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I’ll wager your local thrift store has racks and racks of old band T-shirts.

And it might surprise you that some can be worth a considerable amount of money.

There is a wide market of collectors out there looking for original T-shirts, from rare examples printed for Michael Jackson tours to old punk tees.  

Prices can be sky high – with a 1979 Led Zeppelin Knebworth backstage pass T-shirt selling for $10,000 in 2011.

Read on to find out how to bag the real deal.

Is it original?

Nowadays most well known band T-shirts are sold in high street chains.

They have been reprinted countless times – and that’s not even including the bootlegged versions.

This Rolling Stones shirt features Herge's Obelix - Image: eBay

So it’s not an easy task to determine age.

That said there are a few signs to look out for.


The label is the most important indicator of age, as there are consistent differences between the decades.

A typical label from the 1970s - Image: eBay

In the earliest examples (from the 1960s and 1970s) the label will be largely unbranded and fairly generic, as the industry was in its infancy.

By the 1980s, brands were much more established and logos and other branding appear.


T-shirts from the 1960s onwards are generally screen printed (where the ink/ paint is printed directly onto the fabric).

Heat transfer prints (which have a characteristically plastic look and feel) were introduced much later. 


Wear is actually a good indicator of age, as it’s difficult to fake convincingly.

Threadbare areas and loose threads can all add to the value of a shirt.

A rare original Sex Pistols shirt - Image: eBay

That said, no-one will want to buy something that’s shredded or is missing a large chunk of the design.  

You should also avoid pieces with large holes or really significant staining, as these will turn off buyers.

T-shirts to keep an eye out for 

The rarest and most sought after T-shirts tend to be original examples produced for iconic names like Led Zeppelin, the Who and the Grateful Dead – these can easily make around the $2,000 mark.

'Ringer' T-shirts were popular in the 60s and 70s - Image: eBay

Look for shirts with specific tours on concerts on, as these can be very rare.

T-shirts from the punk era are also very popular, with original Clash and Sex Pistols T-shirts selling for as much as $1,000-2,000 online.

You can go as niche as you want though, almost every genre from death metal to soul music has its own burgeoning vintage market. 

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