Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills ended three days of an unprecedented auction this past Saturday selling off property and memorabilia belonging to Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and his wife Barbara Bach. The auction house said the sale, which partially benefited the Lotus Foundation, Ringo and Barbara’s pet charity, netted over an amazing $10 million. The highlights included one item selling for over $1 million by itself and another setting a new record for the price of sale for a recording.
Some of the listings of the over 1,300 lots in the three-day auction read like the contents of a Beatles museum. There were also many items from Ringo’s solo career with his friendly neighborhood All-Starr Band. But the sale also featured lots of other non-musical things, like fine art, designer clothing, household furnishings, statues and a car. As a whole, though, the sale gave an incredible peek into Starr’s life.
Here are just a few highlights of some of the amazing items offered during the auction and the amazing prices they sold for.
Lot #696, Ringo Starr Ludwig drum kit, $2,110,000
By far, the item that got the most buzz before the auction. This drum kit was used by Ringo on over 180 studio recordings, plus on many BBC radio shows and live appearances between 1963 and 1964. In 1969, the kit was purchased by Paul McCartney and used on his debut “McCartney” solo album. It was expected to sell big and it did, going for $1,750,000 at the sound of the auctioneer’s gavel, which grew to $2,110,000 with buyer’s premium. It was by far the largest sale price during the three day event.
The lucky buyer was Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts. “The auctioneer started bidding at ‘Do I have $10 million?’ and I thought, ‘What the f—!’ I thought some billionaire madman might say ‘I have $10 million, what the hell,'” he told Rolling Stone. “It took like five minutes to say ‘Going once, going twice.'”
Lot #778, Rickenbacker guitar given to Ringo Starr by John Lennon, $910,000
Irsay bought one other headline-making item at the auction, this 1964 Rose-Morris Rickenbacker, model 1996, nick-named “The Beatle Backer” owned by John Lennon and later gifted to Ringo Starr. The guitar was originally given to John Lennon by Rose-Morris, the official UK importer of Rickenbacker, when his 1964 Rickenbacker 325 was damaged during a Christmas performance. Lennon gave the guitar to Ringo after he rejoined the Beatles after leaving the group briefly during the White Album sessions. Irsay paid $910,000 for it.
Lot #1005: Ringo’s personal copy of his UK mono “The Beatles (White Album)” No. 0000001, $790,000
One of the surprises in the advance catalog of this three-day auction was the fact though it was known that the Beatles each had their own copies of the album, it wasn’t not generally known that this was owned by Ringo. The album loaded from the top, as all copies of the album did, and included promo stickers on each disc. A copy of a UK mono album numbered #0000005 sold on eBay in 2008 for a mere £19201 ($30,000). That album was said to have been in Lennon’s possession at one time, but the seller of that album, as well as the buyer, remained a mystery. Here, there was no such mystery and the price, accordingly, was huge, reportedly the highest ever for a recording. (An Elvis disc set the previous record, a source at the auction house said.) Interestingly enough, Ringo’s numbered promo of the 30th anniversary White Album compact disc sold soon after in the auction for $15,000.
Lot #1229 George Harrison Gretsch Tennessean guitar, $279,200
This beautiful guitar, a 1962 Chet Atkins Tennessean model, was given to Ringo Starr after his participation in “The Concert For George” that honored Harrison a year after his death. The guitar included a card inscribed to him from Harrison’s son Dhani and widow Olivia Harrison.
Lot #167, Phillipe Patek watch, $179,200
One of only two items on this list not from the “Property from the Career of Ringo Starr” catalog, but from the second catalog in the auction, “The Property from the Collection of Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach.” These were mainly personal items owned by the couple, not Beatles memorabilia as the other catalog was. The watch is an 18k yellow gold “Moonphase” automatic wristwatch by Patek Philippe with a circular white dial and a perpetual calendar in an 18k yellow gold smooth polished case. Estimated to go for $80,000 to $100,000, the sale price was nearly double the high estimated value.
Lot #712, John Lennon caravan panel and photo, $125,000
This was the back panel of Lennon’s famous psychedelic painted caravan with the “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” drum logo. Originally purchased by Lennon in 1967 as a gift for son Julian Lennon’s fourth birthday, the logo was painted by The Fool, the Danish friends of the band who also, among other things, painted the design on the Apple boutique in London. Starr had the caravan restored in 1983.
Lot #719, drums used in “Hello, Goodbye” video, $115,200
This was Ringo’s custom Ludwig silver sparkle drum kit used in the 1967 “Hello, Goodbye” video. The drums were built in October 1967 especially for use in the video and sent to London for the Paul McCartney-directed video shoot on Nov. 10, 1967 that took place at the Saville Theatre in London. The drums were marked with both the names of Ringo and his son Zack.
Lots #641, #642, two of Ringo’s pinky rings, $106,250 and $100,000, respectively
Two of Ringo’s trademark rings. The first dated back as early as 1961 and was used during filming for “A Hard Day’s Night,” while the second went back as early as 1960 when he was with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. But both of them were used, according to the auction house, at every show he played with the Beatles. These were two symbols of Beatlemania if there ever were any and it seemed especially sad to us to see these go.
Lot #630 Mercedes Benz owned by George Harrison, then Ringo Starr, $70,400
The last item listed in the Ringo-Barbara auction catalog. In the list of the incredibly high prices realized by the sale of many of the items during the three-day event, maybe it’s a little strange that despite being owned by two of the Beatles, this Mercedes-Benz sold only for only $70,400. It was bought new by Harrison, then purchased by Ringo after Harrison’s death from his estate. And the title had both of their names on it. You might have expected the price to go higher. $70,000 seems like a bit of a bargain, assuming you could afford it, of course.