150 Bucks Became $7,000, Thanks To John Lennon

Years ago, through an autograph dealer in New York, I bought a little rolodex-style Barclays bank card for $150, a card that had once been issued to John Lennon. This little card stated that anything under $200 in Lennon’s account could be withdrawn by his two lawyers without permission, but over $200 must be authorized by Lennon.

The card was signed by Lennon and the two lawyers.

I held onto this card for quite some time, but decided at some point to see what someone might pay for it, so I put an ad in an Ottawa paper, wondering what kind of offers might come up. Soon after, the phone rang.

It was a fellow in Ottawa who said he knew what the card was, he was a big Beatles collector, and said he once played in David Peel’s band in New York, a band Lennon had jammed with and had produced Peel’s “The Pope Smokes Dope” album. He asked me if I would be willing to come to his place and have a look at what he had, and maybe make a trade. So I went.

The guy’s apartment was jammed with Beatles memorabilia, worth a large fortune for sure, and I could tell he really wanted my card. But if I was going to make a trade, it had better be good what he was offering. And it was.

He showed me about half a dozen sheets of Lennon’s hand-written lyrics of songs from the “Sometime in New York City” album, and suggested that if I wanted, I could choose one if would part with the card. Oh yes, I thought. I’ll definitely do this.

I chose the song “New York City,” written by Lennon in pencil, with his little caricatures of himself and Yoko drawn on the sheet along with the lyrics. I was more than happy to make this trade.

It  wasn’t long after that when my wife and I, just making ends meet, thought our dingy old basement would look fabulous if it was gutted and renovated. Our house was small, we had two young kids, and living space in the basement would double the size of the house. It was a lovely thought to have such an addition, so I made the decision. I’d sell the Lennon lyrics.

I sent a copy of it to Sotheby’s in New York, and they asked if they could see the real thing to assess it properly, so I sent it down by courier. Soon after they wrote back and said yes, it’s authentic, and they put a possible selling price of $2500. I knew that in the near future Sotheby’s would be holding a Lennon auction, the timing was right, and the basement needed serious work, so I told them to go ahead and sell it.

It sold for $7000.

I know what you’re going to say. Imagine if I sold it today, it would go for much, much more. But $7000 was a big score for us back then, and we were happy. And the basement ended up looking like a million bucks, with new furniture, a new televison, and lots of shelving to hold my hockey and Beatles collections.

Eventually we sold this house, got a fine price for it, probably because of the new basement, and moved to Calgary. And the extra money we got from the sale allowed us to buy a beautiful place in Cowtown, which I was able to enjoy for a solid three years before my wife left me.

6 thoughts on “150 Bucks Became $7,000, Thanks To John Lennon”

  1. Neat story. You have done alright with your collectible/investments. That would explain your jet setting, world travels life style. Are Rolling Stone pieces generally as valuable as Beatles? It is acknowledged The Beatles busted in the door and everyone else came through after but one could argue the Stones were every bit as popular. I guess it helps drive up the price if half the band is dead and you’re not doing a 50th anniversary tour.

  2. Hobo, most Stones’ things have never reached Beatles proportions. Stones autographs and such don’t come within a country mile of Beatles stuff. The Beatles are more on a level with Marilyn Monroe and a small handful of others when it comes to all this. It prices continue to rise. Even when all four were alive their autographs were skyrocketing. Maybe ten times the Stones value, even with Brian Jones. Did you see the Sandy Relief Concert the other night? Six hours of bliss. The Stones played, as did McCartney, Clapton, Springsteen, the Who, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Rogers Waters, the remaining members of Nirvana, and more. It really put a smile on my face.
    And back to Beatles collecting – if eBay had been around when I was collecting, it would have made things a lot easier, and I would have had so much more. I actually sold much of my Beatles stuff before I went to Russia in 1999. I needed to go, so the stuff came in handy for me and I don’t regret it.

  3. Having attended a party in that basement rec room I can attest that was one of the finest displays of memorabilia that I have ever seen in my life. I knew Dennis as a co- worker and had no idea of what treasures that basement held.
    He told me the story of how he had raised the funds to build that shrine and I spent the evening in awe and wandered around the room fascinated at what lay before me. And Dennis had a story to tell for all of it.
    Dennis moved away a few years later and I couldn’t believe it. Short of taking that house on a flatback truck west…I never would have left it.

  4. Such a great story Dennis. The best gift in life is to have stories to tell and share, everytime I travel somewhere, meet someone, take a photo, or purchase something I think of the story I will have to tell on the canvas.

  5. Dennis, I think the Beatles could write half a dozen songs about your life alone. They just have to visit you website for material. Sad songs, upbeat songs, funny songs and of course Habs songs.

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