Rock and Pop memorabilia: Memorabilia relating to The Beatles may routinely command the highest prices in the Rock and Pop collectors’ market, but Bonhams Knightsbridge (17.5/10% buyer’s premium) gambled that the Fab Four’s enthusiasts would also be interested in the 95 lots relating to Stuart Sutcliffe, the fifth Beatle, in their 505-lot entertainment auction on July 29.
“The Stuart Sutcliffe archive was an unknown quantity. It didn’t have a market so collectors were hesitant to dip their toes in the water. Historically he may be as important, but not commercially,” explained Bonhams’ head of collectables Jon Baddeley.
The archive was consigned by Stuart Sutcliffe’s family, and in the catalogue introduction his sister, Pauline Sutcliffe, writes of her brother’s close friendship with his art college buddy John Lennon and their similarly held views on popular music as a valid art form. The National Museums of Liverpool purchased the “most high profile” works from the archive for the Liverpool Museum of Life prior to cataloguing, and the entries in the sale comprised poems, sketch books, drawings, photographs and letters either by or relating to Sutcliffe.
Although this material generated considerable pre-sale publicity and shed light on Sutcliffe’s role in shaping the band’s early public image, his untimely death at 21 years old, gave meant collectors were reticent to spend the sort of money reserved for mainstream Beatles memorabilia. Only 23 of the 95 lots found buyers. “The interest was huge before the auction but it was not converted to cash at the end of the day,” said Mr Baddeley.
Pauline Sutcliffe suggests her brother’s first love was art not music, and the biggest money was reserved for his sketch book for admission to the Liverpool College of Art, 1957. It sold to a private buyer for £3000. The catalogue’s front cover photograph of Stuart Sutcliffe (shown right) was amongst a number of photographs in the sale of him and the band taken on tour in Hamburg, 1961. This photograph, shot by his girlfriend, Astrid Kircherr, brought £300.
Interest may have been muted for the Sutcliffe material but outside of the archive a privately-entered demonstration single for Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You autographed by Paul McCartney, parlophone, 1962, topped the sale. Love Me Do brought The Beatles to fame within 48 hours of release and this copy was one of only 250 demonstration singles with the misspelt credit Lennon-McArtney. This, together with the signature, saw it fetch £11,500 from a Beatles’ enthusiast.
Overall, there were few exceptional entries in this triannual outing that totalled £63,705 and was 45 per cent sold by lot.
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