'Ultimate autographs': Why collectors should comb the market for celebrity hair

The world of collectibles encompasses a broad range of memorabilia, some types that might be considered more bizarre than others - one of those is collectible hair.  But what might initially be regarded as a rather odd memento in fact has a long - and successful - history as an investment.

Collecting celebrity hair dates back to the Victorian era, when a notable figure was more likely to donate a lock of their very own than sign an autograph for an admirer.  With the emergence of collectible items as an alternative investment over the last century, hair is now big business.

Hair has particular value because of its very personal nature, allowing a collector to 'own' a piece of their idol.  In addition, the death of a celebrity makes any surviving hair much more precious because of the finite supply, and thus much more valuable - an excellent example of the notorious 'James Dean' effect.

If you can get over the rather strange nature of hair collecting, you could find it to be an excellent investment.  The hair of all sorts of famous figures from various professions and eras has emerged on the collectibles market over the years.

Some of the most notable is the hair of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong.  In 2005, it emerged his barber - Marx Sizemore - had been selling off cuts of the Apollo 11 astronaut's hair to memorabilia hunters. 

Despite legal wrangles by the reclusive Armstrong, the 25 locks of hair, plus the scissors used to cut it, are currently on sale for a remarkable $52,500.  In the wake of the law suit relating to his hair, and his refusal to sign autographs, the hair is likely to make a fantastic long-term investment.

There is plenty of proof to back this up.  In 2007, a large lock of hair belonging to the iconic Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is currently the most expensive piece of memorabilia connected to the Cuban Revolution - along with a scrapbook of unseen photographs, it sold for $119,500.

The mane of a musician has proven popular with collectors too.  In 2009, a lock of hair gifted by John Lennon to Beatles' hairdresser Betty Glasow sold for six times its original estimate, making £32,000.  In 2002, a jar of curls from 'The King' - Elvis Presley - realised a whopping $115,000; seven years later, a single strand made £1,055.


Napoleon's hair
The hair of Napoleon sold for $13,200

'Antique' hair can also be very valuable.  Locks from the head of Napoleon Bonaparte - culled on the day of his death in 1821 - were sold in New Zealand for $13,200 in 2010.  Clippings from the head of legendary author Charles Dickens are currently on sale for £1,750: a very affordable investment.

And now, it seems, even modern celebrity hair is collectible - teen pop sensation Justin Bieber will be selling his offcuts for charity, which are almost certain command a high price.  You can read more about it here.

So, collecting celebrity hair is not as odd as you might think; in fact it makes perfect sense.  As Harry Rubenstein of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History once stated, "More so than an autograph, it was a sign of affection", but of equal importance is the clear investment potential.

And it doesn't have to cost the earth.  Website asmallpieceofhistory.com is currently selling the hair of Michael Jackson, originating from the infamous Pepsi shoot in which the singer's head caught on fire.  The King of Pop's tresses are available for £149.99 - considering the prices realised above, the value - just like hair - will almost certainly grow . . .


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