Fashion: Is it worth it? Return to sender

Fancy making a few bob? Write to someone you think will be the next Elvis, wait for a reply, then flog it

What price a personal note from Elvis? Well, pounds 3,700 actually. That's the estimated value of a birthday note penned by The King in 1960 to a young Karen Golz in Oberhausen, Germany.

The handwritten letter in blue ink was sent to his young fan in reply to an earnest promise of marriage from the 11-year-old. Sadly, Elvis never delivered the note, off-loading the task instead to his landlady. She forgot to post it, and the letter remained undiscovered until she died and her dutiful heirs recently posted the letter with a new stamp.

Given that the missive works out at about pounds 200 per word, they are no doubt ruminating on their decision. However, little Golz (or rather big, now that she's all grown-up) must be delighted. Although the sentiment may be a little late, she has reason to feel proud. After all, it's not every day that you write a hormonally prostrate love letter to a pop demigod, ask him to marry you, and end up getting pounds 3,700 for your trouble.

Giles Moon, rock rpecialist at Sotheby's, is not surprised by the price tag on Golz's letter, which is far from overpriced. "The Elvis market has been extremely popular since it began in the early Eighties - from very early material from before he was famous, through his Vegas days, right up until his death," he says. "Some collectors even specialise in memorabilia from one particular Elvis era." Frank Skinner memorably bought an Elvis shirt for around pounds 20,000, only to discover finally, after trekking all around America, that it was a fake.

Manuscript material is apparently very much sought- after at the moment, lyrics being the most desirable, fetching top prices of pounds 15,000, while letters to his girlfriends back in America in the early- Sixties, when he was stationed as a soldier in Germany, he considers, can fetch between pounds 4,000 and pounds 6,000. If only Karen's feelings for Elvis had been reciprocated, she'd be sitting on a goldmine. "The `girlfriend' letters are more personal," says Moon, "which is why the price sounds high." Hard luck, Karen.

Mr Presley's birthday wishes certainly can't claim the same sort of historical importance as can, say, the guitar he recorded his first hit on. Given this, perhaps only the serious anorak-wearing collector, desperate for even the humblest Presley pickings, should shell out. Alternatively, Kate Moss, with her dream of a one 2 one with Elvis, might want to get all shook up by buying the birthday greeting. But only if it's for the right reasons, warns our Sotheby's expert. "At the end of the day I always advise people to buy not for profit," he says, "but for the pleasure."

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