Backstage dedicates entire auction to hard rock, metal

Graham Bonnet’s jacket from Michael Schenker Group. A Microphone stand from Ministry’s Al Jourgensen. Photo courtesy of Backstage Auctions

By Susan Sliwicki

Whether you like your metal speedy, hairy, thrashy, doomy, or just plain heavy, Backstage Auctions is betting on the universal appeal of metal music and memorabilia among fans worldwide for its next auction.

The Rock Gods and Metal Monsters Auction preview runs Oct. 24-30; the auction runs Oct. 31 to Nov. 7. Featured eras span from the early heavy metal/hard rock bands of the 1970s to a healthy helping of memorabilia from the 1980s and 1990s, right up through items from acts within the last decade, van Gool said. Visit www.backstageauctions.com to check out lots.

“Whether you’re in Argentina or in New Zealand or in Poland or Canada or Boise, Idaho, a metal fan is a metal fan is a metal fan,” said Jacques van Gool of Backstage Auctions. “There’s no way to ‘like’ heavy metal. You either love it or you hate it. There’s no middle ground.”

And it’s not just a musical genre, he added.

“Heavy metal is a lifestyle, and it shows in everything; it shows in the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the haircut you have, the concerts you go to, the music you listen to, the friends that you have,” he said.

This is the auction house’s first-ever event to focus solely on metal and hard rock memorabilia.

“When you do an Elvis auction or a Beatles auction or Led Zeppelin or Stones auction, it kind of sells itself,” van Gool said. “The word gets around. The media loves to pick up on it, because those are recognizable names and recognizable artists.”

But a heavy metal-themed auction is a completely different animal, as general media exposure is unlikely. Instead, van Gool is reaching out to the heavy metal community, who he is confident will embrace the event.

“Yes, there’s definitely been artists who may have sold a little thing here or there, but to have an auction house say, ‘Let’s do a really cool hard rock, heavy-metal auction… We’re quite proud of that,” van Gool said.

When it comes to business, make no mistake. Van Gool has done his homework. Just because metal music has never really seen the light of day in the mainstream media doesn’t mean it lacks a following. Van Gool cited the massive number of Web sites and magazines dedicated to heavy metal worldwide, as well as a plethora of heavy-metal festivals and legions of incredibly loyal fans who follow their favorite acts on social media platforms such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

A Microphone stand from Ministry’s Al Jourgensen. Photo courtesy of Backstage Auctions

“You have to go a little bit underground for this. I don’t see Fox News or CNN wasting their time saying Al Jourgensen of Ministry is going to put 100 items in a heavy metal auction, because they wouldn’t know what to do with that kind of news. But at the same time, the official Ministry database has 250,000 registered users, so, I’m going to forget about the Foxes and CNNs of the world. All that matters is that 250,000 Ministry fans know about it.”

The market for heavy metal memorabilia is probably healthier than that of any other musical genre, he added.

“Metal just doesn’t go away. It doesn’t die. Fans won’t allow it,” van Gool said. “

The market for memorabilia from bands that are considered part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Motorhead, remains strong worldwide, van Gool said.

In the past five years, van Gool has noticed younger metal fans expressing interest in the second- and third-tier bands of the NWOBHM that may sound obscure to non-metal fans.

“From a collectible point of view, the original vinyl of these bands demands incredible, incredible amounts of dollars,” van Gool said.

He cited original 7-inch records from Neat Records as being particularly hot with collectors. Records issued on Shrapnel or the original Metal Blade label also are popular in the U.S.

“The very first Shrapnel album was called Metal Massacre, and Metallica is on that album, which was their first vinyl appearance before they got a record deal,” van Gool said. “In the early yeas, the Metal Massacre albums featured bands that were on their way to the next big thing, and everybody wants to have that.”

The uniquely American hair metal phenomenon, which included acts like Cinderella, Poison, Motley Crue, Winger and Ratt, dominated mainstream music in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and those acts still have a strong fanbase here. However, overseas, hair metal isn’t as big of a draw as speed or thrash metal, which boasts bands like Metallica, Slayer, Testament, Exodus and Megadeth, van Gool said.

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