Unseen photos of The Beatles on tour sold for thousands at auction to prove the group’s popularity still massive

Mick the Ram

Mar 31, 2023

At a recent auction a collection of previously unseen photographs of the Beatles taken during their prime, went under the hammer and was picked up for what may prove to be a bargain price of £5,000. They included behind the scenes pictures, as well as press conference snaps; plus scenes from a concert at the Shea Stadium.

Other notable lots included a record signed by the four bandmates and bizarrely an old geography school book belonging to Paul McCartney, both of which also fetched eye-watering figures. The market for Beatles memorabilia has always been strong, and although these recent sales pale in to insignificance when set against some of the really big sales which reached seven figures, they do prove that the interest in the band never ceases.

It will take a very special piece however, to beat the record ever paid for any item belonging to the group, which was set at a staggering $2.4 million.

Simple photos snapped up

The never before seen collection of snaps was sold with the protection of full copyright, and consisted of 38 original prints, 12 rolls of film and colour transparencies, and were all taken in the years 1964 and 1965, when Beatlemania was entering its most manic stage.

There were behind-the-scenes pictures which had been snapped during the famous band’s 1965 US tour. They capture the Liverpool lads on stage, and then again at a press conferences. There are also some that were taken when the fab four were invited on to the Ed Sullivan Show.

Additionally, there are several photos from a concert that they performed in the Shea Stadium in New York City in the same year, where it is said that the noise from the 55,000 fans packed inside was so deafening, neither the band or the crowd themselves could hear a note of what was being played on stage.

Geography is a lesson learned

Following that sale, somebody purchased a Please Please Me record, signed by all four members: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, for £24,000, although it is doubtful it will ever be played. Soon after that sale, a basic geography book from 1959 which was one of Paul McCartney old school books, fetched an incredible £14,000. It is amazing what collectors are prepared to pay for a piece of nostalgia.

Auction manager delighted at turnout

Omega Auctions manager, Dan Hampson, overseeing proceedings said there had been “unprecedented interest” ahead of the memorabilia auction and admitted that they were delighted with some of the results.

He added that prior to the start there was a real buzz of excitement due to the quality of the lots up for auction. He said: “This proves that the market for Beatles memorabilia is as strong as it has ever been and we are very happy to be able to achieve some life-changing results for our vendors.”

Housekeeper’s actions makes thousands

Earlier in the month, at a separate auction, a remarkable letter written by George Harrison sold for £6,100. He had scribbled the handwritten note as an apology to two young autograph hunters who were told off after they turned up at his house unannounced. The letter only surfaced during a house clearance, along with a signed photo of the star posing with the two fans and had only been expected to fetch half the amount it eventually went for.

Seemingly, Harrison had moved into a new bungalow on the Claremont Park Estate in Esher, Surrey back in 1964. James Laverack of auctioneers John Taylor’s explained that the story that he was told was that two pupils from the private girls school across the park arrived uninvited on his doorstep. “They apparently got a frosty reception from the woman who answered the door, who then telephoned the school to make a complaint.”

It turned out to be the housekeeper and the guitarist took it upon himself to write to one of the parents explaining how he knew nothing about it and went to the trouble of getting John Lennon’s autograph for the girl and invited her over to pick it up, which was when the photo was taken.

The Holy Grail traced back to the life of Brian… Epstein

Seven years ago, in May of 2016, an exceptionally rare record that had been given the tag “Holy Grail” for Beatles collectors, and which had been hidden away for over five decades, sold at Omega auctions for £77,500 ($110,000) in Liverpool. An anonymous British collector picked up the 10-inch vinyl track, paying nearly eight times its estimate.

It featured the first song John Lennon ever wrote, titled: Hello Little Girl and many believe there are very few pieces of Beatles vinyl of greater significance. Their manager, Brian Epstein gave the disc to another Liverpool group around in the early sixties: Gerry and the Pacemakers, and they recorded their own version, although it was never released. It transpired that Les Maguire, the keyboard player with that band had kept it stored in his attic for dozens of years.

Contract “killing”

These sums being paid are impressive but they are absolute bargains when compared to some of their memorabilia, which have been bought for mind-boggling amounts:

In October 1962 the soon to be international superstar band signed a contract with their new manager Epstein. The agreement was sealed shortly before their first single Love Me Do, was released. When the original contract came up for auction at Christie’s in 2015 it was described as perhaps the most important document in the history of The Beatles. It sold for $553,559.

Harrison’s guitars always likely to be in demand

Back in 2004 George Harrison’s 1964 cherry red Gibson SG guitar, which he had played on stage between 1966 and 1969 came to auction at Christies. He had used it during the recording sessions at Abbey Road and it appeared in the promotional film for the non-album single Paperback Writer. Harrison gave the guitar to Peter Ham, guitarist with the British band Bad-finger, but sadly he took his own life in 1974. His brother had stored it away before putting it to auction in New York, where it sold for $567,000.

A second Harrison guitar, this time a 1962 Rickenbacker 425, purchased by him in the United States and refined to his own specification. This was the guitar used during the recording sessions at Abbey Road studios for the bands fifth single I Want to Hold Your Hand. In May 2014 it sold at Julien’s Auctions for $610,000.

McCartney instrumental in sale

The very first guitar that Paul McCartney ever played belonged to his school friend Ian James. He taught the eager future Beatle how to play a few chords. In 2006 the instrument came up for auction with Cooper Owen, accompanied by a letter of provenance by McCartney in which he had confirmed it was indeed the guitar he first held and played his first few chords. It was sold for a massive $613,974. 

Ringo’s number one album

The famous White Album had a unique number on each copy and it had always been assumed that John Lennon had 0000001, but it was in actual fact Ringo Starr who received that version. It spent 35 years safely stored in his London bank vault. When it sold at Juliens Auctions for $790,000 in 2015, it became the most expensive record in the world.

At the same auction a Rose-Morris Rickenbacker guitar, gifted to Ringo by John Lennon as an  encouragement for him to write more of his own songs, sold for a staggering $910,000.

Drumming up a fortune

The drum skin used on the sleeve of  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the centrepiece of what is regarded by many as the most iconic album cover of all time. Having been used for the cover shoot, the sleeve disappeared for more than a decade before being discovered during renovations on a flat in West London. Initially it sold at auction for a very tasty £52,100, but it went back to auction at Christies in 2008 and it re-sold for a remarkable $1.07 million.

Worth hanging on to every word

Many consider the Lennon/McCartney composition A Day in the Life as the best Beatles song ever written. The handwritten lyrics were in the possession of Mal Evans, the band’s roadie who became their tour manager, personal assistant and close friend over the years. The manuscript sold at Sotherby’s in 2010 to an anonymous American collector for an unbelievable $1.2 million.

Continuing with the lyrics theme, the classic All You Need is Love written by John Lennon has become something of an anthem the world over. He wrote it as a call for peace at the height of the Vietnam War. When it was performed live at a special concert Lennon had a handwritten set of lyrics copied out, just as a back up, but at the end of their slot he left it beneath his music stand. This was taken by a crew member who retained it in a personal collection.

In 2005, those lines on a scruffy piece of paper fetched a crazy $1.25 million at Cooper Owen Auctions, making it a record price for hand-written song lyrics.

Paint job becomes a nice little earner

Ringo Starr replaced his well-worn drums in 1963 with a Lugwig Oyster Black Pearl 3-piece kit and his manager Brian Epstein got the band’s name painted on the bass drum and in doing so unwittingly created the most famous band logo in music history. They were widely thought of as the most important set of drums ever auctioned when they went up for sale at Juliens in 2015 and this was reflected in the outrageous selling price of $2,110,000.

Most famous limo

Although the Liverpool lads remained pretty grounded despite their fame, they did treat themselves to some luxuries and John Lennon’s Rolls Royce Phantom V Limousine was certainly one of them. This became the band’s favoured method of transport, particularly after the installation of a double bed in the back seat and the addition of a television, a portable refrigerator, a telephone, a record player and England’s first set of blacked-out car windows.

Then after a psychedelic paint job, the vehicle was truly the most recognisable Rolls Royce anywhere. It eventually sold at auction in 1985 for $2.29 million, then a world record for a car.

Missing guitar is the record holder

Inevitably many would say, the highest price ever paid for a piece of Beatles memorabilia was for something belonging to John Lennon. In 1962 the great man purchased a Gibson J-160E guitar and it was with the instrument that he composed some of the band’s biggest early hits, including She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand and All My Loving, plus the recording of smash album Please Please Me.

It mysteriously disappeared after a live performance and it transpired that it had crossed the Atlantic, probably taken by someone from another band playing on the same night. It eventually ended up in the hands of musician John McCaw who cared for the instrument for over forty years before deciding to thoroughly research its history. After a meeting with Andy Babiuk, the world’s leading authority on Beatles instruments, it was confirmed that this was the missing guitar and when it went to auction at Julien’s in Beverly Hills, it was described as “one of the most historically important guitars to ever come up for auction”.

It sold in 2015 for a record that still stands today of a exorbitant, yet magnificent amount of $2.4 million.

One man’s rubbish is another man’s fortune

Although the Beatles were probably the most famous band ever, and therefore their memorabilia will naturally attract people to pay ludicrous amounts of money; the lesson is there for anyone to ensure that they hold on to even the simplest of things, even handwritten scraps of paper, if there is the remotest chance that it could have some hidden value.

It could be that it is actually worth a fortune!


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