George Harrison such sales of beatles the memories were “ridiculous” and “out of control.” It occurred to the former Beatle that fans would want old papers with his autographs on them or even more bizarre artifacts.
Beatles memorabilia exploded during Beatlemania
Once Beatlemania broke out around 1963, crafty businessmen selling merchandise with the image of the band without their permission.
In Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison, Joshua M. Greene wrote: “With all that love came a lot of money…consumers spent more money on Beatles paraphernalia than could be accurately counted. Life magazine had recently published a cover story declaring: “A New Power of $10 Billion: The American Teen Consumer.”
“The baby boomers had become the largest and most influential market force in America, and the Beatles benefited. Merchandise and paraphernalia: wigs and wallpaper, dolls and figurines, gum and candy, caps and shirts, belts and boots, balloons and buttons, sheets and pillowcases, photographs and pencil sharpeners, toothbrushes, towels and everything else : a whole industry. Beatles stuff flooded stores and street corners.
“In 1964, Beatles merchandise in the United States alone generated over $50 million in sales. In the week following hisEd Sullivan Show Performancethe band’s records accounted for a significant percentage of the recording industry’s sales for the entire year, as they would for years to come.
“By their concert at Shea Stadium, international Beatles record sales had already exceeded £50 million, almost $250 million in today’s money. Everything they touched turned to gold.
However, Beatles memorabilia didn’t just include toothbrushes and Beatles T-shirts. Some businessmen came up with even more ingenious products. For example, during The Beatles’ performance at the Hollywood Bowl, management gave them towels to wipe off their sweat. Somehow, a businessman was able to purchase the towels for $100. He then cut them into thousands of half inch squares.
The entire lot sold in less than a day for $5 each, earning the businessman over $100,000 of The sweat of the body of the Beatles. Memories like that grew in popularity.
George Harrison called Beatles memorabilia sales “ridiculous”
Businessmen soon stole everything they could get their hands on from The Beatles to sell to their enthusiastic young fans.
One time The Beatles broke up In the 1970s, memorabilia, including clothing or equipment they wore in the recording studio, were somehow stolen and quickly began showing up at auction houses. Decades later, in the 1980s, George called such Beatles memorabilia sales “ridiculous.”
During a 1987 interview, a reporter for today’s program he noted to George that there was “phenomenal” interest in Beatles memorabilia and that John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics recently sold for $22,000.
George said: “It’s ridiculous, yes. He got out of hand, actually, if you ask me. He is out of control. There’s Sotheby’s and Christie’s and Phillips in London, which have a sale like every month; one of them seems to be selling all this stuff.”
George said some Beatles memories were fake
According to the guitarist, some things sold at Christie’s or Sotheby’s might not be authentic. George said that some Beatles memories are “false”.
“A lot of it is stolen property or things that went missing, and a lot of it is fake,” he told the reporter in today’s program. “I mean, they sell, there are some autographs and things that we sign on planes and things like that, but there are a lot of autographs that our route managers used to sign.
“I used to sit there with all these photos, and they learned how to do all of our autographs, and they used to do it because otherwise, we’d be doing them our whole lives, and there are a lot of autographs from our road managers, which are actually probably worth more than The real autographs of the Beatles. But there is a lot of garbage there, but they are selling it”.
George said he was “sort of” surprised by people’s interest in Beatles memorabilia. “A little bit, but it’s been going on for a few years. It bothers me a little bit because, I mean, I could really clean up in that game. I guess it’s a good thing in a way that if we were ever short of cash, we could sell everything and go on vacation.
“I have many pieces of paper that everyone wrote on. I have all kinds of things; Paul’s briefs from Shea Stadium. Very cheap, $60,000.”
Auction houses have not stopped selling Beatles memorabilia. Things that haven’t made it to auction yet are aging like fine wine. In April 2022, Paul McCartney’s handwritten lyrics for “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” had an initial offer of $450,000 (for TMZ). They were on the market in 2006 and sold for $192,000.
Sales like that will never stop. Memorabilia will be constantly on the market and people will continue to benefit from The Beatles.