Nine Crazily Rare and Expensive Vintage Band T-Shirts
If you have one of these vintage shirts hanging around in the back of your closet, you could be in the money...
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1969 Woodstock t-shirt - $1,188
When half a million people descended on Max Yasgur's farm in New York in August 1969 for three days of ‘Peace, Love and Music’, the one thing they didn’t find was an official t-shirt stand. In one of the biggest missed marketing opportunities of all time, the organisers of the Woodstock festival didn’t create any merchandise to sell to the enormous crowds. The only genuine Woodstock shirts ever produced were worn by the staff and crew who helped build the stage, manned medical tents and cleaned up in the aftermath with Hendrix’s guitar feedback still floating in the ether. However, that doesn’t mean there are no vintage 1969 Woodstock t-shirts – just no authorized ones. Local entrepreneurs and buck-chasing hippies simply printed their own shirts, and sold them at roadside stalls on the way to and from the event. This example, whilst in no way official, sold for $1,188 at Christie’s in 2007. Which goes to show that even bootleg t-shirts can be valuable if they’re truly vintage.
1976 Johnny Rotten t-shirt
This vintage shirt may or may not be official, but it’s definitely in-keeping with the punk spirit of the Sex Pistols. The band’s manager and mastermind Malcolm McLaren started out making clothes and t-shirts along with designer Vivienne Westwood for their boutique on the King’s Road, London. The anti-fashion slogans, cut-and-paste designs and deliberately controversial artwork (from swastikas to naked cowboys) helped give the punk movement its image, and the D.I.Y ethic behind the music also translated to merchandise. This shirt, bearing John Lydon’s snarling sneer and the slogan ‘Johnny...the King’ is highly rare and valued at $1,200.
John Lennon 1971 War Is Over t-shirt - $1,875
In 1971 John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band released the anti-Vietnam war protest song Happy Xmas (War is Over), which became one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time (and has been covered by everyone from Diana Ross to Neil Diamond). A series of t-shirts bearing the song’s lyrics “War is over! If you want it!” were released to promote the single, and in 2007 a surviving example sold at Christie’s in New York for $1,875.
Cranberries 1995 tour t-shirt - $2,500
This t-shirt dates from the relatively recent 1995 Cranberries world tour, conducted hot on the heels of their multi-million-selling album No Need To Argue and the number 1 single Zombie. Bought on the American leg, which saw them perform throughout August of that year, the shirt may not seem as rare as the others on the list – but for one collector at least, it was valuable enough to buy it for $2,500 on eBay in August 2014.
Rolling Stones 1973 Goats Head Soup tour crew t-shirt - $4,500
These embroidered shirts were created by the design team of Ritva and Mike Ross, and custom made for crew members on the Rolling Stones’ 1973 tour in support of the band’s album Goat’s Head Soup. Around 50 shirts were produced, but just a handful are believed to have survived the rigours of touring with the Stones. One example resides in the permanent collection of the V&A Museum, and another sold at Christie’s in New York 2007 for $4,250.
1977 The Runaways tour t-shirt - $7,500
All-girl rockers The Runaways formed in 1975, whilst still in the mid-teens, and took the music scene by storm - paving the way for the next generation of female artists such as Courtney Love, The Donnas and L7. They found themselves at the heart of the emerging punk scene on both sides of the Atlantic, and embarked on a world tour in 1977 that saw them mobbed like The Beatles in Japan. Their European ‘School Days’ tour, on the back of the album ‘Waitin’ for the Night’, saw them perform 24 gigs from October to December – and rare t-shirts from the tour are now valued at up to $7,500 each.
(Image: Defunkd / Stormcrow Vintage)
1976 Rolling Stones Knebworth tour crew t-shirt – $9,235
On August 21, 1976 The Rolling Stones descended on Knebworth House for their final live concert of the year. Many also thought it would be Keith Richard’s last-ever performance, as the skeletal guitar-slinger appeared to be (as always) on the verge of death, and the entire band had struggled through a terrible European tour just months earlier. However, the band performed a hugely-successful 30-song set and Keith survived to rock another day. A small number of t-shirts were printed for the band’s concert crew and friends, and today they rank amongst the rarest vintage Stones shirts valued at more than $9,000 each.
(Image: Defunkd / Stormcrow Vintage)
Led Zeppelin 1979 Knebworth Backstage Pass t-shirt - $10,000
In 1979, after a break of four years, rock juggernauts Led Zeppelin returned to the stage in the UK at Knebworth House to play two nights in front of an estimated 200,000 people. An army of family, friends, fans, hangers-on and pharmaceutical businessmen were looking for the holy grail – a backstage pass to the concert of the year. The band had a limited number of t-shirts printed to act as passes for their invited guests, which are now regarded as the rarest and most sought-after Led Zeppelin t-shirts in the world. In 2011, vintage clothing dealer Kyle Erminger sold one of the shirts on eBay for an incredible $10,000 to an anonymous Australian collector - a price made even more incredible by the fact he’d originally bought it for just $123!
(Image: Stormcrow Vintage)
Run D.M.C 1980 My Adidas t-shirt - $13,000
For rappers Run D.M.C, there was only ever one brand of footwear. They even wrote a song about it, and scored a pretty great sponsorship deal at the same time. The track My Adidas was the first single from the group’s double platinum-selling 1986 album Raising Hell, and secured a $1.2 million contract with the sportswear firm. Later that year, thirty t-shirts bearing both the Adidas logo and the Run D.M.C logo were produced for a concert, and the collaboration spawned one of the world’s most valuable vintage t-shirts – currently valued at up to $13,000.
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