Cool cat burglars They've got Sixties and Seventies kitsch in the bag.

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The Independent Online
What are the Sixties collectables that no style-conscious burglar dare be without? After all, it's no longer just the family silver that goes into the swag bag, according to Detective Sergeant Dick Ellis, head of Scotland Yard's art and antiques unit. Sixties and Seventies gear, once considered junk, has become highly desirable.

Such as Sixties lava lamps? Great style icon - but slim pickings. Even a genuine period model is a mere pounds 65-pounds 75 at Alfie's Antique Market in Church Street, North London. Better to pay pounds 49.95 for a brand new, best- selling Astro; no need to keep that in the safe. The lava lamp factory in Poole, Dorset, has upped production from 1,500 to 400,000 a year since being taken over in 1990. The Lunar, biggest and naffest at pounds 295, would be highly nickable but for the fact that it is 2ft 6in tall.

What about a rare gramophone record? An early copy of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper left lying on the radiogram? Think again. Rare, it's not. With 12 million sold since 1967, it's Britain's best-selling album. Dealers sell mint-condition pre-1969 mono copies - complete with cardboard pop- ups and must-have yellow lettering on the label - for pounds 40.

No doubt about it, the burglar's apprentice needs to do some swotting up to understand postwar kit. Record Collector magazine's annual Rare Record Price Guide (1997-8 edition due out next month, pounds 19.95) will tell him that The Who's first record, My Generation, of 1965, is twice as valuable as Sergeant Pepper: pounds 80 mint.

The highest auction prices for Sixties gear are for pop memorabilia. Sotheby's sold Paul McCartney's manuscript for Getting Better for pounds 161,000 two years ago. His handwriting is recognised instantly by auctioneers. But the problem with most other once-the-property-of memorabilia is provenance. Did a pair of NHS-style sunglasses at Sotheby's last year really belong to John Lennon? They fetched pounds 2,250 anyway.

Even old-fashioned semi-literate jemmy men can strike rich if the tellies and record players they regularly half-inch turn out to be Sixties style icons - such as the German Braun CK61 Radiogram of 1962, nicknamed "Snow White's coffin". Though nearly 30 years old, it is worth pounds 150-pounds 200.

Such classic design and classic art are the collectables to go for. Buy, that is. Look for big, bright, confident Italian furniture by Joe Colombo, Ettore Sottsass and Gaetano Pesce. Never mind if, in the beam of a torch, Italian Vistosi and Venini glass looks like Fifties tat; it is Sixties high kitsch with a high auction value.

Demand for Sixties visual art and design is doubly strong because two age groups, a generation apart, are hooked on it. One is middle-aged nostalgics, the original Sixties swingers - who, at the time, got off mainly on the sound track. The other are the young aficionados of Swinging Britain Mk II, which is led more by the visual arts - computer-generated rave art, for instance. For them, the Sixties "look" is an exciting discovery.

Where can you buy Sixties gear? "Modern design" auctions are held at Bonhams (0171-393 3900), Christie's South Kensington (0171-581 7611) and Sotheby's (0171-493 8080). Antique hypermarkets such as Alfie's (0171- 723 6066) have specialists. For fun Sixties reproductions: the stables at Camden market, Saturdays and Sundays, where Senga Direct sells furry pussy hats as worn by the Sixties stripper Betty Page, pounds 19 (0171-267 6207)n

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