Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts’s prized book and music collection ensnared for thousands

Jacob Stolworthy
Friday 29 September 2023 18:21 BST

After decades of being under Charlie Watts’s thumb, prized works belonging to the late Rolling Stones drummer have now been placed under the hammer at a London auction.

Satisfaction abounded as bidders landed rare first edition copies of books by Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse on day two of the sales event, named “Charlie Watts: Gentleman, Collector, Rolling Stone – Literature and Jazz”, which started up at famed auction house Christie’s on Thursday (28 September).

One of day two’s biggest sales, which occurred virtually on Friday (29 September), was the late drummer’s edition of Wodehouse’s 1919 novel A Damsel in Distress , which was ensnared for £21,420, while his Victorian full-size replica of the Bayeux Tapestry, was sold for £20,160.

Meanwhile, a group of twelve presentation copies of novels by Christie, inscribed with notes and dedications, rolled up interest worth £18,900.

Friday’s sales were dwarfed by the previous day’s bids, on which the gavel could be heard knocking on in-demand copies of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. The latter, described as “the cornerstone” of Watts’s prized collection, drummed up the highest bid, fetching for £226,800.

F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, described as “the cornerstone” of Watts’s prized collection, drummed up the highest bid fetching for £226,800

While being a member of one of the the world’s best-selling bands during his lifetime, Watts, more than two years after his death in August 2021, is now responsibile for two world records: works from his esteemed collection – first edition copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles and Christie’s The Thirteen Problems – sold for more than any other printed book by the classic authors in auction history.

The drummer’s copy of The Hound Of The Baskervilles sold for £214,200, surpassing the previous record $201,600 (£165,279) for The Sign of Four, which was sold in 2022. The edition was inscribed by a personal message on the title page from Conan Doyle himself, who wrote: “I perambulated Dartmoor before I wrote this book.” Watts lived 10 miles from the location of the book’s Devonshire setting.

Charlie Watts’s Victorian full-size replica of the Bayeux Tapestry sold for £20,160

Twenty-five Christie novels were also placed under the hammer, with an “exceptionally rare” edition of the author’s 1932 mystery collection The Thirteen Problems selling for £60,480. This sale set a new world auction record for a Christie book, with the previous high being £47,880 for The ABC Murders in 2021.

The Thirteen Problems is notable for featuring the first appearance of Christie’s famous sleuth, Miss Marple, in the section titled “The Tuesday Night Club”.

Ahead of the sale, Watts’s bandmates, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, told the auction house: “Charlie was the heartbeat of the Rolling Stones for nearly 60 years. He was totally unique and devoted to jazz and literature from boyhood. He was the quintessential English gentleman and his absence is a great loss for us all. We miss him hugely.”

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