Never mind the profits

Chris Carter looks at how punk has been welcomed into the mainstream, and what that means for collectors.


Real punks don't collect
(Image credit: © Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

This summer, upmarket American department store chain Barneys New York started selling a "black brushed Japanese cotton-cashmere jersey" with decorative elongated zippers along the sides for $265. It wasn't the price tag that had people jumping up and down, says Nathan Hodge in The Wall Street Journal. It was what was printed on it: the four vertical black bars of iconic American hardcore punk band Black Flag. "It was enough to make retired slam-dancers spit out their coffee."

"Real punks don't shop," punk photographer Glen Friedman told The Wall Street Journal. "They are not consumers." But like it or not, punk has become the thing it feared the most acceptable. Indeed, given that the movement's most ardent supporters are now in their 50s and 60s, it's become more about nostalgia than a way of rebelling. It's 40 years since the Sex Pistols launched their debut single, Anarchy in the UK, which, for many, heralded the birth of British punk cue Punk.London, a year-long celebration, which has been running in the capital throughout 2016.

That means there's serious money in the market for punk memorabilia, which is popular with British, American and Japanese collectors. A complete run of the British punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue is worth up to $40,000 in tip-top condition, New York-based dealer Andrew Roth tells Helen Barrett in the FT. Autographed "working" lyrics by the Sex Pistols (written on scraps of paper) are among the most sought-after relics, worth tens of thousands of pounds, adds Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby's books and manuscripts expert.

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Any original artwork by Pistols' graphic designer Jamie Reid, and "Seditionist" clothing, such as that by punk fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, will also fetch a high price. Just watch out for fakes. Artist Damien Hirst was caught out in 2008 after shelling out £80,000 on attire that Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren later told him was fake.

Joe Corr, the co-founder of luxury lingerie line Agent Provocateur, who is the son of Westwood and McLaren, isn't impressed. He's vowed to burn his entire £5m collection of punk memorabilia records and all next Saturday in Camden, north London, in protest "at the establishment-sanctioned nature of Punk London", as music magazine NME puts it. Yet Corr could end up regretting his sacrifice on the high alter of punk, seeing, as Barrett notes, that this may well "push up prices for other collections". Good news for collectors, then.

Lost and found

One anonymous book buyer now believes he stumbled on a lost Bront when he bought a mysterious yellowed scrapbook from a bookbinder in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, for £20 in the 1980s not too far from where the sisters lived in a parsonage. Auctioneers Sotheby's showed no interest in the item at the time he bought it, so the album of poetry, prints and watercolours lay forgotten in a drawer.

But years later, the owner noticed "C Bell her book" had been faintly scrawled between two pages that were stuck together. Currer Bell was the penname of Charlotte Bront, and as if to underline the point, "C Bront" can just be made out underneath when held up to the light. If the volume was authenticated, it could be worth £100,000, but the ink cannot be dated without prising the pages apart.

Stephen Hibberts, an antiques collector originally from Stoke-on-Trent, is hoping a sorry-looking painting of Jesus, entitled Noli Me Tangere (Do Not Touch Me), which he picked up at a fair in France, turns out to be a lost Raphael worth millions. Experts originally told Hibberts he had bought a Victorian fake, but recent pigment and chemical analysis has dated the painting to the Renaissance period, which is beginning to win over his doubters.

The key to authenticating the work is what looks like a signature in the corner of the painting, which Hibberts plans to have restored. "To me it has been a bit like The Da Vinci Code," he says. "Every time I look at the painting, I discover something new I have not noticed before."



(Image credit: Copyright Julien's Auctions Inc.)


A dainty 1930s cocktail watch, adorned with 71 round diamonds, that once hung from the wrist of Marilyn Monroe, went up for auction this week, with a guide price of between $80,000 and $100,000 although Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles says the Blancpain timepiece, which is likely to be unique, could fetch much more.



The world's most expensive watch was auctioned off last weekend at auctioneers Phillips in Geneva. The item, a rare Patek Philippe stainless steel perpetual calendar chronograph from 1943, with model number 1518, fetched $11m. That smashed not only its $3m estimate, but also the $7.3m record for a Patek Philippe, which was set by the one-of-a-kind model 5016A in a charity auction in Geneva last November.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.