By BRYAN GRAY
The worst advice your mother ever gave you went something like this: “Clean up your bedroom and throw away stuff you don’t look at much or play with. Your closet if stuffed with worthless junk.”
And if you heeded your mother, you did the same thing I did. You tossed away your baseball cards and your vinyl records and your comic books and your little-used board games and the somewhat tattered posters on your wall.
And, like me, today you are probably regretting it. That stuff had value.
The one-of-a-kind items make the headlines. In the past three weeks, collectors went on a buying frenzy. Bob Dylan’s electric guitar played at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival Р an event that ushered in “folk rock” Р was estimated to bring in $300,000 (a nice sum since the guitar had been abandoned in an airplane). Instead, it sold for $965,000, the highest price ever paid for a guitar at auction.
Similarly, a working lyric sheet, not even the final version, of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” sold for $197,000 this month, more than double the initial auction valuation. That price was more for mere paupers. A Norman Rockwell painting fetched $46 million in only nine minutes of bidding.
Of course, none of you possessed such treasures in your bedroom. But more common items have their own market.
A 50-year old Superman comic book that featured Pres. John F. Kennedy sold for $112,000 last month. A Mickey Mantle baseball is offered at nearly $1,000, an early botany book is worth close to $2,000, a 39-star U.S. flag passed down to a grandchild is valued at almost $2,500, a poster from the 1980 Winter Olympics is being sold for $270 and 1960-era Andy Warhol prints easily sell for $1,000 or more.
The item doesn’t even need to be that old. This season was the final one for New York Yankee relief pitcher Mariano Rivera. For only $525 you can buy a signed photo of Rivera, a sliver of his uniform and a patch of Yankee Stadium dirt. (You enjoy dirt? A collectibles store in New York will sell you a box filled with infield dirt from 30 Major League baseball stadiums. Just send a check for $249.)
Those political pins handed out free during elections are now handsome artifacts. A John F. Kennedy 1961 inaugural pin can be had for $60 (My George McGovern shirt is looking better all the time).
A first edition copy of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” is being sold for $20,000 and a JFK-signed copy of his “Profiles in Courage” is advertised for $11,000.
A pair of boxing gloves worn by Muhammad Ali can reach as high as $385,000...a baseball bat swung by New York Yankees outfielder Chris Chambliss in the 1976 American League championship sold recently for more than $121,000...A uniform worn by the captain of the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic Hockey Team brought $657,000. It makes you wonder what that Karl Malone-signed basketball will be worth 20 years from now.
I should have been a rebel. I should have safeguarded my books and LPs and my sports cards. But if I said to my mother, “This is not junk. What you are seeing in my closet is an investment. This $2 John Dickson Carr mystery will one day sell for $50 at a used bookstore in Salt Lake City and this Beatles album will be quite valuable”, I can hear her laughing and calling for my father.