When it comes to collectibles, is John Lennon 'bigger than' The Beatles?

In a time of great uncertainty in traditional investment markets, it's sometimes reassuring to know that some things in the collectables market will never lose their value. Whether it's an investment in collecting rare stamps, coins or even The Beatles memorabilia,  collectibles won't lose you thousands overnight.

In fact, the Fab Four have been making a big impression at auction sales for over twenty years now, thanks in part to the scarcity of John Lennon collectibles, following his death in 1980.

Recent years have seen the two remaining members of The Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, announce that they would no longer be signing memorabilia, creating a scarcity of Beatles memorabilia for sale.

With this news in mind, when it comes to investing in collectibles, is John Lennon now bigger than The Beatles?

Whilst The Beatles may lead the way in album sales, with 600 million worldwide, eclipsing the figure achieved by Lennon and the other members' solo careers, when it comes to investing in memorabilia from Beatles and Lennon album covers, it's a very different story.

At Bonhams in Los Angeles in 2004, four rare Beatles worn suits from the debut album cover "Please Please Me" and the singles "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love you," went up for auction, fetching £71,350 ($110,500).

John Lennon's Talisman Necklace

In comparison, a leather collar worn by Lennon in 1968-1969 and described as his talisman came up to buy at auction in May 2008.

The piece featured on Lennon's naked body for the "Unfinished Music No1 - Two Virgins" album cover and sold to a private collector for £340,900 ($528,000) having previously sold for £117,250 ($210,347) at a Christie's auction in London in 2004.

 That's an increase in value of 143.8% in just four years. Not a bad short term investment.

According to the PFC Autograph Index, The Beatles have seen big price increases for autographs in the last decade.

The value of an autograph, signed by the four members of The Beatles, has gone from £2,950 ($4,560) in 2000 to £8,500 ($13,150) in 2010, that's an increase in value of 188.1%.

In comparison, a John Lennon autograph that was worth £695 ($1,075) in 2000 is today worth £5,950 ($9,210). Anyone investing in this signed Lennon collectible would have seen an increase in the value of their investment of 756.1%.

Handwritten lyrics from both The Beatles and John Lennon have also impressed at auction. The relative privacy of McCartney has led to only a limited amount of his contributions, coming to the auction block.

In November 2006, a page of lyrics written by McCartney for the song "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" sold for £124,000 ($192,000) in New York.  The song was significant to collectors, given that it was one of the last ever recorded by the band.

Beatles John Lennon lyrics for <BR> A Day in the Life
John Lennon lyrics for
A Day in the Life

More recently in the news,  the lyrics to "Hey Jude" were expected to star at a Christie's auction, but were prevented from making it to the auction block, following a late intervention from McCartney, who had questioned the provenance of the piece.

Any handwritten lyrics from McCartney are hard to come by and could have huge potential for any investor.

All of this has contributed to Lennon leading the way in unique signed memorabilia.

 The autographed lyrics to John Lennon's song "A Day in The Life" written for The Beatles "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band" album came up for sale at Sotheby's in New York in June 2010.

Featuring crossing outs and corrections, the piece sold for £776,500 ($1,202,500).

In terms of collecting instruments, investors may also wish to compare those collectibles relating to the Beatles, with those from Lennon himself.

A rare Gibson SG guitar used by George Harrison and John Lennon on "Revolver" and "White Album" sold for £370,000 ($567,500) at Christies in New York in 2009. In comparison, John Lennon's Steinway piano, was sold for $2,100,000 in 2000 to George Michael.

That's nearly four times the price paid for the guitar last year. Given the rise in value of John Lennon collectibles over the past decade, George Michael's $2,100,000 investment, could potentially be doubled, if he were to sell to another collector on the market, which could lead to a world record price.

The current top auction prices for Beatles and John Lennon memorabilia make for impressive reading to any potential investor.

The hand painted decorative drum, used as the centrepiece of the "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album" sold for a £710,300 ($1,100,000) in 2008, setting a world record price for Beatles memorabilia.

The painted drum from "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

In terms of John Lennon collectibles, the world record price instead belongs to the famous hand painted Rolls Royce Phantom V which sold for $2,230,000 in 1985. The car remains at a world record price for a Lennon collectible, some 25 years since its sale, if it were to come onto the market today, it could set a new record for music collectables as we know them.

These auction results clearly demonstrate the potential returns for investing in rare collectibles from both The Beatles and John Lennon. Lennon's death had an effect on both the value of his and the Beatles collectibles.

Yet while Lennon's signed memorabilia will continue to rise in value, thanks to his role in the group and the so called "James Dean" effect of his death, the market price rises for memorabilia relating to The Beatles, may have only just begun.

The next decade could see further developments, in terms of health and public appearances from the remaining members of the group.

Buying into their collectibles now may prove a good move for collectors,  before more investors flock to the market looking to buy anything Beatles related and drive prices up even further, at which point a previously purchased collectible can be sold for a profit.

Furthermore, the next twenty years could see the release for auction of other hand written lyrics from Paul McCartney, who has until now kept much of his collection in private.

The Beatles once sang about "a revolution" - they could soon prove a revelation to collectors and investors alike.


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