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.
“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.
One of the biggest “holy grail” items that collectors seek is Iron Maiden’s first 7-inch record, a three-song EP called “The Soundhouse Tapes.”
“That little 7-inch single can sell for $600, $700, which is an amazing amount of money for a single for a band that made it 30 years ago,” van Gool said.
Also popular are posters, T-shirts and demo tapes. An early Metallica T-shirt recently sold for $1,200, he said.
“I think the biggest challenge is the availability,” van Gool said. “If you really want the original records or the first demos or the old T-shirts or concert posters, all those things were made in relatively small quantities.”
Demo tapes were huge in the early 1980s, when fans simply couldn’t get their metal fix any other way.
Today, they are extremely collectible, van Gool said.
“The demo has really become a very unique staple to the history of heavy metal,” he said. “As the black sheep in the world of music, heavy metal was not given the light of day, and when it really started to explode, there were other more popular genres that record companies wanted to put their dollars in.”
As a result, most metal bands put out demo tapes long before they ever pressed vinyl records.
“Demos were affordable, and you didn’t need a record company to make them; you could go into the studio for a couple of days , put together a four, five, six-song demo and you could run ads in magazines that would start writing about these bands, all on the basis of their demos,” van Gool said.
There were a lot of bands that made demos, but whose never made it to an album. When it comes to demos, the more obscure they are, the more desirable.
“A lot of musicians on those early demos ended up playing in another band,” van Gool added. “You’re bound to find the roots of a well-known artist on these demos, which makes it just the more fun and intriguing.
Van Gool lists Metallica’s “No Life ’Til Leather” demo as one of those highly desirable, “holy grail” kinds of collectibles.
Autographs are another great collectible, although they are not always extremely valuable, van Gool said.
“The great thing about most heavy metal bands is that they are, in my opinion, more approachable than most other artists you can think of,” van Gool said. “The moment you start to act like a superstar, you’re gonna lose fans. Your fans need to feel like they can associate themselves with you.”
That means the desire to bootleg signatures isn’t as high in the metal realm as in other genres of music, he said.
When it comes to stage-worn clothing, pristine isn’t always the most desirable state, he added.
“The more an item shows wear and tear, the better, because the more use a piece of attire has, the more it will tell you that the artist really enjoyed wearing that piece,” van Gool said. “When you get something that has makeup on it or smudges on it or hairspray on it, or, even better, bloodstains on it, that, in my opinion, definitely adds value.”
The focus of The Rock Gods and Metal Monsters Auction is near and dear to van Gool, who grew up listening to and collecting memorabilia from bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon.
“It was such a great time to live through those years,” van Gool said. “On a personal level, I always felt very close to heavy metal, because I literally grew up on it. It’s fun for me as an auctioneer, 30 years later, to do an auction with musicians and bands that, 30 years ago, I used to follow as a fan.”
Putting the auction together is more of a labor of love than a job, he added.
“It also gives me a good excuse to play a lot of heavy metal these days for quote unquote ‘research purposes,’ and not everybody here agrees with me on that,” van Gool said with a laugh.
The sense of history associated with the memorabilia featured in this auction is staggering, Van Gool said.
“You have to look at an individual piece, and you’ve gotta think about on how many stages this microphone stand has been, or what songs were recorded through this particular guitar, or how many photos have been made of this individual wearing this shirt or boots or whatever,” van Gool said. “It’s not just a shirt that’s on a mannequin that you photograph. There’s a little bit of history in front of you.”
The auction lots are continuing to evolve, as many of the bands are first getting off the road from the hectic summer touring season. Confirmed headliners including the Al Jourgensen collection, which features everything from amps and road cases for guitars to microphone stands, pins, jackets, rings, sunglasses, gloves, hats and boots from the early 1980s until 2008.
“You name it, it’s in there. He even included original master recordings from the early Ministry days,” van Gool said.
When Ministry officially retired in 2008, it played its final farewell show in Ireland. A concert poster from that last show, signed by Jourgensen, also is in the auction.
Whether you dig autographed records, signed posters or stage-worn attire from your favorite artists, the one thing that really matters at the end of the day is a piece’s provenance, van Gool said.
Pantera, White Zombie, Metal Church, Exodus, Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, Whitesnake, Dio, Quiet Riot, Mr. Big, Winger, Nelson, Queensryche, Alice Cooper and Rainbow also are represented, he said.
The final auction lineup will boast about 400 lots that range from concert photos sold with negatives and full rights, to vinyl, stage-worn clothing, backstage passes, concert posters and instruments.
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