The $242,000 paid for Buddy Holly’s Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar on June 23 wasn’t a record — a slightly charred Fender Stratocaster played by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock sold for $347,000 in April. But the Holly instrument was the unexpected centerpiece of an auction at Sotheby’s in New York, where more than 100 items of memorabilia from the singer’s estate sold for $703,615, including the auction house’s commission.
The Gibson guitar (above, left center) was special because Holly owned it for several years before his 1959 death in a plane crash at the age of 23, and because he created a hand-tooled leather cover for it that featured, among other things, his name in capital letters. Nevertheless, Sotheby’s estimated before the sale that the acoustic guitar would sell for $35,000 to $45,000. The auction house didn’t anticipate a bidding war.
Actor Gary Busey, who portrayed the rock & roll star in The Buddy Holly Story, went head-to-head with Peter Morton, owner of several Hard Rock Cafes, which feature rock memorabilia as their decor. Busey’s identification with Holly (né Charles Holley) overcame Morton’s need to furnish a new Hard Rock in Las Vegas. ”On May 19, 1979, I met the Holley family,” Busey said after his winning bid. ”They took me to the room where they kept all of his stuff. Every guitar, every record was there. It was a shrine. Mrs. Holley put that guitar in my lap and said, ‘Buddy would want you to play this.”’
The other big spender was a man from Lubbock, Tex., Holly’s hometown. The anonymous buyer purchased nearly $200,000 in memorabilia — including a 1958 Fender Stratocaster electric guitar ($110,000). Morton of the Hard Rock may have lost out to Busey, but he still found $76,450 worth of Hollyana, including a pair of trademark black-frame glasses ($45,100). Pat DiNizio, of the rock group the Smithereens, spent $14,300 for a reel-to-reel tape deck and microphone that Holly used to compose.
Holly’s family was satisfied with the money generated at Sotheby’s, even though they tried to sell the estate privately for about $1 million earlier this year. His widow, Maria Elena, said the family had often been approached to sell his possessions, but that now was ”time to let go.” Holly’s brother, Larry, now 64, indicated that the family was tired of guarding the treasure, plus, he said, ”I’d like to retire.” While the family still owns some of Holly’s possessions — his widow has the glasses he was wearing on the fatal plane trip — there are no plans now to hold another sale.
Do you own a copy of RCA’s original compact disc of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars? If so, the specialty label Rykodisc will exchange it for its new, digitally remastered disc of the same album. Given that the originals are currently worth about $50 to some collectors, is it a good deal? ”Definitely,” says Pete Howard, editor of the newsletter International CD Exchange, ”especially since the original may not retain its value. And Ryko really kicked butt with the (CD) booklet’s liner notes and photos and the sound quality.” Others aren’t so easily convinced. ”For the consumer, it’s a decent deal,” one East Coast record dealer says, ”but the collector is probably better off saving the old one.” Those who want to trade (in the U.S. only) can send their old CDs to Rykodisc, Pickering Wharf, Bldg. C-3G, Salem, Mass. 01970.