Unrealistic Prices being asked for Elvis Memorabilia
a regular basis EIN examines a new release or issue in the Elvis
world. In this edition we shine our spotlight on: Fans Beware -
Unrealistic Prices Being Asked for Elvis Items!
past decade has seen an increasing number of fans trying to
sell their Elvis collections. They are doing this for a variety
of reasons although one seems to predominate: as many fans
get older they are asking the question - what will my family
do with my collection when I pass away?
the late 1980s EIN received around one enquiry every three
months about how to sell an Elvis collection or parts of a
we receive more than one a week! In the late 1980s there were buyers
– today there it is very difficult to find a buyer particularly
if the collection does not include rare items. Most buyers tend
to be established collectors and they prefer to ‘cherry pick’ particular
items rather than buy an entire collection.
the free market will generally establish buying and selling prices,
EIN is concerned that some fans are paying significantly more for
items than they should. This occurs due to ignorance about an items
real worth and the lure that “this item is a very rare, limited
edition, collector’s item”.
fans are unaware of how much their collection is worth and what
are the best ways to sell it. The really worrying aspect is that
some fans have very unrealistic expectations about the value of
their collection (either in part or as a whole). Many believe that
because a release was marketed as a ‘limited edition, collector’s
item’ it is necessarily valuable. In most cases this is not true.
A good example is Elvis collector’s plates. These porcelain plates
are ‘limited editions’ based on the number of firing days for each
plate. Unfortunately two things work against their value rising
you don’t know how many kilns were used to manufacture them during
the ‘firing days’ period (it could have been 1 or 100); and
there now around 150 (and growing) different Elvis collectors plates
that have been released, meaning few are going to rise in value
due to the high numbers available. In fact many of the plates are
still available from the distributor at the base retail price, ie.
they haven’t ‘sold out’.
Australian fan club president has had to reduce the asking price
of her plate collection to half its original purchase price in order
to attract buyers!
is generally regarded as the original Elvis collector’s plate, ‘Elvis
at the Graceland Gates’, has doubled in value since its release
in the late 1980s but it is the exception rather than the rule.
even worse situation exists with Elvis vinyl and CDs. Since 1954
there have been probably at least 5,000 different Elvis vinyl and
CD releases worldwide. With so many released not surprisingly high
supply acts to dampen price. So unless you have an original Sun
single, original 1950s release or ultra rare 60s release in very
good condition it is unlikely you will receive much for your record
is a reality that Elvis was the first mass merchandised star and
marketers continue to flood the market with Elvis product - in 1956
more than 100 lipsticks, lunch boxes, scarves, trinkets, badges
etc were sold, today DVD box-sets, half a dozen new Elvis CDs (not
to mention many more released overseas), re-releases of his videos,
a dozen collectors plates, 20 new book titles, a dozen calendars
etc, are issued in the USA each and every year! And remember when
Elvis was alive, the days of three new Elvis albums and four or
five singles each year? We loved it at the time but the downside
is so much product means reduced values!!
marketers behind other major acts like The Beatles, Michael
Jackson and David Bowie got it right. Sure at the height of
each act’s fame there were numerous trinkets etc to be bought,
but on an ongoing basis product relating to each act has been
rationalised. How many albums do The Beatles, Bowie or Michael
Jackson release each year? One if you are lucky.
situation with Elvis has always been very different. If you look
at ‘celebrity’ auctions, recorded material by The Beatles and Jimi
Hendrix regularly fetches much higher prices than Elvis material
(Sun singles being the exception). RCA recently acknowledged that
they had got it wrong over the past decade by re-packaging numerous
greatest hits packages and simply releasing too many Elvis CDs.
The result: annual unit sales have dropped significantly.
future we can expect to see a more restricted and controlled CD
release schedule from RCA. There has also been a proliferation of
promo or sampler CDs in recent years. While the guide price for
these is significant few sales occur at that price, rather many
are ‘traded’ by established collectors wanting to obtain other rare
of the services offered by EIN is valuing Elvis collections. We
base our estimates on the plethora of price guides available and
recent sales through Elvis dealers. Fans are often very disappointed
when they see our market valuations. Some steadfastly believe their
collection or particular items are worth considerably more.
EIN observed fans wanting to sell items for far in excess of their
real worth. One example is a signed copy of the Ed Parker book,
Inside Elvis. The fan didn’t like our valuation of $40.00 believing
that they can obtain around $100.00. It is a fact that Ed Parker
personally signed many copies of his book but unfortunately his
autograph doesn’t raise the value by much. While you might find
someone willing to pay a high price the reality is that 90% of sales
occur either at or less than price guide values.
there are more than 1,500 books that have been published about Elvis.
Very few of these are valuable. Another example is a fan trying
to sell the Australian box-set, in cassette form, of Elvis The Legend
1954-1961 Volume 1 plus a bonus cassette featuring coverage of the
Vancouver Canada Press Conference and other interviews such as Witchita
Falls, the TV Guide interview and Elvis Sails. The asking price:
fan suggests “that to the best of my knowledge no further volumes
were published”, when in fact it was part of a four volume series.
The price guide value for a mint condition ‘vinyl’ set of Elvis
The Legend 1954-1961 is A$65.00. Cassette versions usually sell
for less than vinyl releases.
material on the additional cassette is reasonably accessible in
CD format for around A$30.00, although you would have to buy two
CDs to obtain all material on the cassette.
the 25th anniversary commemoration when media and public interest
in Elvis was at very high level one fan advertised his entire Elvis
collection (nearly 200 items) in the newspaper for A$4,000.00. He
received no offers.
popular way of selling Elvis items is on one of the online auction
sites like ebay.com or amazon.com. However, while this exposes
your item(s) to a large, global audience there are literally
thousands of Elvis items for sale and if you analyse activity
on the sites only a minority of items receive even one bid.
EIN recommends that when in doubt, before buying Elvis items fans
should consult a price guide or their local fan club for pricing
information. Shop around and critically analyse claims that items
are rare limited editions. Remember an item may be rare but it doesn’t
automatically follow that the price is therefore high.
edition of Spotlight on The King was prepared by Nigel Patterson,
President, Elvis Information Network, © 2002
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