Going Once, Going Twice ... Ringo Starr's '57 Bel Aire Coupe

More than 50,000 oldies but goodies for the rock-and-roll buff

WHEN the history of ``Rock and Roll Music'' is written, there will be a page or two about auctions.

Yes, what was big ``Yesterday'' is even hotter today.

Leather pants once worn by Elvis, a car driven by a Beatle, guitars once strummed by The Who, poster art for the Grateful Dead, and photos of Janis Joplan.

A lot of these artifacts have shown up in recent years at auctions by Christie's and Sotheby's. But, there is a ``New Kid in Town.'' Guernsey's, an auction house in New York, plans to sell more than 50,000 oldies but goodies on Jan. 19-22 at the Puck Building, located in ``Downtown'' Manhattan.

On the block is Ringo Starr's 1957 Bel Aire Coupe (sorry, no ``Little Deuce Coupe''). Or, an avid buyer can find Elvis's karate bag, motorcycle helmet, or first recorded song. (It cost the King $4.95; and is expected to go for $200,000 to $250,000). For those interested in Elvis's ``Hair,'' there is the chance to bid on his electric razor (follicles included).

Finding some of these items was as difficult as locating a ``Yellow Submarine.'' Take the Apollo theater archives. About nine years ago, the chairman of Guernsey's, Arlan Ettinger, was visiting the Harlem landmark and found a collection of 10 old photos tucked away in a box in a backroom.

``When a performer or group would be performing at the Apollo, the theater would take a picture and then have someone airbrush in color,'' Mr. Ettinger explains, ``then the photo would be hung for publicity purposes.''

Ettinger tracked down the rest of the photos in a Bronx warehouse and started to ``Twist and Shout'' with excitement. Now, 75 of the photos of such greats as the Shirelles, Billy Williams, and Ruby and the Romantics are on auction and expected to bring as much $1,500 each.

To get material, Ettinger advertised in trade magazines such as Goldmine. An Elvis relative arrived with a trove. Van Halen's manager decided to sell his collection of platinum and gold records. Some of the sale items come from fanatic collectors such as Tim Patterson, who collected rock posters since the 1960s and has now decided to sell them.

TO some observers, it may seem as if people are trying to make money off almost anything associated with a celebrity. For example, a retired policewoman offered Ettinger a bathroom sink once used by John Lennon. Her father had renovated bathrooms for Lennon's apartment. As fast as you could say ``Splish Splash,'' the old sink found a new home.

The auction will be broken down into three parts. On Thursday and Friday, Guernsey's will auction off the S.L. West record collection, one of the largest private collections with 50,000 records. On Saturday, the auctioneers turn to Elvis Presley, the Beatles, original art, and a significant collection of guitars, including a prototype electric guitar built by Leo Fender. Many of the top rock stars subsequently played Fender guitars. The auction concludes on Sunday with the posters, Apollo theater archives, and more memorabilia.

Before you ``Jump'' on the next plane to New York, consider that the value of rock and roll albums does not always go ``Higher and Higher.'' The value of the Beatles ``Butcher'' album, featuring a record cover that had been recalled, moves up and down regularly.

``Occasionally someone finds a couple of boxes of the albums and the price goes from a couple of thousand dollars to a few hundred,'' reports Bonnie Miller, managing editor of Goldmine, a collector's magazine located in Iola, Wis.

Rock art has also had its ups and downs. The oldest posters - we're talking 1960s - can go for $10,000 apiece, says Wes Wilson, publisher of OFFtheWALL, a quarterly rock-art journal based in Aurora, Mo.

Although Guernsey's expects to auction off more than 50,000 items, it's worth remembering that ``You Can't Always Get What You Want.'' And if that's the case, Guernsey's is planning another auction in December.

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