Maybe it’s over-the-hill hippie in me but when I read stuff like this it kind of rubs me the wrong way. How many people could $213,000 feed and clothe? And chances are the anonymous buyer bought it for investment purposes, not unlike the explosion in fine art of buyers acquiring famous pieces of art for the sole purpose of investment, not because they enjoy or appreciate the piece.
But without willing buyers out there, none of this would be happening. I’ve written at length in this space about the crazy prices of “vintage” guitars. I don’t think it’s as prevalent in the guitar world but I’m sure some of the buyers here too are buying purely on speculation. God bless ‘em if they have that kind of money to throw around, I guess. But there is something in the equation that just doesn’t seem right to me.
Guitars can be played and appreciated but things like autographs have no intrinsic value. I have to confess that about 10 years ago I sold a copy of the 1965 Newport Folk Festival program on which I had managed to get the autographs of Mississippi John Hurt, Pete Seeger, Mary Travers, Peter Yarrow and many others. This was without a doubt one of the dumbest things I’ve done in recent memory. I sold it on Ebay for about $125. What would it be worth today? That is truly an irrelevant question. What it was worth to ME had to be much more than a measly $125. To this day, I can’t remember what inspired me to do it.
So why do we value autographs so much? Whether they are signatures of famous musicians, politicians, movie or sports stars, I guess it’s because in some small way we are making a physical connection to that person when we hold an autographed item in our hands.
If the acquisition of an autograph is only based on a potential profit that connection is debased in my opinion. Some well-known figures feel the same way. Actor Steve Martin refuses to sign autographs but upon being requested for one, he hands the person a small business card that says: This is verify that you had a personal encounter with Steve Martin. Singer Joan Baez never signs but instead will offer to shake a person’s hand, thereby making a more meaningful connection.
But getting back to music and guitars, I came upon the web site of a guitar retailer in Tennessee who is selling a 1960s Epiphone acoustic that was signed by Paul McCartney; it also has a sticker from one of his Wings tours so it was probably signed back in the 1970s. The text on the site says that this is the very model of guitar on which Paul wrote “Yesterday.” The guitar is of passing interest to a collector of vintage acoustics but not particularly noteworthy in terms of sound, quality or value. The advertised price? $59,900.
Crazy. Just crazy.
Peace & good music,