Customs still has gold discs seized from the Beatles

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Gold discs presented to the Beatles to celebrate the millionth sale of A Hard Day's Night were seized by Customs officials 36 years ago and still remain the property of Customs and Excise, documents released yesterday disclosed.

Gold discs presented to the Beatles to celebrate the millionth sale of A Hard Day's Night were seized by Customs officials 36 years ago and still remain the property of Customs and Excise, documents released yesterday disclosed.

The officials despaired of the discs making money in a sale of goods as they thought the Beatles were "on the way out". That conclusion was reached after some instant market research by a Customs officer among his teenage neighbours. Another official then suggested solving the problem by simply destroying the discs.

Files from the Public Record Office show that the 10 discs, presented to the band by Capitol, were confiscated at the Royal Victoria docks in London on 6 December, 1964, having arrived by boat from America.

Customs and Excise officials said one case contained "10 presentation plaques, five LP facsimiles and five EPs. They appeared to be of base metal, gold in colour, roughly finished on the reverse side. They are framed by light wood."

Correspondence between Customs departments explaining the seizure said: "Articles may be imported duty free when they have been awarded abroad to any person for distinction in art, literature, science or sport, or for public service, or otherwise as a record of meritorious achievement or conduct."

The correspondence continued: "Post And Privilege section confirmed verbally that the gold discs concerned herein quite definitely do not come under any of the categories and may not therefore be imported duty free as awards."

On 10 March 1967, a Customs officer, B Lampert, wrote to a manager, saying: "If it is considered that sale of these plaques will not embarrass the department, then sale would have to be of a specific nature with advertisements in the 'music papers'. I have no idea of the price we could expect to realise but I understand the Beatles are on their 'way out' (result of quick market research on teenage neighbours!)."

His manager wrote in response: "If we are to realise anything on these golden discs it means immediate action - when the Beatles craze is ended, the disc will be valueless."

In 1968, four years after being seized, the discs were handed to the Customs and Excise departmental library. In 1994, they were given to the HM Customs and Excise National Museum in Liverpool.

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