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From pop stars to film props, high-end rarities hit the auction block

Experts say some — not all — collectibles and memorabilia have longevity because of their ties to a celebrity or legacy.
From pop stars to film props, high-end rarities hit the auction block
Posted at 4:25 PM, Nov 08, 2023

A company that specializes in entertainment memorabilia is hosting a four-day auction of more than 1,700 items — each worth thousands of dollars.

A John Lennon belt buckle, Amy Winehouse's wig, and several guitars autographed by bands like Aerosmith are just a few of the high-profile pieces of pop culture memorabilia up for auction this week by Propstore.

The bidding wars start Thursday and end Sunday. It may be fun to peruse and virtually window-shop if you're curious, but for those with the money to bid, it's a high-stakes hobby. Neil Solarz is a shareholder and director at the law firm Weinstock Manion, and he says some people are crazy if they see these items as some sort of secure investment.

"Nobody is going to do this without the ability to lose all of it," he said. "I mean, you'd be crazy to invest in any of this. It's not like buying IBM or Apple. This is discretionary income, I would think, for almost everybody.

SEE MORE: First-generation iPhone sells for record $190,000 at auction

Some notable collectors include Jim Irsay, who owns the NFL's Indianapolis Colts and once turned down $1.15 billion for his 500-piece collection of musical instruments played by famous musicians. But it's not just pop culture items for Irsay. He also owns historical artifacts, including a 200-year-old copy of the Declaration of Independence.

The Jim Irsay collection tours around the country for the public to see for free, and Irsay says he considers it a way to teach people history.

His most expensive bid was $6.18 million for Muhammad Ali's "Rumble in the Jungle" championship belt.

"What's going to drive that for most people would be 'This is a unique asset, it's always going to have value,'" Solarz said. "If you're going to be paying $150,000 for a Gibson Les Paul guitar that was once played by John Lennon, that's an investment, right? You're not going to be plugging that thing in and playing it. You're going to be keeping that, and it will likely appreciate in value."

SEE MORE: Michael Jordan's 'Last Dance' shoes net $2.2M at auction

Experts say high-end collectibles and memorabilia have longevity because of their rarity, and ties to a celebrity or legacy. But as the economy slows down and interest rates rise, the collectibles industry is also seeing fewer bidders and much lower bids on some of those high-profile items.

Beyond the high prices of collectibles are some risks and added costs. That's why experts suggest people new to the market should consult with professional appraisers to make sure they're bidding on authentic items.

Groups like Propstore and Sotheby's are trusted auction houses in the collectibles community, but with their expertise comes added fees and a "hammer price" — typically 10%-25% of the item's final bid. Just make sure you keep that in mind if your virtual window-shopping ends up turning into an impulsive bid.

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