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Ryan Cooper

Never mind the art... here's a bunch of junk from my closet

By October 29, 2008

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If you perused the news today, you may have noticed that Christieís is gearing up for their first-ever major auction of punk rock memorabilia in New York on November 24.

Billing it as a collection of items from punkís biggest and most seminal moments, it really seemed to me like it could be a proud moment for music history, and at the very least, an auction collection worth drooling over.

Then I went to the site for the auction catalog, and after skimming the items up for bid, I realized that the entire world is officially out of its freaking mind.

Instead of finding this life-altering collection of punk rock memorabilia, I found a lot of crap that leads me to believe that a few old record shops and crusty punks simply cleaned out their attics, back rooms and beneath their beds and decided to see what they could get for their junk by elevating its importance and its price.

I will admit that there are a few pieces on the auction block that are quite impressive; for one, this original McLaren/Westwood bondage jacket bears some punk importance, and this guitar that bears the signatures of members from the Sex Pistols and Guns and Roses might actually be worth the $1,000 itís expected to bring in. But in this auction, items like this are the exception, not the rule.

For every impressive piece like this contact sheet from a Danny Fields photo shoot of the Ramones with an expected value of $1,000, there is stack of four old hardcore t-shirts expected to bring in $600-$800.

Itís not that I would never suggest that any of these pieces are without cultural significance; quite the opposite. Itís the simple fact that somebody who finds a stack of old Black Flag fliers in a box in their basement thinks that theyíve discovered a Holy Grail worth thousands, when the fact is that most punk fans I know are pack rats, and should they decide to purge their collection at once, folks would realize how rare and valuable a lot of this old memorabilia isnít. A small handful of the musically obsessed could easily drive these inflated prices through the floor by simply getting rid of the clutter.

The thing is, most punk fans (and music fans in general) tend to value their collections for their musical and sentimental, rather than monetary values. I could sell my autographed record collection, but I wonít. And I really have a hard time believing anyone wants my old tour shirts as much as the sellers in this auction do.

Then again, on the other side of it, if anyone can dump a pile of old punk badges out of a shoebox in their closet and can then convince some snooty rich guy who attempts to gain cred with the moniker of "collector" to drop several hundie on it, perhaps they are being pretty punk rock.

Link to auction catalog
Link to news story


November 25, 2008 at 10:05 am
(1) John says:

Couldn’t agree more with you! Whoever priced/estimated these items surely was as out of touch as a REO Speedwagon fan might be. This was the sorriest collection of items (not to mention the condition of some of the posters) that I’ve ever seen brought to auction by a big auctioneer.

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