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Rolling Stone, December 1, 2005

Rock History for Sale

Jacaeber Kastor spent thirty-seven years assembling the world's largest collection of psychedelic-rock posters: hundreds of thousands of pieces that, as time passed, he could barely afford to store, catalog and insure. Now, sitting in one of the chaotically decorated rooms that used to house his Psychedelic Solution poster gallery in New York's Greenwich Village, Kastor acknowledges that he made some foolish investments.

"I lost my life savings in the stock market when it tanked in 2000," says the forty-nine-year-old former Berkeley, California, hippie. "But guess what? My posters held fucking solid as a rock. I should have put all my money into posters." Last year, Kastor sold both his dealership and his gargantuan personal collection of posters and Jimi Hendrix memorabilia to Wolfgang's Vault, a burgeoning music-collectibles company. "Thank God rock memorabilia was here to save me," says Kastor, who won't reveal how much he made from the deal. "It's a sign that our field has come of age."

The rock memorabilia market is exploding. It's not longer unusual for the most serious collectors to shell out well over $100,000 for top items - especially instruments, handwritten lyric manuscripts and clothing. "These collectors were rock fans in the Sixties and Seventies, and now they have a lot of money," says John Collins, managing director of U.K. rock auction house Cooper Owen. "They're buying their history."

In Christie's annual rock and pop auction on November 21st, poems handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1960 sold for $78,000, setting a record for a Dylan manuscript. Among other recent high-end sales: John Lennon's scrawled lyrics for "All You Need is Love" fetched $1 million at an auction in July; "Blackie," the Fender Stratocaster that served as Eric Clapton's main stage and studio guitar from 1970 to 1985, was bought by the Guitar Center music-store chain last June for $959,500; and a poster for the Beatles' 1966 Shea Stadium concert sold for $132,000 last December.

That growth has led to an influx of deep-pocketed new collectors - many of them investors looking for somewhere to park their cash besides the shaky stock market. Ed Kosinski, 43, a major collector and private dealer who recently paid $210,000 at a Christie's auction for a leather necklace worn by Lennon, says the newcomers are "looking for alternative investments, and for something that gives them some sort of gratification."

Leading Who collector David Swartz, who lent some of his artifacts to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's recent Tommy exhibit, is just learning to play guitar. But he practices on one of the nine Pete Townshend guitars he owns, playing through one of Townshend's Hiwatt amplifiers. "I have to keep it down, though," says Swartz, 43, a real-estate and stock-market investor whose family controls a major shoe manufacturer. Swartz hasn't started learning drums yet, but he recently paid $210,000 for half of the kit Keith Moon played at Woodstock.

Andy Geller, a forty-five-year-old Los Angeles voice-over artist (you can hear him introducing ABC's Lost each week), was four years old when he saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. He now owns more than $2 million worth of Beatles memorabilia, including a piece of stage wall from the Ed Sullivan Theater signed by all four members. He also has a signed copy of Meet the Beatles! that cost $70,000, as well as the garden-gnome cutouts from the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. "My office is basically a little Beatles museum," he says.

Dealer-collector Jeff Gold, a forty-nine-year-old former executive vice president of Warner Bros. Records, started off in 1970, when he traded his comic-book collection for some Hendrix records. After years of combining a music-industry career with collecting, he now travels the world full-time in search of items with "mojo" - from Kurt Cobain's guitar to John Coltrane's saxophone to Dylan's handwritten lyrics for "Absolutely Sweet Marie."

By Brian Hiatt

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