Monday, April 10, 2006

Beatles go blue chip

Rockaway music store in the Brisbane suburb of Ashgrove has been operating for 14 years. Its owner, Scott Johnson, bought most of his stock from the US, where his brothers run two other Rockaway stores – one in Los Angeles, the other in Arizona. "Most of our stuff is under $500. But people will pay big money for cream of the crop," he says. Mr Johnson says people looking to buy items as an investment should choose blue-chip stocks – that is, classic rock paraphernalia such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Buddy Holly, KISS and Elvis Presley – and must buy from reputable dealers. "An investment in something like The Beatles will increase by 5 or 10 per cent in value a year," he says. "But you have to buy at the right price, not an inflated price." He says his price for sellers depends on how "hot" the item is and what the market for it is. "If we think it is going to be hot and will sell quickly, we offer the customer 50 to 60 per cent of the value," he says. "But if we think we might hold on to it for a while, we will offer about one third." Mr Johnson says there are also some artists whose popularity varied – specifically Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson. "Then there are artists that skyrocket today and tomorrow hit rock bottom." He says bad publicity corresponds with value and as such Michael Jackson's stocks have diminished. The best tip Mr Johnson can give collectors is to buy items in mint condition. He says items referred to in the industry as "wrecked but rare" are not valuable. "A beat-up copy will not increase in value. A mint copy will increase five times as fast." Mr Johnson said rare CDs must be from the original label and be the first pressing to be worth a significant amount. "Most people ask about The Beatles. Their albums were reissued about 15 times on vinyl. What's worth most is the first pressing, but it's not an easy one to know." He said one of the most unusual things to come through his store was a collection of Johnny O'Keefe material, owned by the president of the fan club. It included cufflinks, ties, bereavement notices and locks of hair. "If it had been Buddy Holly I would have retired after that," he said. "It would have sold for $50,000 to $100,000. But the J O'K collection only sold for about $4000 all up." In terms of autographs, he says value depends on how early it is, how clearly the signature is and what item it's on. "Autographs are a very sought-after investment." Mr Johnson said Rockaway does valuations but it is better for people to do their own research – through eBay or reference books – so they can avoid paying a fee. "Most people want valuations for insurance. But if you are looking to sell, we will make you an offer and if you think it's fair, take it," he said.


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