Ringo Starr's $2M Drum And 10 Other Bank-Breaking '60s Artifacts

Editor Picks | March 4, 2019

The Beatles rehearsing at the Deauville Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida for THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW. From left: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon. Image dated February 16, 1964. Source: (CBS via Getty Images)

The most expensive rock 'n roll memorabilia from the '60s is a moving target -- it seems with each passing year, something new (well, 50 years old, actually) goes on the market and commands a price that would buy a very nice home or three. Today's "most expensive" '60s memorabilia might seem a bargain within five years. But certain high marks for classic guitars and drums, handwritten lyrics, or rock-star cars seem to be verifiably the highest prices paid until we hear otherwise.

It's no surprise that the Beatles dominate this list -- not only were they the biggest band of the '60s, they were also the most meticulously documented, merchandised and mythologized. Given all that would happen during the band's run and after they broke up, it's hardly surprising that some Beatlemaniacs would cling to a sheet of original handwritten John Lennon lyrics like a scrap of the Shroud of Turin. Here are the top 11 most expensive rock 'n roll memorabilia from the 1960s.

John Lennon's Rolls Royce: $2,898,725

John Lennon’s Rolls Royce. Source: (commons.wikimedia.org)

The 1965 Rolls Royce Phantom V  limousine that belonged to John Lennon is one of the most famous rock 'n roll cars, and one of two Phantoms Lennon owned. This one was initially black, and highly customized, with a telephone, television, refrigerator, phonograph player and a rear seat converted to a bed. Lennon had the car repainted prior to the release, in 1967, of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band and it showed up in the Magical Mystery Tour special as well, later that year. The Phantom became the most expensive car in history when it was auctioned by Sotheby's in 1985 for $2,299,000. It's currently on display at the Royal B.C. Museum in Canada

John Lennon's Gibson J-160E Guitar: $2.4 Million

Source: (youtube.com)

There's nothing like a "lost" item to command a high price at auction, and the Gibson J-160E guitar owned by John Lennon in the early days of the Beatles was just that. In 1962, Lennon and George Harrison ordered a pair of J-160Es, which were unusual instruments at the time -- hollow-bodied acoustics that had an electric pickup, so that they could be played through an amp as well. Many of the Beatles' early hits were composed using the guitar, and it was used in the studio for parts requiring an acoustic guitar. Sometime in late 1963, the guitar went missing. When the Gibson turned up over 45 years later, it was a big deal for memorabilia market. Julien's sold it for $2.4 million in 2015.

Beatles' 'Ed Sullivan Show' Drum Head: $2.05 Million

When the Beatles came to the U.S. in 1964 to play the Ed Sullivan Show, Ringo didn't bring a full drum kit -- but he made sure to bring one of the custom-painted drum heads with the band's logo, known as the "drop-T" for obvious reasons. Ringo played this drum in the band's famous February 9 American TV debut, as well as concerts at the Washington Coliseum and Radio City Music Hall, and the follow-up performance for the Ed Sullivan Show from the Deauville Hotel in Miami. It fetched $2.05 million when auctioned by Julian's in 2015.

Janis Joplin's 1964 Porsche: $1.76 Million

Janis Joplin’s 1964 Porsche 356C. Source: (car-revs-daily.com)

Janis Joplin’s short rock 'n roll career ended tragically at the age of 27, but she left a few things behind for her friends. One of them was her Porsche (yes, she drove a Porsche, not a Mercedes-Benz). The 1964 Porsche 356C of Janis Joplin was put on auction in New York City in 2015 with an expected estimated price of $450,000 -- and sold for more than three times that, a final price of $1.76 million

Fender Stratocaster Jimi Hendrix Played At Woodstock: $1.3 Million (Reputedly)

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. Source: (reddit.com)

Nobody knows for sure how much Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen paid for the Fender Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock. The guitar was auctioned in in 1990 for $325,000, and Allen acquired it for his Experience Music Project in a private sale later in the decade. Some reports say that Allen paid $2 million for it, but Guitar Player magazine puts the sum at a "reputed" $1.3 million.

John Lennon's Handwritten Lyrics Of 'All You Need Is Love:' $1.25 Million

Source: (twitter.com)

In 2005, John Lennon's handwritten lyrics to "All You Need Is Love" went for $1.25 million. The sheet of paper was said to have been on Lennon's music stand during the Beatles' final live televised performance.

Handwritten Lyrics To 'A Day In The Life:' $1.2 Million

In 2010, an unnamed buyer placed a winning bid of $1.2 million to claim John Lennon's handwritten lyrics to "A Day In The Life."

The Drum Skin From 'Sgt. Pepper:' $1.07 Million

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Drumskin. Source: (ealuxe.com)

A Beatles fan would definitely have to have this hot item. This item relates to the album that was released in 1967, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, that was recorded by the Beatles and earned four Grammys in 1968. The front cover of the album had a painted drum-skin and the value of it has gone up over the years until it was sold in July of 2008 for $1.07 million.  

John Lennon's 'Give Peace A Chance' Lyrics: $833,654

Source: (christies.com)

From May 26 through June 2, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their "Bed-in For Peace" in Suite 1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal. There, in addition to doing a lot of press, Lennon wrote "Give Peace A Chance," and recorded it in the hotel room with about 50 participants singing along. In 2008, a sheet of Lennon's handwritten lyrics to "Give Peace A Chance" sold for $833,654.

Elvis Presley's Gold-Leaf Painted Piano: $610,000

Elvis Presley’s Gold piano. Source: (telegraph.co.uk)

Who wouldn’t want something that belonged to the King of Rock and Roll? This exquisite golden grand piano that belonged to Elvis Presley went on auction in Beverly Hills, California in November of 2015 and commanded a final selling price of $610,000. Originally, when Elvis first bought this piano in 1955 for his mother, it had a walnut finish to it, but since Elvis was all about gold and glamour, Priscilla had it finished in 24K gold-leaf as an anniversary gift to him on their first anniversary in May of 1968.

Remains Of A Guitar Set On Fire By Jimi Hendrix: $497,500

Source: (musicradar.com)

In 1967, Jimi Hendrix famously lit his guitar on fire -- actually, he did it twice. The second time was on June 18, 1967, when he torched his Fender Stratocaster at the Monterey Pop Festival. That guitar was thought to have been located and was nearly auctioned in as such in 2017 -- but at the last minute, auction house Heritage Auctions canceled the sale over doubts as to the guitar's authenticity.

The Monterey guitar, if it is ever conclusively identified, would surely command a small fortune. But as we said -- that's the second guitar Hendrix burned on stage in 1967. In March of that year, while playing the Astoria in London, Hendrix lit his ax on fire as well -- that instrument, known as the "Astoria Strat," sold at auction for $497,500 in 2008.

Tags: Elvis Presley | Janis Joplin | Jimi Hendrix | John Lennon | Memorabilia | Popular Lists Of Everything From The Groovy Era | Ringo Starr | The Beatles

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Penny Chavers


Penny, besides writing, loves to spend her time with family and friends. In her spare time, she also enjoys playing the piano, board games, and taking online classes on topics that interest her.