Being an employee of an auction house is certainly not an ordinary job. After numerous years in restaurant management, I was used to expecting the unexpected. Very rarely did a day go by where everything went as planned. Whether it was servers not showing up, forcing you to run your shift short-handed, or the walk-in cooler going down, or one of the fryers not wanting to light, or not getting your delivery of chicken wings because the truck got hijacked in Texas, there was never a dull moment. The same thing applies in this industry. You must certainly expect the unexpected, but usually, in this business, the unexpected is a good thing. Such is the case with the recently acquired collection of rock and roll memorabilia, housed in a small town just a few miles away from our office that no one knew about. Sure, we’re Mile High Card Company, and the focus of our business is baseball cards and sports memorabilia, and our consignor had plenty of incredible material in that realm as well. But we weren’t expecting the vast array of music items. Anyway, after a phone call that came to our office out of the blue, we were on the road to check it out.
Now I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable person when it comes to classic rock, but as it is often said, you learn something new every day. A large portion of the collection centered around the Grateful Dead, and while I never had anything against them, I was never a Deadhead, and growing up I preferred the likes of Hendrix, Zeppelin and Cream. So imagine my surprise when I learned that Jerry Garcia was missing the middle finger of his right hand ever since he was a child! Apparently his older brother accidently chopped it off with an axe, missing the intended piece of wood that Jerry was trying to hold still for him. And I’ve heard Jerry do some finger picking, which can’t be easy when you’re missing a digit. I also learned that the road manager for the Allman Brothers Band once got in a dispute with a club owner regarding payment after a gig, during which he stabbed the guy with a fishing knife and killed him! Tough business being on the road.
Garcia was an artist as well as a musician, having attended art school as a child. Although his focus was obviously on his music career, he continued to sketch and paint, and he made it a practice not to sign his lithographic prints until they sold at gallery. I had the privilege of examining and photographing over 30 of his signed prints for the upcoming auction, and I found them to be quite fascinating! My favorite is probably Dracula’s Heart, which can be found as lot 470 in our December 2018 auction. In addition to the Garcia prints, there are multi-signed Grateful Dead T-shirts, and a felt bearing their original name, The Warlocks, signed by Garcia, Weir, et. al. A Gibson Epiphone SG signed by six members of the Allman Brothers band highlights the collection of signed guitars, which also features Neil Young, Widespread Panic and, of course, the Grateful Dead.
But I’d have to say the crown jewel, or jewels, of this collection is a pair of items signed by all four members of the Beatles! One is a promotional photo and the other is a hotel register, both from 1963 and featuring R. Starkey rather than Ringo Starr on the hotel register! Both items are in spectacular condition, with signatures that look like they were done yesterday rather than 55 years ago. There is also an incredibly rare Grateful Dead concert poster depicting founding keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, along with several other elements of the 1960s counter-culture movement. Be sure to check that one out; there’s lots of history on that piece!
Okay, it’s closing time here at MHCC. I’m on my way to find a cold beverage and a slice of pizza. I hope you have as much fun with this remarkable collection of rock and roll memorabilia as I did. Like I said, you learn something new every day!