Music Article

The Hard (Rock) Sell

Rock memorabilia -- The Hard Rock Cafe specializes in collecting rare treasures for their restaurants

An unopened Beatles' Yesterday and Today album brought in $301 at a Philadelphia Beatles convention in 1976. The same album today is listed in collectors' guides at $4,500. Just why are rock artifacts such a booming business? ''Our strategy of collecting made the market happen,'' claims Stephen Routhier, vice president of memorabilia and display for the Hard Rock Cafe, the outfit that must share in the responsibility for sending prices of rock relics sky-high. Bolstered by a $2 million spending frenzy in 1986 and '87, the Hard Rock has gathered more than 10,000 rock artifacts for display at its 22 clubs. Routhier says, ''We were getting (a grand majority of really good stuff) at considerably less than what it costs now.'' And what might that price be? Jimi Hendrix's platinum album award for Are You Experienced? sold for $2,600 at a Sotheby's New York auction in June. That same day a 1970 postcard from John Lennon to his son Julian brought a whopping $3,250. Boy George's dreadlocks reside at the Hard Rock in Singapore. Price in 1987: $600. Here are some more jaw-dropping prices from recent Sotheby's auctions:

Grateful Dead autographed drum head (list price $35): $300

Elvis Presley autographed 40-inch-by-40-inch stage scarf: $800

Madonna's signed bustier: $9,900

Jim Morrison's 1969 bail bond from Dade County, Fla.: $14,000

Originally posted Aug 30, 1991 Published in issue #81 Aug 30, 1991 Order article reprints