Thanks!

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