The band shirt will always be rock fans’ #1 method of expressing their devotion. Patches, stickers, posters, and logos scratched into one’s notebook are always a good look, but the band shirt stands apart as a way to turn one’s self into a walking billboard for kickass riffs and weirdo art. So it’s unsurprising that vintage band shirts have become a niche market, with certain shirts becoming heinously expensive…though the most expensive ones might surprise you.
As reported by Loudwire, a recent auction at Sotheby’s focused on the ephemera of hippie jam legends The Grateful Dead. Among the items being auctioned were a 1967 yellow Russell Southern Co. brand tee with a screen-printed logo, which went for $17,640, making it the most expensive rock shirt to ever be sold at auction. A close follow-up was a a 1977 Dead shirt that ended up going for $15,120.
Apparently, the original 1967 tee was owned by Dan Healy, an audio engineer who often worked with the Dead. The logo was designed by Allan “Gut” Terk, a Hells Angel and “Merry Prankster” well-known and much-loved in 1960s California countercultural.
The second shirt was also owned by Healy, and comes from a gig at Cornell University that, according to vintage T-shirt expert Max Bittle, is well known among Deadheads as an important moment in the band’s lore.
“The Cornell concert is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Grateful Dead live shows,” says Bittle. Obviously, it’s amazing that an event shirt even exists and to see it go for more than $15k is just mind-blowing. When the auction went live I thought it might fetch $2-4K, so to do as well as it did is just simply amazing.”
So there you have it, folks — the next time you’re considering throwing out a faded T-shirt you bought at a show, remember that someday you might regret it when that shirt goes for fat greenbacks at auction.
Check out images of the shirts below:
Words by Chris Krovatin