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The ’80s poised to be the next ‘big thing’ in music memorabilia

If there is a music collectibles category that is increasingly demanding high prices, it is the ’80s, especially hard rock.
THIS SIGNED MOTLEY CRUE guitar was among the offerings in a Rock Star Auctions event. Photo couretsy Rock Star Auctions

THIS SIGNED MOTLEY CRUE guitar was among the offerings in a Rock Star Auctions event. Photo couretsy Rock Star Auctions

By Susan Sliwicki

Every collector dreams of owning a top-shelf, holy grail item. But how do you ensure you’ll have spot at the head of the collecting class someday? Well, it’s kind of like a 401(K) plan. There’s a lot of saving and planning, some discipline, and quite a wait for payoff.

“If you buy to collect, then the golden rule still is to keep whatever you have sealed, whether you buy an album or a CD or toy or anything,” said Jacques van Gool of Backstage Auctions. “Don’t be tempted to open it or listen to it. The moment you do, the item will lose value.”

Oh, sure, the item may still be in pristine condition. But breaking that protective seal is a lot like driving a brand-new car off the dealer’s lot: The depreciation starts the minute you do.

If you have any open or unsealed items, be sure to invest in good storage materials and bag them up now, because at the end of the day, the value of the collectible is driven by its condition. If you have vinyl, be sure to store it with a backing board, so the corners won’t bend.

For those of us who have limited impulse control, consider buying today’s “limited-edition” collectibles in duplicates — one to enjoy, and one to save for the future as a true collectible.

Just don’t expect to see a massive return on your investment overnight, van Gool warns. You need to be patient enough to keep the piece long enough so it can grow in value.

“Everything in music collectibles are like wine. There’s an incubation period, and they need to ripen and they need to season,” van Gool said. “If you buy something now and try to sell it or trade it in the first 10 years, the chances are the piece you bought is at the same value, or it might have lost a little bit of value,” he said. “That’s not different than the bundles of money we pay today for items from the 1960s and the 1970s. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, they were worth nothing.”

So, what are the items you should be saving today for your collecting investment tomorrow? Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a “foolproof” investment. That said, for the most part, everything that was collectible — records, posters, signed memorabilia —is still collectible, van Gool says. But a few specific areas have enjoyed a bit of a growth spurt in recent years.

“One type of item that has become increasingly popular over the past five years are vintage T-shirts, and that entirely has to do with the fact that five, six years ago, vintage concert T-shirts became fashionable, so they were, all of a sudden, in style, and it was cool to be seen in style with a 1976 Peter Frampton T-shirt or a 1974 Blue Oyster Cult T-shirt,” van Gool said.

Vinyl is also enjoying a bit of a rebirth. “There’s more new vinyl that’s being sold,” van Gool said. “When you see large retailers such as Best Buy jump on the bandwagon to start selling vinyl again, that’s a good sign.”

And it’s not just Baby Boomers buying back their old albums.“It’s people in their 20s and 30s, who did not grow up with a record player who are now discovering the wonderful world of vinyl,” he said.

When it comes to a certain “genres” that are on the rise, new wave, post punk and metal all land on van Gool’s list.

“If there’s a category lately that is really jumping and more and more demanding high prices, it is the ’80s hard-rock, heavy metal, whether it’s Iron Maiden or Judas Priest or Metallica or Def Leppard or Saxon,” van Gool said.

When Backstage Auctions conducted a Motley Crue auction a few years ago, it was kind of a gamble for the auction house, van Gool said. “It ended up being our first completely, 100-percent-sold-out auction. It was an over-the-top auction.” The event was such a success that Backstage is planning another auction around hard-rock/heavy-metal items.

“I think this current decade, meaning 2010 through 2020, is probably the decade where you might start to see the popularity decline of a lot of 1970s bands,” van Gool said. “I think that is going to be replaced by the Madonnas and the U2s and the Princes of the world. They are already collectible. But I think they will become serious collectibles to the tune of where you see auction houses really honing in on what I call the late ’70s and 1980s pop and rock artists,” van Gool said.

Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Boy George ... they’re all heading for their day in the collectible sun, he predicted,

“Whatever you fell in love with as a teenager and as a high school student and college student ... once you’re in a job and made a career and bought a house and have a couple of cars, you’re at a point where you start looking back and becoming sentimental, and you start to associate a lot of happy moments of those years with the music you listened to,” van Gool said. “You want to reconnect with that time in your life; you want to own something, whether it’s as simple as a poster or T-shirt or album, or something really big.”

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