Music memorabilia: 2017 auction review

As you might expect, demand remained highest for the big names of the 1960s - with the Beatles and Elvis taking up the majority of the space on this list.

The biggest result of the year was for a guitar owned by legendary Grateful Dead co-founder Jerry Garcia.

The result follows on from the band’s Final Farewell concerts in 2015, which laid to rest one of the most successful franchises in rock history.

Top music memorabilia sale of 2017

Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia commissioned "Wolf" in the early 70s

Deadheads are unabashedly obsessive in their love for their band. It’s hard to think of another popular music figure, outside of the Hendrix/Dylan/Lennon triad, whose guitar could breach the $1m mark.

Yet that’s exactly what happened in June - when Garcia’s iconic “Wolf” made $3.2m in a charity sale.

The result cements Garcia’s position in the annals of rock history.

2017’s most important music memorabilia sales

Elvis Smith

Elvis gave this pistol to vice-president Spiro Agnew in 1970

Elvis loved his guns. Over the years we've seen many cross the block, but few quite as nice as the Smith and Wesson that featured at Rock Island Auctions in May. The beautifully engraved piece was originally a gift for vice-president Spiro Agnew. It realised $195,000.

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon featured some of the most inventive production techniques heard on record up to that point. In March, the hand-built mixing desk the band used made $1.8m.

The Beatles’ controversial Butcher cover was changed after DJs in the US refused to play it. This November, Lennon’s personal signed copy made $125,000.

Dylan became the most recent recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature this year. That may well have had an impact on the result of the 1963 Martin D-28 he played during the 70s. It realised $396,500 at Heritage in November.

Elvis is supposed to have originally started wearing jumpsuits after splitting his trousers on stage one night. They’re among the most sought after items of memorabilia on the market. One, known as “Blue Armadillo”, pulled in $250,000 in August.

The most unusual music memorabilia sale of 2017

George Formby

George Formby was a hugely popular British comedian

George Formby was a massively popular British comic of the 1930s and 1940s. He’s best known for his irrepressibly cheery songs, performed on a ukulele.

One of those famous ukes made £28,750 ($37,278) in a July sale, indicating the affection with which he’s held.

It was a breakout year for…


Blue Cloud set a new record for Prince at auction 

Last year Prince was our breakout artist. This year…it’s Prince again!

The demand for Minneapolis’ most famous son has shown no sign of slowing. It’s difficult to overstate just how big the jump in value has been. Prior to his death last year, a Prince guitar could be had for a couple of thousand dollars.

In November, one of his iconic “Blue Clouds” realised a record $700,000. That’s almost 10 times its $80,000 estimate.

It was a year to forget for…

Martin Shkreli

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin comes in its own jewelled case

Much derided “pharma bro" Martin Shkreli probably wishes he’d never picked up the only copy of Wu Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.

After a public spat with the group’s Ghostface Killa, Shkreli put the record on the market this year. It went for $1m - around half the sum he’s thought to have paid for it in 2015.

One you may have missed

James Jameson

James Jameson basslines defined the Motown sound

You might not recognise the name James Jameson, but you’ll certainly know his scintillating basslines.

He can be heard on a slew of Motown releases, including My Girl and I Heard It Through the Grapevine.

His trusty 1961 Fender Precision made a massive $68,750 in June.

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