Gimme Shelter: Rolling Stones memorabilia
50 years ago this week, on June 7, 1963, The Rolling Stones released their first single – a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Come On’.
Half a century on, The Stones are still going strong, the longest performing rock band of all time and a cornerstone of rock and roll.
They have had a vast influence, not only on the development of rock and roll, but also on the culture, fashion and behaviour of several generations. They are frequently voted in as one of the best bands of all time.
The Rolling Stones formed in London in 1962, out of a shared enthusiasm for American rhythm and blues.
The rode the wave of the British Rock Invasion of the 1960s, and carved out an image as the bad boys of the music scene: controversial, rebellious advocators of sex, drugs and rock n roll. Parents hated them, further endearing them to a counterculture generation of teenage nonconformists.
The Stones became insubordinate icons to the British youth, and were constantly pitted against The Beatles by the media. It became an unavoidable question of identity: were you in the camp of the safe and polite pop of the ‘good boy band’ The Beatles, or the dirty and dangerous world of the ‘bad boy’ Stones? This choice often defined fans as either hysterical teenyboppers, or hip bohemians.
The Stones also generated interest in the old style of primitive urban blues, the songs they began by covering, by the likes of Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley, and later emulating, as they forayed into penning their own songs.
Throughout the 1970s and 70s, the band continued to live controversial lifestyles, being arrested, banned from many countries, even exiled from Britain for not paying their taxes.
Despite various line-up changes throughout the decades – the tragic death of Brian Jones in 1969, his replacement by Mick Taylor and later Ronnie Wood – the core of the Rolling Stones and their music, influences and popularity has sustained down the years. They are currently performing around the world on their 50 & Counting tour.
Types of Stones memorabilia
One thing that The Rolling Stones possess that not many bands could rival is a trademark, the tongue and lips logo. This image is instantly recognisable, rivalling many leading commercial trademarks in the extent of its familiarity. The original artwork for the logo, the ultimate piece of Stones memorabilia, sold for £300,000 at auction in 2005.
Of course, with a band of such a long history, there is an infinite amount of memorabilia, collectibles & merchandise available to collectors. Here we look at some of these items.
Autographs and Photos
Fans love to claim an autograph from their favourite band, a token of the musicians’ connection to their followers. Full sets of Rolling Stones autographs are highly desirable, though what constitutes a full set is debatable due to the changing line-up of the band over the years.
The good news for fans is that that these autographs are widespread and affordable. Unlike The Beatles for example, whose career was much briefer, John Lennon’s young death limiting the number of autographs in circulation, and Paul McCartney having now stopped signing all together, the Stones have been signing autographs for 50 years. The exception is Brian Jones, who of course died in 1969. In terms of value appreciation, the earlier the better to get a full set of the original autographs. However, for a true Stones fan, an autograph is not about investment, but about owning a memento as testament to their love of the music.
There will always be a problem with forgeries and fakes in the field of autographs. The key is to know your stuff, and to buy from a dealer that is trustworthy.
Additional interest and value are added to an autograph when it comes at the end of a personal note or letter. Mick Jagger’s 1969 love letters to Marsha Hunt, the stunning model for whom the song Brown Sugar was written, sold for £187,250 in 2012.
Likewise, a signed photograph will almost invariably be more valuable and desirable than a photograph with no autograph. Photos of the group and its members taken by renowned photographers in the 1980s, 90s and 00s, venerating them as the iconic rock and roll legends that they are, can be more valuable than old promotional photographs from the early days of their success. Annie Leibovitz’s 1985 photo of the Stones sold for $10,000 at Phillips in 2011. Peter Lindbergh’s three photographs of Mick Jagger from 1995 sold for $85,000 in 2005, and his three photographs of Keith Richards from 1999 sold for £90,000 in 2009.
An exception to this rule is the photo archive of the Rolling Stones Rock N Roll Circus.
The Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus was an event organised by the band in 1968, comprising two concerts on a circus stage and featuring several significant acts. The whole was recorded, and some of the performances represent significant firsts and lasts in the careers of the best loved musicians and bands of the era. For example, John Lennon’s first performance without the Beatles, with the help of Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Mitch Mitchell, the only footage of Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi performing as a member of Jethro Tull, and on a sad note, the last public performance of Brian Jones with the Stones. The video footage was not released for nearly three decades.
A photo archive from the event, these powerhouses of rock n roll captured by Mike Randolph, auctioned for $400,000 in 2007.
But aside from these examples, there are plenty of promotional photographs, many signed, which can be picked up relatively cheaply by collectors.
Clothing and stage costumes
The Rolling Stones originally came on stage as themselves, not in costume, but as ‘long haired hippies’. As time went on, their act became more and more elaborate, and they became renowned for their extravagant performances and stage costumes. Mick Jagger as the frontman could not stand still, and is widely credited with inventing the role of the extroverted, energetic, wild rock frontman. His costumes were a part of this, and apparently on many of the surviving examples, there is visible pelvic wear and tear from his vigorous gyrating. The band took on the glam rock fashion of the 1970s and made it their own, with spangly jumpsuits and glittering shirts. They also became known for their outrageous stage props, such as the giant inflatable phallus (wonder where it is now – imagine if that came up for auction!).
Clothing owned and worn by the band in their day to day lives seems to hold just as much interest for collectors as their stage costumes. While Mick Jagger’s 1972 US tour stage worn sequin jumpsuit sold for £20,000 in 2012, a shirt worn by Brian Jones and a tunic worn by Jagger during the 1960s achieved £25,000 and £23,750 respectively at auction the same year.
Keith Richards 1978 tour jacket, black satin bomber style with tongue logo on the back sold for £9,500 in 2005, a Mick Jagger 1967 satin jacket with dragon pattern sold for £9,000 in 2005, and a Mick Jagger pinstripe suit, worn on stage during the 1970s and signed by members of the stones sold for $5,000 in 2006. In comparison to the clothing of other stars, such as Elvis Presley, Madonna, John Lennon and Michael Jackson, these prices are extremely low – a good opportunity for any collector interested in the fashion legacy of the Stones.
The Rolling Stones have 50 years’ worth of concert memorabilia and merchandise for collectors to choose from.
Promotional items such as photographs, handbills, posters and displays, as well as concert tickets, programmes and backstage passes, continue to be devoured by Stones collectors. These are items of ephemera, and as such not designed to last. Examples that have survived from the early days of the band can therefore be quite rare, and only become more so as time goes on. Posters make fantastic display pieces, especially as they have often been designed by fantastic rock and roll artists.
A poster for The Rolling Stones at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium dated Friday December 3, 1965, the concert at which Keith Richards was memorably electrocuted on stage (but was unharmed) sold for $15,000 in 2008.
While the older promotional items are naturally the most sought after and rare, it may be worth collectors looking for more recent items relating to the band, which are perhaps easier to find and less expensive than the vintage items. One day, these will become vintage too and they can only reduce in number as time goes on, becoming rarer and more valuable.
Half a century of merchandise is not something to be sniffed at. Once again, collectors will fall into the camps of vintage merchandise lovers, often nostalgic baby boomers who grew up listening to the Stones in their early incarnation and thus hanker after memorabilia from this era, or fans who are happy to collect modern items too, of the Stones in every phase of development.
Items that continue to be mass produced across the world include clothing, mugs, crockery, lighters, keychains, books, glassware, cigarettes papers, trading cards, skis, baby grows, badges, the list goes on.
An example of vintage merchandise is the tongue and lips telephone sold by Tristar International in 1983. Rolling Stones pinball machines also have something of a following.
A rare acetate record from the stones’ first recording session in 1962, tracks ‘Soon Forgotten’, ‘Close Together’, and ‘You Can’t Judge A Book’, sold for £10,800 at Sotheby’s in 2003. Other Stones early vinyl, perhaps not so rare, can be found at very little expense. And vintage vinyl will only become rarer with time, so it really is worth snapping it up now.
Instruments relating to musicians range from extremely personal owned, played and loved guitars, to those bought or gifted by the musicians for a friend or acquaintance, to those that they may have just held once, or signed for a fan. The first are of course, quite elite items. Brian Jones’ 1960 Harmony Statotone guitar sold for £79,250 in 2009, and Keith Richards’ Harmony 12 string acoustic sold for $33,460 in 2004. In comparison, a guitar simply autographed by the Stones sold for a mere £375 in 2011.
The time is ripe for collecting Stones memorabilia people. It’s widespread and very inexpensive considering how influential and iconic the band are, and while most of them are still alive and kicking it will remain so. The cost of their memorabilia is likely to skyrocket as each member bites the dust.
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