Backstage Auctions‘ upcoming Rock Gods and Metal Monsters event has all the promise of being the auction house’s best yet. Autographed items from artists ranging from Motorhead to The Babys will be up for auction April 21-29, 2012. (Previews start April 14, 2012; click here for more information and registration for the VIP All Access pass).
There are also rare Japanese vinyl bulk lots with albums from such artists as early Quiet Riot (with Randy Rhoads) and well-loved guitarist Gary Moore. And the biggest consignee for this year’s metal auction is Scott Ian, guitarist and founder of the thrash-metal band Anthrax.
As owner Jacques Van Gool explains it, the Scott Ian collection going up for auction is one for the ages.
“It’s massive,” says Van Gool. “I’ve got, like, 10 amp heads and two cabinets with the famous ‘Anthagram’ stenciled on them. I’ve got a dozen guitars. I’ve got a few dozen pedals. A few dozen straps. And all of the big stuff is autographed. Then I have a lot of smaller stuff, like 50 of his tour itineraries, handbills (including a handbill for Anthrax’s very first concert on Aug. 19, 1982), laminates and guitar picks, and obscure vinyl. I probably have close to 100 shirts. Everything is his personal stuff. All his shirts he wore personally, onstage and offstage. And one of my favorite things: In the ’80s Scott wore nothing but those high-top basketball shoes, and I’ve got three pairs of his old shoes, which I think are totally awesome. And I’ve got some of his famous shorts (including shorts from a popular ’80s clothing line called Jams). His casual attire is now jeans, but the moment he goes on stage, it’s back to shorts again. It’s hard to imagine Scott doing those high jumps in jeans.”
“Plus, you gotta show off your tattoos, and his best tattoos are actually on his legs,” adds Van Gool with a laugh.
For those naïve to the art of headbanging, Jacques Van Gool believes collecting heavy-metal memorabilia can be good for you. It is a great investment.
“From a collector’s point of view, and from a memorabilia point of view, heavy metal is equal to, let’s say, the ’60s psychedelic rock or the ’70s classic rock. It’s just the next generation. And the reason I say that is everybody romanticizes the ’60s and the ’70s as the two best decades in the history of music. And we all know our ’60s icons, whether it’s The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, you name them. Into the ’70s you get yet another generation of highly collectible icons, like Queen and KISS and a whole slew of bands in-between, there’s definitely a second generation of legitimate icons. But I think that the ’80s were probably the last decade to really create bands that ended up having that same die-hard following, that same large fanbase that carries the same fanaticism almost as they did back in the ’60s and the ’70s.
“And I think the reason for that is somewhat simple or predictable,” continues Van Gool. “After the ’80s, the music industry changed a lot with the introduction of CDs and then eventually the digital format, and then the near disappearance of the record industry. Music has become really anonymous and invisible, and it’s almost become a disposable product. So if you go back and say ‘Who or what in the ’80s stood out the most?’ It’s typically metal — in terms of what survived and stood the test of time. And whether you go with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal or the birth of thrash metal and even the third wave of metal — albeit, the third wave was far more commercial — the Bon Jovis and Motley Crues and the whole explosion with Winger and Poison and Cinderella and Slaughter and all those bands, unlike almost any other genre of music, you had to be dedicated to like metal in the first place. It was like joining an underground club. You knew if you were going to like metal, your parents wouldn’t like you, your neighbors wouldn’t like you, that you were most likely an outcast in your classroom and sometimes you may have had to run for your life. Metal was by no means an easy or popular choice. But I think because of that, it will never let you go. Once you connected with it, it stayed with you. And I think the proof is in the pudding, because you fast forward 30 to 40 years, and all these bands are still around. They still record. They still tour. People still buy their stuff. People still can’t get enough of it, even the most obscure bands.”
The vinyl records of metal’s more obscure bands are now rare gems. Backstage Auctions’ metal auction is filled with bulk lots of albums from these more obscure acts, like August Redmoon, Cirith Ungol, Coney Hatch and Vicious Rumors … and the list goes on. Take the band August Redmoon, for instance. The album is now worth between $50-75. Backstage Auctions, however, has a signed copy that can go for up to $100, or more.
“If you just look at the value of heavy metal vinyl,” Van Gool says, “it far exceeds any other genre. And it’s very hard to find. Go to a used record store, and I guarantee you will find 50 Dan Fogelberg albums and 50 Hall and Oates albums and 50 Journey albums, and you’ll probably find a hundred Barbra Streisand albums, but you’re not going to find an Iron Maiden album, because everybody wants it.”
So, why is heavy metal so collectible? Or, why would it be good for a person to collect heavy metal?
“Well, the simple answer is value,” Van Gool concludes. “And that has been proven. The value is there. But I think more importantly, metal has proven to be one of the few and final genres that has legitimate collectibility. And again, the whole foundation of that legitimacy lies in the fact that it is a genre that requires dedication. And with dedication comes loyalty, and with loyalty comes fanaticism, and you tie all of that together and it kind of explains itself.”