Elvis Presley may have left the building 45 years ago, but auction houses are still feeling the heat.
In June of this year, Baz Luhrmann’s musical biopic “Elvis” won its box office dance-off with “Top Gun: Maverick,” ultimately grossing $31.1 million in its opening weekend. The film, starring Austin Butler as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, opened beyond expectation and resurrected one of the most iconic figures in American music.
Stephen M. Shutts, Founder of Rockology auctions in Nashville, Tennessee, told Fox Business that demand for anything Presley-related skyrocketed after the film’s release — but the interest from seasoned collectors has always been there.
“Historically, it’s increased every year,” he explained. “I know when I talk to other collectors and historians like me, we think, ‘Will this diminish the 30th anniversary?’ It didn’t. “Will it go down on 35? And it doesn’t. So every birthday, we’re surprised. Before this movie, last year, we were talking of “Is anyone going to be there for the 50th? And today I would say the 50th is going to be even bigger than the 45th. I don’t see it going down in my lifetime at this point. I think that with the new generations…interest is going to continue to accelerate. And so, I think those who have disposable income to acquire and buy…will see it as an investment.”
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“If they maybe don’t have the money to raise, I think they’re going to spend their money going to Graceland, going to Sun Records, going to Tupelo to see his birthplace,” Shutts continued. . “I know there are a lot of overseas buyers now traveling since COVID [restrictions] survey. And everyone I’ve spoken to, from the travel side to the collections side, has seen a real increase in their sales and business, which is a good thing. It keeps the Elvis name there, but it’s also good for people like me [who] are really immersed in the business side of Elvis.”
Presley died on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42. At the time of his death, Presley’s net worth was $5 million, which was far below what he had earned in the previous three decades. During his lifetime, Presley spent several million dollars to acquire and maintain Graceland. While Presley left his money to his only child Lisa Marie Presley, his ex-wife Priscilla Presley and family accountant Joseph Hanks oversaw Presley’s estate after his father, Vernon Presley, the executor of estate, died two years later at age 63.
Presley’s estate only brought in around $1 million in 1979. Today, Presley’s net worth is $20 million. In 2021, Forbes reported that Presley ranked No. 7 in their list of highest-paid deceased celebrities with $30 million from recovering his estate and securing new partnerships.
Rockology is currently hosting an auction, which ends August 17, featuring dozens of items from iconic artists, including Presley. Notable items include a scarf worn on stage at his last concert in June 1977, a gold rotary telephone used by Presley at Graceland in the 1960s, and a diamond-encrusted ring and matching bracelet by Ginger Alden, who was engaged to Presley. in 1977.
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Shutts, who has been discovering genuine memorabilia for 35 years, said his pieces “will definitely meet our estimates.”
“It really is an investment,” he said. “If you look at it from a business perspective, the value continues to increase, especially when it comes to stage wear and jewelry. Every year passes, and I find it hard to understand the phenomenon. It just keeps growing and growing. And especially with this movie…the popularity just keeps growing.”
Shutts said it’s easy to see why Presley memorabilia is more popular than ever.
“There’s definitely this mystical factor,” Shutts explained. “He died young…but he also had everything. It wasn’t just the looks, there’s the talent, the charisma. I think very few artists in the world have all those qualities…His image is young, his appeal continues to permeate new generations. And I think young people are…rediscovering his music. He’s not just a handsome face. He’s also someone who had real talent and brought forth so many of artists that everyone listens to today.
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With demand for authentic Presley pieces at an all-time high, Shutts warned that the counterfeit market is just as strong. He said Presley’s glitzy ’70s-era suits are a major red flag. Shutts will even go so far as to perform a background check on a potential seller to ensure that any item, especially a jumpsuit, is the real deal. It is also the decade of Presley’s career that is most popular among collectors. Still, Shutts noted that after “Elvis” was released, collectors inquired about items from the 1950s.
“When I hear ‘combination,’ I’m immediately skeptical that I know where they all are, whether in the hands of Graceland or private collectors,” he said. “About 25 years ago, wetsuits cost between $70 and $80,000. Now they are between $350,000 and $350,000. Capes and belts once fetched between $15 and $20,000. my life a combination of a key gig or a key million dollar era.”
Shutts advised curious collectors to check their sources before investing in a potential artifact. He also recommended newbies invest in genuine autographs as these can be exposed.
“Depending on your budget, look for something you’ll really enjoy,” Shutts said. “Jewelry and autographs are still strong. If you have $2,000 or $2,500 hypothetically, you can still buy a lot for that.”
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But above all, have fun, he says.
“For me, Elvis is probably the most American recording artist,” Shutts said. “If you look at the lineage, there are so many artists who have said that Elvis was an influence. I don’t know anyone who isn’t an Elvis fan. If someone said to me, ‘I’m not an Elvis fan,’ you’re just looking for attention… As far as his image and his music go, it will last beyond my lifetime. You can’t lose. It will never diminish in value. You can pass it on to your children and grandchildren, and they’ll know exactly who Elvis was.”