Money can’t buy you love. But a few hundred thousand can get you a piece of Beatles history.
A collection of John Lennon memorabilia valued by auctioneers at more than $2 million was being sold in London Thursday.
The sale includes youthful paintings and handwritten lyrics, jackets, eyeglasses and even furniture from the late former Beatle’s home. The most valuable items have been gathered over 25 years by one anonymous American collector.
Auctioneer Cooper Owen, a company that specializes in music and film memorabilia, says it constitutes “the most definitive collection of John Lennon memorabilia ever assembled.”
A Cooper Owen spokesman said the auction, which began in the evening, was expected to continue until late into the night.
The centerpiece of the sale at London’s Hippodrome nightclub was handwritten lyrics to “All You Need Is Love,” salvaged from Lennon’s music stand after The Beatles’ final TV appearance in 1967 and estimated at between $870,000 and $1 million.
Cooper Owen director Ted Owen said the manuscript was “the Holy Grail of Beatles lyrics.”
“It’s probably one of the few remaining Beatles lyrics in private collectors’ hands and one of the most important musical manuscripts in existence,” Owen said. “It was the anthem of the peace movement ... the anthem of 1967.”
The sale included other items that loom large in the history of the 1960s. There’s the Vox Continental organ that Lennon played during The Beatles’ famous Shea Stadium concert in New York in 1965, expected to fetch more than $350,000.
The tunic of a World War I military band member, worn by Lennon for a 1966 Life magazine photo shoot — and a possible inspiration for the group’s martial look on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” — was valued at least $175,000.
The bedspread from Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1969 Montreal “bed-in,” embroidered with the message “all you need is love,” carried an estimate of at least $53,000.
While Beatles memorabilia is among the most coveted by rock collectors, past auctions have sometimes been disappointing. Last year, an autograph Lennon signed shortly before he was shot and killed outside his Manhattan apartment building in 1980 failed to reach its minimum price of $143,000 at a Cooper Owen auction.
But Pete Nash, a memorabilia expert with the British Beatles Fan Club, said many of the items in Thursday’s sale were special.
“It’s lovely, lovely stuff,” Nash said. “There are some real museum pieces. It’s not the usual run-of-the-mill memorabilia.”
He said the most expensive items, beyond the reach of most Beatles collectors, would likely go to “about 20 heavy-duty collectors in the world who seem to have unlimited funds.”
Owen said pieces like the “All You Need Is Love” lyrics were worth every penny.
“They’re part of our history now,” he said. “In the British Library, opposite the Magna Carta, are three sets of Beatles lyrics next to Beethoven and Bach.”