Unique collection of No 1 singles to be sold

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Stephen Hitchcock was only 12 when he took over the family record collection started by his grandfather and handed down to him by his own father.

He set about expanding it with zeal, and 23 years later the 35-year-old IT consultant from Brighton has amassed what is being billed as the ultimate collection.

Containing every UK number one single in every format, from Al Martino's first chart-topper in 1952 to the incumbent, Lily Allen, his efforts have created a unique anthology not only of popular music's changing fashions, art trends and marketing gimmicks but of the relentless advance of technology. This month all 2,139 pieces will be put up for sale, with an asking price in excess of £25,000.

From rare 1950s seven-inches cut by crooners like Perry Como to sought-after Elvis Presley 78s, the collection is brought up to date through the vinyl, CD, DVD and internet ages. Download number ones, such as Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" are stored on a 2-megabyte iPod Nano.

There are all 19 Beatles number ones, eight by the Rolling Stones, plus the horror show of novelty and charity records that have laid siege to the charts with unerring regularity over the past five decades. Nothing is left out, no matter how twee. St Winifred's School Choir and the Teletubbies are there alongside Jimi Hendrix and Oasis.

Keeping up to date became something of an obsession for Mr Hitchcock. It took nearly a decade to fill in all the gaps in his inherited collection.

Some were easier to come by than others, while there was also the headache of coping with the ever-expanding range of new formats pumped out by the record companies.

There was the rare naked picture cover from Jane Birkin's "Je T'aime", John Lennon's cassette single of "Woman", as well as all seven formats of Madonna's "Music" number one, including two different picture sleeves, the picture disk and the DVD. It came as a relief when the number of formats was limited in 1995 to four per single.

John Collins, of auctioneers Cooper Owen, described the collection, which will be sold at Abbey Road Studios on 28 July, as a "music lover's dream".

"I've never seen anything as extensive as this with so many rare pieces. When I saw it, I was just blown away," he said. Mr Hitchcock hopes the collection will stay together. "I started buying first-edition number ones every week and then, over the next 10 years, updated the collection. I would love whoever buys it to continue the collection, or even better I would love it to go into a museum," he said.