Heritage presents Beatles ‘Coming to America’ 60th Anniversary Signature Auction

Come Together: A Historic Gathering of Beatles Signatures tops the February 24th event

The stories we invest in tend to have a beginning, middle and end, and as we follow a favorite narrative we take ownership of it. The story of the Beatles — from their earliest performances in Liverpool and Hamburg to their sunset recording sessions at Abbey Road — has inspired countless music lovers to study the band’s trajectory from its humble beginnings to its colossal rise to its breakup. In the collecting world, the sought-after autographs of John, Paul, George and Ringo span the band’s full decade and then some and help tell its entire tale, from the first days of the British Invasion to the band’s post-breakup contracts promoting the Beatles’ music. On February 24th, Heritage presents a Beatles “Coming to America” 60th Anniversary Signature Auction that features significant autographs and signatures of the entire band that bookend an extraordinary trajectory — starting with an encounter on their first flight to America in 1964 en route to Ed Sullivan to 1975 and their last known sign-off on a record contract, the last time their signatures are in one place — as well as an unused ticket to the band’s first US concert, a “first state” Yesterday and Today sealed Mono with “Butcher” cover LP (slabbed and graded 9.0), a copy of the White Album once owned by John Lennon and an original set of seven chromogenic color prints of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover session — a true rarity among other highlights.

In 1964, American teenager Carol Hollenshead had a dad who made regular business trips to England who had already brought home word of an up-and-coming act named the Beatles, as well as a copy of the LP Meet the Beatles. Carol was immediately smitten with the music (“It was just.. better!”), and on a flight — the February 7th Pan Am flight 101 from London to New York — her dad found himself in first class with the obliging lads. They were en route to their Stateside debut and seemed unsure about how they’d be received. (Three thousand hysterical fans met them at JFK). In two days they would go on Ed Sullivan’s TV show in New York, and two days after that play the oversold Washington Coliseum in DC. During the flight, Carol’s dad snapped photos of the Beatles along with fellow fliers Phil Spector, Brian Epstein and Cynthia Lennon. The band and its small entourage signed the in-flight menu for him. While Carol has been a lifetime Beatles fan, she didn’t discover the menu and photos until last December, when, during a move, she found her father’s long-lost trove. The signed menu and photos make up one extraordinary lot in this Beatles event.

“While Heritage is already known for its fantastic relationship with Beatles’ history, this particular event is packed with special slices of the Fab Four’s legacy,” says Garry Shrum, Heritage’s Director of Entertainment & Music Memorabilia. “We have incredible examples of the bandmates’ handwriting via their signatures, autographs, personal letters and more alongside completely unique items such as John’s personal copy of the White Album to an unused ticket to the Beatles’ first U.S. concert. The range of finds we have here is extraordinary and represents just about every stage of the band’s existence.”

Indeed, the handwriting of John, Paul, George, Ringo & Co. marks this event with a flourish: Also on the bill is a handwritten letter from a young George Harrison to Beatles’ photographer and pal Astrid Kirchher along with a photo she took of him (in the letter Harrison writes about needing to learn a new song quickly); an original affidavit supporting a trademark application registering the name “The Beatles” signed by Brian Epstein; a Chinese restaurant menu from Leeds, England that all four Beatles signed in 1963; also from 1963 a photographic print of the Beatles by Dezo Hoffman taken in London’s Soho Alley accompanied by 1963 signatures from all Fab Four. There’s a Paul McCartney-signed Please Please Me Mono LP vinyl sleeve, a 1962 Parlophone promo photo of the fledgling group during the EMI “Love Me Do” recording session signed by all four Beatles, a 1971 Imagine poster signed by Lennon and more.

The Gregg Oehlke Music Archive brings to Heritage a number of the event’s highlights. The longtime Detroit-area-based radio and music promoter started gathering Beatles memorabilia upon the release of the White Album, and again in earnest in the 1980s. Mentioned above: The Dezo Hoffman photo, the Parlophone promo photo and the signed Imagine poster come from the Oehlke archive as well as Gold Record Sales Awards for “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Penny Lane,” and Rubber Soul. The Oehlke collection also includes a John Lennon-signed “Glass Onion” publishing agreement and a George Harrison-signed, cashed check from 1972 among other unusual treasures.

The reason we all know what London’s most famous road looks like is because it’s been memorialized by the world’s greatest band for one of the best album covers of all time. Abbey Road, the album, is for many an aficionado the true desert-island keeper amongst the Beatles’ albums, and for the album’s cover shot the bandmates took a casual stroll across the road along what England calls a “zebra crossing.” The extraordinary portfolio of seven color photographs by Iain MacMillen comes from that momentous photo shoot, showing the Fab Four at the most storied location of the band’s history — Paul sans shoes — and was assembled as a very limited edition. “While the secondary market shows several single prints from the portfolio, sales of complete sets are virtually unknown — much less unopened in original wrapping,” says Shrum.

The portfolio is signed by the photographer. Shrum continues: “On August 8, 1969, Iain Macmillan, a close friend of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, ascended a ladder in the middle of Abbey Road based on the diagram sketch [facsimile included in folio set] by Paul McCartney and, within ten minutes, took six photographs of the Beatles striding across the zebra crossing. The fifth of his six shots, selected by McCartney, would become the full-bleed front cover for the Beatles’ last-recorded album.”

The event presents a group of five original Beatles album cover and sleeve art designs signed and dated “1968” by American artist Jim Dine. Commissioned to commemorate Capitol Records’ fifth anniversary of its first Beatles album release in the United States (Meet the Beatles! in 1964), these designs were created for a once-planned four-LP compilation set. Dine’s wry and familiar pop-art humor infuses the toothbrush-themed imagery. The auction also boasts a photograph from the Beatles’ first photo session with Ringo Starr at The Cavern Club in August of 1962. Starr had only been an official member for a few days when the image was taken. Another extremely rare offering: A six-foot-long promotional NYC bus poster for John Lennon’s 1974 album Walls and Bridges that reads “Listen To This Bus.” The conceptual ad campaign for the record included stickers that read “Listen To This Sticker,” matchbooks that read “Listen To This Matchbook,” magazine ads that read “Listen To This Ad,” etc. Apple created 72-inch wide ads for city buses. The consigner of this remarkable piece of Lennon’s history tells Heritage: “Back in November of ’74 when a NYC bus stopped for a red light in front of my parent’s apartment building on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn, I ran over to the bus, easily slid the poster out, and have had it ever since. I kept it in a frame for just about all of the 50 years since I acquired it.”

In what is one of the last known gatherings of all four Beatles signatures, Heritage presents in this event an original post-break-up, hand-signed promotional contract. This is to date the last known Beatles record-promotion contract signed by all four members of the band. By 1975 the Beatles were no longer together but they still conducted business on behalf of Apple Corps Limited. This example states that Jackwill SA will handle the promotion of Apple Corps Limited throughout the world excluding England and Eire. The time duration for the contract is eight years for a fee of 40,000 pounds per year beginning January 1st, 1975.

Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: info@themusicuniverse.com