Confession of a Rolling Stones Memorabilia Collector

by Kariem Hamed, 02/04/2009

I never really was deeply ‘into’ the Stones until my first concert on May 26th, 1995 in the Paradiso Club in Amsterdam. (Coincidentally, 9 years later, I bought an apartment almost opposite to the venue). I was a 19-year old freshman at university and played guitar every Friday night with a group of friends. We thought about buying tickets for a new Stones tour that had been announced, but in those days, you had to sleep in front of the ticket office to be able to buy a ticket. We didn’t and so….no tickets.

A week or so later, it was rumored that there would be a club show in Paradiso, and tickets would cost 25 guilders (10 Euros) and would go on sale on the morning of the concert, 26th May 1995. I happened to be on a tram heading to my class when I noticed a group of Stones fans – recognizable by their tongue shirts and jackets. I got off the tram and followed some of them into a club called the Melkweg. And as luck would have it, at 9AM it was announced the tickets were going on sale at the Melkweg. Within 15 minutes, I had a wristband for the show that night! As I walked out, I was briefly tempted to sell it for the 5.000 guilders that were being offered by the not-so-lucky-but-pretty-wealthy ones outside. But I didn’t do it.

So, a few hours later, I was witnessing my first Stones show. Mesmerizing! What a sound, what energy! I even caught one of the picks the guitar players were throwing into the audience after each song –Ronnie threw the one I caught. Having realized during the show that I didn’t know half the songs, I went to the nearest record shop the next morning and bought almost the entire back catalog on CD. That was basically the start of my collection. First I started with the music, buying CD’s and singles. Then I wanted to know more background, so I started to buy books about them. Then I visited my first record fair….
The first attempt at serious collecting was in 1998, when I went to the concert in Paris during the Bridges to Babylon tour, and I saw very nice posters advertising that concert. I contacted a few people I knew to find out where to get one, and everyone mentioned the same name: Matt Lee. So I contacted him and at our first meeting he had a few posters and promo CDs with him. After that, I developed an appetite for promotional materials such as posters, press kits, promo CD’s etc.
The following winter, I moved to New York for university. Luckily there were some nice record shops in Greenwich Village, and that provided me with new collectibles. Another bit of luck was that the Stones were touring North America with their No Security Tour. During the tour (I went to 5 shows) I met some great fans and collectors. US collectors take collecting to the next level!

Since the Licks and Bigger Bang Tours (2002/3 and 2005/7 respectively) I have further expanded my collection. As such, most of the items I have are quite recent relative to the Stones history. However, key items are never to be missed, so I’ve expanded to the earlier years. My oldest single concert poster is from 1964. My collection includes the full set of Monthly books, backstage passes from the legendary 1969 tour, almost every press kit since 1972, Andy Warhol related memorabilia from the Love You Live album (1977), lots and lots of photography, many signed items (most of them personally signed to me), Ronnie Wood art, and a collection of single concert date guitar picks. Time is always an issue, so I haven’t kept a current database of all the items. Therefore I know that I have many double items, but that’s ok - it provides opportunities for trades.
A few tips for starting collectors. Always go for the real deal, never buy replicas or fakes. Sometimes you think you are buying a genuine item, but if there’s any doubt, have someone with more knowledge check it out. This will save you a lot of money. Another lesson, condition matters - tatty records that skip, with sleeves with dog-ears may be nice to have, but they don’t have collectible value. Unless the item is extremely rare (defined as you’ll find it only once very five years), stay away from bad condition items. The value lies in condition, as well as provenance. If you buy old or signed items, provenance is critical. A COA does not mean anything if it is not issued by an independent authority. If a seller offers something with his own COA, beware! Finally, realize that some items may have emotional value to you but are worthless to others; and vice versa. This is why trading is such a nice method of increasing your collection at relatively low cost. Take it from a pro; I’ve gone through this entire learning curve.
So as you can see, I never planned to be a huge fan, collector or have a big collection, it just worked out that way. I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t gotten off the tram back on 26 May 1995 to try to get that ticket, you wouldn’t be reading my story at this moment.

K4E Note: Exhibition ended April 2009.

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