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The Who, What Memorabilia Should You Buy?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 23 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss

Few bands have shown the endurance of the Who. From their beginnings as a Mod band in the 60s they’ve developed and grown with a pair of rock operas (Tommy and Quadrophenia), and survived the deaths of drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle. Whether or not they’ve remained a vital musical force might be open to debate, but their influence and power remains undeniable.

They were at their most popular and at the height of the powers from 1968-1978, when they were one of the biggest groups in the world, filling arenas around the globe. It’s memorabilia from this period, and before, that’s the most desirable for collectors and investors.

What to Buy

Authentic memorabilia from the period when Keith Moon was alive (pre-1978) is the best to go for. Items from this era can represent the best possibility for investors wanting to see quick appreciation. For some American posters in the late 1960s, you’re looking at spending anywhere from £400-750, depending on the event. Roger Daltrey’s gold record for Tommy went at auction for £1,500 – actually quite a bargain for such an item. Sometimes Who-related items from this time go quite cheaply, such as a poster for a 1965 festival where they played for £120, although they’re not mentioned on the poster itself, or a 1968 fan scarf, which sold for £60.

There are, of course, many items from later years, but the truly valuable material is directly related to the band. One choice piece is a microphone used by Daltrey onstage in 1996, which brought more than £3,600 at auction – and whoever bought it will almost certainly realise a handsome profit in a couple of years.

Pete Townshend

Although most of the members have enjoyed solo careers, Townshend has experienced the most visibility, and as the creative heart of the group, articles relating to him fetch the higher prices of individual member artefacts. As an idea, a signed Daltrey picture will cost about £50, whereas an autographed Townshend album is £75, and a rare poster for his Lifehouse project £175.

Townshend guitars have come up occasionally at auction, but they’ve been mostly snapped up by commercial interests like the Hard Rock Café, which has a few in its different locations. The man will occasionally donate memorabilia to charity, like the auction at a Who convention in 2006 where he gave signed lyrics and a draft of a novella.

Where to Buy

Only the very high ticket items, such as instruments come up at auction (one collector with very deep pockets possesses nine Townshend guitars. He also owns half of the kit Moon played at Woodstock, for which he paid £107,000). Smaller auction houses will sell lesser memorabilia, and you can even pick up some items, like a signed Townshend pickguard, on eBay, if you take the time to look around. Dealers will sell concert programmes, guitar plectrums, and backstage passes, but these are very much the low end of the market.

Those smaller items will increase in value, but for investment you’d be better advised to spend more and go for the mid-priced items. If it’s autographs, try for a rare set of all four original members, which will be expensive, but worth it when you re-sell. The more personal the artefact, the more it will fetch when you sell it.

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