10 ways that the 'James Dean Factor' brings you great investments

This week fans across the world will be celebrating the birthday of the original pioneer of early rock n' roll Buddy Holly. From 1957 to 1958 Holly recorded three hit albums and garnered worldwide popularity.

Then tragedy struck, as Holly was killed in a plane crash whilst trying to reach the next venue on his US tour. At the time he was just 22, but with his popularity high and an extensive amount of material already recorded, his memory lived on with another decade of new releases.

And since then, the magic of Buddy Holly has remained alive and well in the music memorabilia market.

Back in April 2006, Buddy Holly's original wristwatch was sold for £101,200 ($155,350). Whilst a December 2009 auction saw the sale of Buddy Holly's Gibson J-45 guitar from 1942 with a pre auction estimate of £358,000 ($550,000).

These prices can be partly attributed to what is known as "the James Dean factor" amongst collectors.  When a star passes away, it essentially puts a cap on the market for their memorabilia. No new pieces will be produced and no memorabilia signed. With a finite amount of collectibles on the market, these pieces have the potential for huge growth in price at auction.

With these sales in mind, here's our guide to the top ten icons who died too young and have seen impressive prices on the collectibles market.

Alongside these impressive returns, are ten entry level investments aimed at giving new collectors an opportunity to tap into the market.

Karen Carpenter

Carpenter was just 32 when she passed away in February 1983. In June 2009, a platinum and diamond ring, owned and worn by Carpenter sold for £8,150 ($12,500) at U.S auction. It was sold for 56.25% above the estimated price. Today, a signed photograph of The Carpenter is available for £1,750 ($2,700).

Otis Redding

For many music fans Otis Redding's soulful rendition of "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" remains one of the finest singles to ever be recorded. By the time the classic track had been released, Redding had died in a plane crash at the age of 26.

In 2007, Bonham's auctioned an RIAA 'Gold' disc award of the single for an impressive £5,000. Currently, an autographed version of his popular LP "Pain in my Heart" is for sale at £2,500 ($3,850).

Che Guevara

A figure revered both for his revolutionary work and iconic image, Guevara was famously immortalised in Alberto Korda's photograph "Guerillero Heroico." In October 2007, a lock of Guevara's hair sold for £77,100 ($119,500) along with a scrapbook and unpublished photographs in what remains a world record price for collectible hair. The Cuban revolutionary was 39 when he died. A rare signed photograph of "Che" can be purchased today for £24,000 ($£36,000).

Jimi Hendrix

Like many musicians before him, Hendrix died at the peak of his powers. Today he remains arguably the greatest guitarist of a generation. Back in 2007, a world record price was set for Hendrix's 1966 red Fender Mustang at Christies. Used in the recording of his classic studio albums, the piece sold for £310,000 ($480,000). For those seeking an entry level investment, a Hendrix autographed copy of the LP "Are you experienced?"  can be yours for £3,750 ($5,600).

Princess Diana

Remembered by many as "The Queen of Hearts," Princess Diana made headlines with her first official appearance with HRH Prince Charles in 1981. In June 2010, the Black Taffeta gown worn by Princess Diana at this event sold for £192,000 against a pre-auction estimate of £60,000. For those collectors looking to capture a piece of Diana memorabilia, a signed and mounted photograph from 1992 is for sale at £12,500 ($20,625).

John F. Kennedy

Assassinated in 1963, Kennedy's memory lives on in the memorabilia associated with his time as President. He remains the most popular politician amongst memorabilia investors today.  In January 2010, Heritage auction galleries hosted the sale of JFK's final autograph on a newspaper from the morning of his death. The piece doubled its $20,000 expected price to sell for $39,000. A United States Senate paper signed by the former president is currently valued at £2,950 ($4,530).

 Marilyn Monroe

The woman born Norma Jean Mortensen remains one of the most famous Hollywood icons to have ever lived. A bathrobe worn by Marilyn Monroe sold in Las Vegas for $120,000 at a Julien's auction in 2009. Remarkably, just ten years before the piece had sold for $6,000 at Christies. And for those collectors seeking a similarly intimate piece of memorabilia from the one of the world's original sex symbols, a black mesh bra, direct from the Monroe estate is available for £9,500 ($15,675).

Drawing by John Lennon
John Lennon

It's hard to believe that it's nearly thirty years since the death of John Lennon in New York.  And it's down to the legacy his work created, that today he remains at the forefront of music memorabilia.  In June 2010, Lennon's hand written lyrics to the classic Beatles song "A Day in the Life" sold for £800,000 ($1.2m). For those investors looking for a truly unique entry level Lennon collectible, the market currently offers autographed hand drawings from the star for £9,950 ($15,250).

Elvis Presley

By record sales alone, Presley remains the most successful recording artist of all time and given his untimely death, it's little surprise to see that the demand for his collectibles remains intense. Back in December 2009, a gold diamond ring worn by Presley onstage in 1975 sold for an impressive $107,500. Today a single strand of hair, cut from the head of Elvis back in 1958, costs £795 ($1,200). In a November 2009 auction, similar hair pieces were sold for £1,135 ($1,750).

Michael Jackson, autograph
Michael Jackson

If anyone is likely to challenge Presley's dominance of the memorabilia market, it's Michael Jackson.  In just over a year since his death, collectibles from the King of Pop have seen high prices at auction. In November 2009, the famous white glove studded with rhinestones, which Jackson wore as he introduced the world to his famous moonwalk in 1983, sold for a remarkable £212,000. It was a world record price for a Jackson piece. Today, his autograph is available for just £750 ($1,150), though it's unlikely to remain around for long.


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