Ringo Starr’s Personal ‘White Album’ Just Sold for Record Amount

December 6, 2015, 1:39 PM UTC
Ready Steady Go!
The Beatles (bassist Paul McCartney, guitarist John Lennon (1940-1980), drummer Ringo Starr and guitarist George Harrison (1943-2001)), performing on the set of ITV music show Ready Steady Go!, at Kingsway Studios, London, England, Great Britain, 4 October 1963. (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images)
Photography by David Redfern Redferns

Money can’t buy you love, but it certainly can buy you some of the rarest Beatles memorabilia around.

An auction of items owned by Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach has fetched some phenomenal prices for pop culture items, including a breath-taking $1.75 million for Starr’s original drum set, the one used in such hits as “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.

Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, was the winning bidder on the drums. After the auction fees set by Julien’s Auctions, his total payment on the set came to $2.1 million.

The auctioneer certainly tried to get more. While online pre-bids hit $100,000 before the live auction began, the Julien’s representative attempted to get a first bid of $10 million. That elicited chuckles from the audience, so he took it to $5 million. Then $2 million. At $1 million, though things were off and running – with Irsay ultimately claiming the prize at a significant premium over $500,000 the auction house had estimated the drumset would go for.

While the drums were certainly the marquis item, they weren’t the only one to take in big numbers. Starr, as part of the auction, put up his original mono U.K. edition of the White Album (which, technically, is simply named The Beatles), stamped with a serial number A0000001 up for bids. It is the first pressing of the album that Time Magazine labeled one of the music industry’s greatest and most influential records of all time.

Photography Courtesy of Julien’s Auctions
Photography Courtesy of Julien's Auctions

When bidding ended, the album fetched a whopping $650,000 – which jumped to $790,000 after auction fees were added in. That’s significantly higher than the $200,000 Julien’s Laury Woolley, who appraised the collection, expected it to collect. And it apparently sets a new record for the amount paid for an album at auction.

Starr has had the album in a bank vault in London for over 35 years, but says prior to that he played it on his turntable at home.

Prior to this, the most paid for The White Album – for the copy that was numbered serial number 0000005 – was $30,000.

Other big ticket items included a Rickenbacker guitar once owned by John Lennon. Lennon gifted the guitar to Starr after the drummer walked out on his bandmates amid tensions recording the White album, eventually returning with new songs he had written.

At auction, the guitar sold for $750,00 – $910,000 after fees.

One of Starr’s iconic pinkie rings was grabbed by a collector for more than $106,000. His suit from A Hard Day’s Night sold for $40,000. And a pair of statues once owned by Lennon went for $32,500 and $25,500.

Even items that normally wouldn’t turn heads were hot sellers, though at a reduced scale. One fan paid $512 for Ringo’s copy of the drum set from the 2008 video game Rock Band 2.

The sale of over 1,300 items by the Beatles drummer and his wife of 34 years, which ends Saturday, will see part of the proceeds go to the Lotus Foundation, founded by Starr and Bach. The foundation funds and promotes charitable projects aimed at advancing social welfare.