Home > About Memorabilia > Provenance

Provenance

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 25 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Rock Memorabilia Provenance Documentary

When you buy something, especially if you’re spending in the hundreds or thousands, you want to be absolutely sure the item is what it claims to be. That’s true not only of rock memorabilia, but anything related to that, such as entertainment memorabilia, art, or antiques – anything that can be faked.

That’s why provenance is so important. Dictionary.com defines provenance as “the history of the ownership of an object, especially when documented or authenticated,” or “the records or documents authenticating such an object or the history of its ownership.” In other words, it’s a way of certifying that it’s real. Without provenance, the resale values drops by about half.

Establishing Provenance

Sometimes it can be easy to establish the provenance of an item. When Eric Clapton held an auction of his guitars, it was obvious who they belonged to, and the auction documents stated the fact. When the Rolls-Royce that had belonged to the late Queen singer Freddie Mercury was put up for sale on eBay, there was documentation to establish its provenance (as well as its service history!).

In the case of autographs, you need some sort of proof that the signature belongs to the person who supposedly write it. A photograph can help, and so can an organisation like the UACC. It promotes ethics among those selling and buying autographs, so if you buy from a member there’s a very good chance that the item you buy is legitimate.

The big auction houses will insist on provenance for every piece of memorabilia they sell, and since they’re dealing with items that will often go for many thousands of pounds, it’s vital. But don’t for a minute think it doesn’t apply to things worth considerably less. If you’re buying something that belonged to someone, you can’t just take a stranger’s word for it; you need a certificate of authenticity, or something similar, like a letter of authenticity that connects the piece to the artist, or a member of his family or a personal friend. Make sure you keep it, with the item if possible, in case you decide to sell later.

In some cases, as with older autographs, it might take an expert to establish provenance – there’s one man, for instance, who specialises in Beatles autographs; he can tell you if it’s real or fake. But there are similar experts in many fields (granted, few quite as specialised), and a letter from them carries credibility.

Instruments

It might seem difficult to establish the provenance of a particular instrument; after all, most are produced in quantity. But the better makers give their instruments serial numbers, and serious guitarists tended to record the numbers of their guitars (mostly in case they were stolen). Through research and contacts it’s often possible to establish whether a guitar with a particular serial number ever belong to a particular artist.

When You Can’t Find Provenance

There have been instances when, for different reasons, family members of the artist have been unwilling to give provenance (confidentiality reasons, for instance). What do you do in a case like that? You can try to find another way to establish authenticity, maybe through photographic or documentary evidence. Failing that, find out just why everything has to be confidential. Or you could just walk away. The bargain of the century is no real bargain at all if you can’t prove it’s real. Your chance of ever reselling at a profit is minimal.

As a very good rule of thumb, the more expensive the item, the better the provenance should be.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • mcan15
    Re: Take That Memorabilia
    Before I throw them away, Is a 1995 & 1996 calendar of any interest plus a large badge from same time?
    5 September 2019
  • UncleBobL
    Re: Take That Memorabilia
    I have a arge collection of Take That Fan mags that my daughter left behind when she moved out 25 years ago. Currently downsizing is there…
    19 July 2019
  • Jo-Jo
    Re: Take That Memorabilia
    I have a signed tshirt, all 5 members from the 1992 tour at Bradford St George's hall. The shirts were signed & thrown off stage, also…
    15 April 2019
  • Jenjen
    Re: Take That Memorabilia
    Hi I have a authenticated signed print from Take Thats Pray video on the beach in immaculate condition.... anyone habe an idea of value…
    17 September 2018
  • jan
    Re: Take That Memorabilia
    i have all 5 signatures on their stage lighting plan for a concert i went to at Hammersmith Apollo. i think early 90s. i was also given a…
    22 July 2018
  • Jon Limbret
    Re: 1960s Magazines
    You can try asking beatchapter. They buy and sell all sorts of music magazines including nme melody maker disc sounds etc. But they do not list…
    30 May 2018
  • Mary Hagood
    Re: 1960s Tickets and Passes
    I have 1 Suffolk downs Beatles ticket unused white and 1 blue..i would like to sell them ASAPl
    20 May 2018
  • Jemma Bee
    Re: 1970s Clothing
    Hi there, I work in a charity shops and we have been donated a signed George Melly tie. Please could you advise on the value of this and where it…
    9 May 2018
  • Rach
    Re: Take That Memorabilia
    Hi, I’ve came across an old take that locket necklace in a black pouch and a watch (without the strap) they are both in excellent…
    5 January 2018