Professional Stamp Experts

A Hard Day's Collecting

Autograph Collector-reprinted with permission - April 26, 2000
By David Laurell    Photos by Barbara Crawford

A Hard Day's Collecting

When it comes to pop culture memorabilia and collectibles few, if any, individuals or groups have inspired as many treasures as that mop-topped Fab Four from Liverpool, England … John, Paul, George and Ringo – the Beatles.

Buttons are the most affordable Beatles
items and sell in the $10-$25 range.

Spurred by the never-quite-equaled mania that had the world screaming “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” for anything emblazoned with the lad’s images, Beatles memorabilia began to appear on the market around 1964. The band’s business-savvy manager, Brian Epstein, sensing the untold profits to be made with Beatles merchandise, formed a company called North End Music Stores to approve, license and market teen-idol items.

This Ringo drum has sold for as much as $1,000.

To maintain quality control, all official Beatles items carried a seal that read NEMS (North End Music Stores). Merchandise produced in the United States also was labeled SELTAEB, which is Beatles spelled backwards.

Got Beatles bongos in your attic?
They’re worth over $3,000!

Today, more than 35 years after Beatles items first popped up, vintage collectibles pertaining to the Fab Four are as hot as ever and show no sign of cooling off. Serious collectors tend to break items into four separate categories.

A rare find, this banjo is
currently worth $2,000-$2,500.

The largest category consists of items produced during the heyday of Beatlemania, 1964-1966. The second group is comprised of items relating to the 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine. The third category consists of mostly promotional merchandise from Apple Productions. The fourth group includes non-mass produced items that are unique, one-of-a-kind pieces actually owned, signed or produced by the Beatles themselves.

Toy guitars are in hot demand. Selcol’s
jet red electric is worth over $1,700.

Two other rapidly emerging areas of Beatles collecting are items relating to the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era and those from the solo years after the Beatles broke up.

Mastro’s “Beatleist” hot pink
guitar can fetch $850-$950.

One-of-a-kind pieces are, of course, the Holy Grail for Beatles collectors. In the rare instances when these items surface, they are usually handled by major auction houses and command prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls-Royce Phantom V touring limousine, for example, fetched $2.299 million at a 1985 Sotheby’s New York auction.

Hair bows
Burlington hair bows originally retailed
for 49 cents. Today they’re worth $350.

In July the upright Steinway piano on which Lennon composed his signature song Imagine will be auctioned online and is expected to fetch in excess of $1.6 million.

Obviously, such high-priced treasures are far out of reach for most collectors. But even if you don’t have a spare million or two lying around, vintage Beatles memorabilia can be found at prices every collector can afford.

Hair spray
Bronson Products put out Beatles hair
spray in 1965. Today a can is worth $700.

Later this year Pop Culture Collecting will highlight Beatles collectibles from the Yellow Submarine era. This month we’ll focus on vintage items produced from 1964 to 1966. Thousands of different items were manufactured during this period, some of which (mostly buttons) are available in the $10-$25 range.

Hair dressing
The only known bottle of KG
Products Beatles hair dressing

From there, prices for officially licensed Beatles memorabilia jump and, in most cases, jump dramatically. The majority of vintage items range from $100 to well into the thousands. Every Beatles item ever produced has increased significantly in value over the past 35 years, and conventional wisdom points to these “birth-of-pop-culture” items becoming even more valuable over time.

Authentic 1965 Beatles wigs by
Lowell Toys sell for more than $250.

So take a good look at the following items, and then scour your basement, attic and yard sales for these true pop culture classics.

In the mid-1960s toy Beatles musical instruments were “must-haves” for mop top wannabes. One of the hardest to find is a Beatles banjo manufactured by the Mastro Company. The 22-inch long stringed instrument came attached to a cardboard backing and sold for about $12. Today it is worth $2,000-$2,500 when found in its original packaging.

Made in Holland, these dresses are very
much in demand – to the tune of $1,000.

Another highly desirable toy instrument is a set of Beatles bongo drums. Also made by Mastro, these red plastic drums are even rarer than the banjos and can easily command more than $3,000.

An English company named Selcol also produced Beatles drums, including one featuring a drawing of Ringo and a facsimile of his signature. Each is worth $700-$1,000.

Hatboxes in various colors are worth $550-$650.

Mastro and Selcol also produced Beatles guitars. The jet red Selcol electric model is the rarest and is worth more than $1,700. Mastro’s hot pink “Beatleist” guitar is valued in the $850-$950 range.

Wing Dings Beatles sneakers in
their original box sell for $900.

The Beatles also made an indelible mark on fashion, especially men’s hairstyles. Many grooming product companies capitalized on the furor caused by the famous “Beatle Cut.” Today those products are among the most sought after “Mop Top” items.

Beatles Carefree nylon stockings
are worth as much as $400 a box.

Beatles hair bows by Burlington came in a variety of colors. While red ones are the most sought after, any bow – especially ones in their original packages – go for $350 and up. Not bad for something that originally retailed for just 49 cents.

Beatles Colorforms are rare
and command $700 and up.

In 1965 Bronson Products put out a can of Beatles hair spray. These pink cans bearing the boys’ mugs are extremely hard to find, and anything under $700 is considered a steal.

Remco dolls Remco dolls
These Remco dolls in their original box are valued at $550.
Left    Right

Renowned Beatles collector Michael Stern, author of The Beatles: A Reference & Value Guide (Collector Books, 1994), says a truly incredible find would be a bottle of Beatles hair dressing conditioner by KG Products. According to Stern, only one of these bottles is known to exist, and the label is badly peeled. If you come across a bottle with the label intact and the seal unbroken, call your attorney and negotiate with only the most serious Beatles collectors.

Lunch box
This Aladdin Industries lunch box and
thermos is worth more than $600.

Lowell Toy Manufacturing Corp.’s authentic Beatles wig was the hottest selling novelty item in 1965. This great collectible, which is a staple of any Beatles or pop culture collection, was one of the rare items people tended to hold on to – and in its original package. While this is not to imply that a glut of these wigs exists, they do show up frequently at conventions and on Internet auctions in the $250-$350 range.

Model kit
Revell model kits, unassembled
and in the box, sell for $275.

Other Beatles-inspired fashion items are harder to find. A Beatles dress made in Holland has a current value of $1,000. Hatboxes, which were produced in different colors, sell in the $550-$650 range. A pair of Beatles sneakers made by Wing Dings are easily worth $600, with the price skyrocketing to over $900 if they are still in their original box. And Beatles Carefree nylon stockings in the box will bring $250-$400 depending on condition and the number of pairs.

Magnetic hair game
Merit put out this magnetic hair game in
1965. Today it is worth at least $600.

Beatles toys also were the rage in the mid-’60s, and every kid seemed to have at least one. Back then, very few retailed for more than $12, but today the value of some can represent the down payment on a house.

Halloween costume
Ben Cooper Halloween costumes
featuring the Fab Four fetch $350 each.

In 1966 Colorforms put out a cartoon kit based on the Beatles animated Saturday morning television show. These hard-to-find kits are highly sought after pop culture treasures, and each is worth more than $700.

A set of Remco Beatles dolls in their original boxes is valued in excess of $550, a magnetic hairstyle game by Merit goes for $600 and up, as does an Aladdin Industries metal lunch box and thermos.

These rare 14-inch Carmascot bobbin’
head dolls sell for a whopping $18,000!

Revell manufactured a set of Beatles plastic model kits in 1965. Unassembled and in the box, these kits sell for over $275 each. That same year the Ben Cooper Company injected a little musical pop culture into Halloween by introducing a line of Beatles Halloween costumes. If you trick-or-treated either as John, Paul, George or Ringo, and then had the foresight to place the mask and one-piece suit back in the box, you are holding a collectible easily worth more than $350.

$2,200 is the going price for these
Koss Electronics Beatles headphones.

Trading cards, pennants, puzzles and coloring books also are highly prized Beatles toys. But the most desired of all is a point-of purchase display of four 8-inch bobbin’ head dolls. Mass-produced by the Carmascot Company, a complete set in good condition is worth more than $600.

If this lamp is in your attic, it will light
up your life to the tune of $1,300.

However, the larger set of 14-inch bobbin’ heads that stores used to display the smaller sets, are among the rarest and most coveted Beatles items. If you come across a complete set in your attic, start celebrating. Serious Beatles collectors will offer you big bucks for it. And don’t sell yourself short. A complete set in good condition can go for … are you ready? … $18,000!

Record player
At $1,800, this record player is a
prime piece for any Beatles collector.

Other big-ticket items include Beatles headphones by Koss Electronics ($2,200), a record player ($1,800) and three different lamps, the rarest of which has the lads’ pictures on the shade and a gold guitar painted on its ceramic base. The current going price for this illuminating item is $1,300.

The Beatles: A Reference & Price Guide
“The Beatles: A Reference & Price Guide”
is a must-have for Fab Four collectors.

This barely scratches the surface of the plethora of Beatles items that have been produced. The demand – and thus the value of practically every Beatles item – has increased dramatically and shows no signs of waning. For a more comprehensive look at Beatles collectibles, The Beatles: A Reference & Price Guide is available from Collector Books, P.O. Box 3009, Paducah, KY 42002.

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