I had the privilege of being interviewed by the talented Jessica Miles of KSTP regarding Prince and the memorabilia market. It’s a bit of a follow-up on last week’s Prince Memorabilia post:
Astonished is the best way to describe what I felt yesterday when I first heard about Prince’s death. At 57, he was simply too young – too vibrant of a performer to be gone.
As an appraiser and an auction professional I run the risk of looking like an ambulance chaser if I start discussing the crass realities of property, money and death. I would not have posted this if media outlets weren’t already discussing this topic.
Here is the reality, when a celebrity dies more of their memorabilia hits the market. There are a number of reasons for this:
- Fans want to possess a link to the celebrity they love
- Attentions turn to the celebrity. Their name is everywhere and trending, including in the marketplace.
- People see an opportunity to make money. Some of these people are legitimate and some are criminals.
If you are interested in owning something relating to the life or career of Prince, be careful, do your research and find an experienced outlet to purchase items from. Auctions take a long time to put together. I don’t think you will see Prince memorabilia at auction until later this year. If you can’t wait there are legitimate retail outlets that specialize in memorabilia. Jeff Gold’s Record Mecca comes to mind, but there are certainly others.
The most important thing is to be sure to buy a piece you love. There is a perception that the value of an item will increase with the death of a celebrity. Items from Prince were fairly scarce in the marketplace prior to his death. Now there may be a rush of memorabilia from people who have been holding on to it. I suspect we will see concert posters, photographs, perhaps even amateur recordings, yearbooks – all nature of items from Prince’s personal and professional life. Will there be a flood in the market that ultimately lowers values? Or will fan and collector enthusiasm sustain high prices? There will be more questions than answers until there is an opportunity to look back on the market trends. Buy a piece you love and it will always have value for you.
Additionally, it behooves the buyer to contact another source before purchasing an item, in any situation. This is true in all areas of collecting. Find an expert, find other knowledgeable fans, or fan forums, get another opinion on authenticity.
If you have Prince memorabilia to sell, the burden is on you to prove its authenticity. Do you have a photograph of Prince with the item? Other provenance proving the association to Prince?
As a property specialist I approach each piece with suspicion. Not everyone in the memorabilia business is as careful – or perhaps they have a more trusting nature.
As a professional I am bound by certain ethics and codes of conduct that prevent me from saying anything disparaging about other auction houses and memorabilia sellers. I can say there are a number of auction houses that I have great respect for: Bonham’s, Heritage, Christie’s, Sotheby’s and, of course, Julien’s where I am employed.
Prince will be with us, in his music, forever and I am so thankful to live in a time, and a place that appreciated his genius and influence. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans. We lost someone really special yesterday.