Collecting Beatles Autographs
Although the Beatles broke up nearly 30 years ago [this was written mid-January, 2000], they remain hugely popular with both fans of their music and collectors of their memorabilia. Beatles items typically accounted for more than one-quarter of all major rock and roll auction lots in the last decade. A quick check of eBay will turn up literally hundreds of items.
But the most sought are their autographs – both singly and as a group. The latter are, of course, the most valuable. A photo signed by the whole band is worth from $1,500 to $3,000. A tour program signed by the whole band is worth even more.
The first question to be asked, however, is “How common are real Beatles autographs?” The answer, from knowledgeable collectors, is “Not very.” Indeed, some collectors claim that these are the most commonly forged of all autographs.
Some of those forgeries have a claim to quasi-legitimacy of their own, however. When the Beatles came to America in 1964, their security was very tight. They took over entire floors in some hotels, with every access to their floors strongly guarded. The Beatles’ road manager then was Neil Aspinall, and he is reported to have signed hundreds of actual items on the behalf of the band. Others in the Beatles entourage, including Mal Evans and a number of fan club secretaries also “ghost-signed” items. While literally forgeries, they nonetheless have their own value due to the circumstances in which they were produced.
Experts believe there were only three occasions when the Beatles together sat down for autograph sessions. They are:
October 6, 1962 (one day after “Love Me Do” was released) at Dawson’s Music Shop, in Lancashire, for half an hour at 4:00 pm.
January 24, 1963, at Brian Epstein’s NEMS Record Store (two weeks after “Please, Please Me” was released).
December 14, 1963, at the Beatles London Fan Club Convention. Attendance was around 3,000, but few apparently did more than shake the band members’ hands, and not many autograph requests were reported. This was the only occasion on which their two early albums, Please Please Me and With the Beatles, could have been autographed.
However, groupies, known as “Apple Scruffs,” used to hang around the Abbey Road recording studios or in front of Apple Headquarters, hoping to get an autograph from a Beatle who was coming or going, and eventually get all four signatures on an album. Few of these autograph seekers were successful.
Thus it is only in their pre-celebrity days – before 1963 – that the Beatles were readily accessible for autographs. Items autographed by the band after 1963 are difficult enough to find, and, after 1969, extremely scarce. After the band stopped doing live concerts in 1966, they came together as a group mostly just for recording sessions, and that only until August, 1969.
Anyone seriously interested in collecting the Beatles’ autographs needs to seek out copies of authentic signatures and learn to recognize their idiosyncrasies. Familiarize yourself with the genuine article before you make any purchases.