After a Led Zeppelin shirt sold for $10,000 it’s worth sifting through your own collection.. an expert offers some advice

Led Zeppelin shirt

Holy grail: Zep shirt cost $123 and sold for $10k

Last week an ultra-rare Led Zeppelin t-shirt made $10,000 on eBay, and the seller had only paid $123 for the item. In these difficult times that’s enough to send anyone into their wardrobes or shelves looking for hidden treasure – and expert James Applegath says there’s no reason not to find it.

Applegath runs vintage shirt website and he keeps a keen eye on collectible developments.

He says: “The market has been around for ever – there are collectors who were thrifting in the 1970s. But vintage tees achieved collectible status around ten years ago and their value began to soar. By 2005 there was a structured market.

“Many factors contribute to an item’s popularity. Celebrities want them for fashion and fans want them for nostalgia; a lot of people just want that Crue shirt they wore when they were younger. Then there’s the hardcore collectors: some wear them but other store them away.

“There’s also the green aspect – recycling and reusing.”

On eBay right now you’ll find a 1966 Beatles shirt for $20,000; a New York Dolls top for $4000; a 1975 Floyd garment for $3000; and many others. Lower-end offerings include items from Rage Against the Machine and Ozzy Osbourne for $500; Suicidal Tendencies and The Cure for $425; Iron Maiden, Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers for $375; and AC/DC, Type O Negative, Queen, Guns n’Roses, Dio and Scorpions in the $200-300 bracket.

Applegath says buyers are on the lookout for authentic items, not knock-offs or modern reproductions. The clue is often on the garment’s label but can also be determined by the material, dimensions and cut of the fabric.

And while NOS (new old stock) which never saw the light of day until it was found in storage can sell well, there’s even a demand for worn shirts which some people’s other halves might consider trashing, or cutting into strips for cleaning windows.

“Old band tees seem to fetch the most,” says Applegath. “It’s not just the 60s, 70s or 80s – early 90s shirts are now making waves. Nirvana tees have sold for up for $2000.”

His own collection includes a press-only De La Soul top and a Bob Marley Exodus promo shirt. He also has a stack of items which are worth less cash but have much more sentimental value.

And sentiment is what it’s all about. Applegath says: “People will always be nostalgic. The golden era will always be the 70s to the 90s, and shirts are lower quality today. They’re thicker and not as comfortable or as durable.

“But it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the swarms of internet-driven designs that began flourishing in the early 00s. Will they be collectible, or will they be completely disposable?”

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