Beatles memorabilia fetch record prices

Morethan pounds 800,000 was raised by the first international auction of Beatles memorabilia yesterday as Japanese bidders pushed prices for mementoes of the Fab Four to new heights.

Clothes, instruments, paperwork, signs and properties associated with John, Paul, George and Ringo all attracted keen interest at the sale, held simultaneously at the Tokyo Auction House and Bonhams' saleroom in London's Knightsbridge.

There were some notable failures - the barber shop featured in the song "Penny Lane" failed to sell, and Sir Paul McCartney's first draft of the song's lyrics was withdrawn after he obtained an injunction, claiming the present owner was not allowed to sell it. John Lennon's Mercedes- Benz limousine and a Steinway piano he used to compose the song "Imagine" also remained unsold.

But the original McCartney birth certificate went for pounds 45,000, more than five times its expected price, while a guitar that Bonhams had claimed was custom-made for Sir Paul - but later accepted had not been played by him - was sold to a Tokyo bidder for more than pounds 126,000.

The terrace house at 9 Madryn Street in Liverpool's Dingle district where drummer Ringo Starr was born on 7 July, 1940, was sold for pounds 13,250.

Julian Lennon failed to buy his father's 1963 stage suit after fierce bidding from Tokyo. His business manager, John Cousins, was at the auction but did not match the near-pounds 22,000 final bid. The estimated price for the fawn-coloured suit lined with gold satin had been up to pounds 5,000.

But Mr Cousins did buy John Lennon's black velvet cape for more than pounds 17,000, to applause at the Knightsbridge saleroom. He said it would now be loaned to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland, Ohio.

Mr Cousins said: "The price is reflecting the Beatles legacy, especially in Japan. I am surprised by the way that prices have gone much higher than the guide price."

He said he was not disappointed over failing to buy back the suit for John's 34-year-old son. "It's perfectly reasonable to sell if they want to. They are entitled to sell and we are going to have to pay the market price if we want to buy it," Mr Cousins added.

The sale raised a total of pounds 817,656.

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