“All I’ve got is a photograph,” Ringo Starr sang in his post-Beatles hit. Actually, he has much more than that, and for the first time, a former Beatle is putting up for auction a wealth of memorabilia and personal items spanning his legendary career.
“Property from the Collection of Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach,” an auction to be held by Beverly Hills-based Julien’s Auctions on Dec. 4-5, will comprise more than 1,000 items curated by Ringo and his wife of 34 years. The auction could fetch between $5 million and $10 million, which would make it the largest in the auction house’s history, Martin Nolan, Executive Director of Julien’s Auctions, told Millionaire Corner in a phone interview. “This is gonna be one for the ages,” he said.
Ringo approached Julian Auctions, which has mounted celebrity auctions with U2, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Cher, and many others (a Michael Jackson auction, nine months in the curating, was cancelled at the last minute by Jackson, who then died eight weeks later). What’s it like to get a phone call from a former Beatle? “One of the best days I can remember,” Nolan laughed. “No Beatle has ever done an auction. It is just a fantastic honor and also a major important opportunity (for fans, private collectors and museums).”
Among the auction’s star pieces is a 1963 Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl three-piece drum kit that was used to record such Beatles classics as “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” It was also used in more than 200 performances between May 1963 and February 1964. Paul McCartney also played it for his first solo album. This drum kit has not been seen in public for more than half a century. It could fetch up to $800,000, Nolan said.
Another of the auction’s star pieces is a Rickenbacker guitar gifted to Ringo by John Lennon during the tumultuous recording of the “White Album.” At one point, Nolan said, Ringo “wasn’t feeling the love and decided to take some time out” to get away and write some music. According to Nolan, Lennon was so impressed with what Ringo had written that he gave him the guitar to encourage him to continue writing songs.”
In addition to musical instruments, the auction will feature career memorabilia such as the notoriously yanked “Yesterday and Today” butcher album cover as well as Ringo’s personal copy of the White album which has been stored in a bank vault, and his script for “Help!”
Also up for auction will be items from the couple’s London estate, Beverly Hills and Monaco residences such as furniture, jewelry, and silverware and art pieces.
Between a star-shaped purple cushion ($50-$100), porcelain kittens ($75-$125) and earrings ($100-$200), “there really is something for everyone,” Nolan said.
That really speaks to Ringo and Barbara. They wanted to make sure there were items for loyal Beatles fans who don’t have endless amounts of money. They didn’t want this to be an elitist auction; they want this to be a fun event where everyone gets to participate.”
You can own the entire collection. It will be featured a full color silver box set limited edition collectible catalog available for purchase at www.juliensauctions.com. There will also be 250 limited edition gold box sets of catalogs signed by Ringo and Barbara with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting The Lotus Foundation, an organization the couple founded aimed at “advancing social welfare in diverse areas,” including substance abuse, cancer, homelessness, victims of domestic abuse and their children, animals in need and cerebral palsy.
The inspiration for the auction grew out of an exhibition Ringo contributed for the Grammys last year, Nolan said. “He took items out of storage units and when he realized the amount of stuff he had, he had to decide whether to put everything back or give people an opportunity to own these pieces.”
Parting with a life’s worth of precious mementos and keepsakes don’t come easy. “There is some separation anxiety,” he said. “This has been an emotional roller coaster for them. There’s a little tremble here and there—Yes, I’m letting it go, no, I can’t let it go. In the end, they’re going to have this amazing catalog coffee table book (from the auction) and know these items have gone on to new homes.”
The Beatles belong to a “blue-chip” group of cultural icons, along with Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and a few select others, whose generational appeal is undimmed. As such, Beatle-related pieces can only appreciate.
“Baby Boomers, especially, with disposable income, cling to that era,” Nolan said. “They want to own something that represents their life, career and legacy. It’s a great conversation piece and a great investment. It’s almost like art; you buy something because you like it, and (with icons such as the Beatles) the prices go higher and higher.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.