Dig through your closets, open the drawers you rarely use. There may be a valuable item of music memorabilia there you’d nearly forgotten you had. An old rock t-shirt may be more valuable than you imagined, especially if it’s a rare one associated with Led Zeppelin.
Combining hardcore blues with folk music was a key to the success of many bands—British and American—in the 1960s. What made Led Zeppelin’s sound more muscular than most was more apparent in the 1970s when they added what we came to call “heavy metal.” It spawned a genre of its own and led to the success of bands like Kiss, Metallica, and Megadeth. In 1980, after producing nine well-received studio albums, they became an important touring band, performing at stadiums and sports arenas across the globe.
Led Zeppelin’s stellar guitarist Jimmy Page had done his homework on his way to becoming a hall of famer. He had been a top session player who worked with groups that defined British rock—in the wake of the early achievements of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, including The Who and the Kinks. After a blues-rock apprenticeship with The Yardbirds (and their successor, The New Yardbirds, which included the founding members of Led Zeppelin), Page got together with singer Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham, and keyboardist John Paul Jones to take things to the next level. Page chose the name Led Zeppelin for the band after Keith Moon of The Who’s drummer joked with the new band, "You'll go over like a lead Zeppelin. “Led” just worked better than “lead” and would score points with fans who liked its punning cheekiness.
The group’s 12 years of nearly non-stop touring, playing before huge crowds, established them as one of the world’s top acts. After John Bonham died in 1980, after consuming 40 shots of vodka in one evening, his demoralized bandmates disbanded and embarked on solo careers.
Led Zeppelin has left behind a trove of music memorabilia that continues to attract collectors 37 years after its demise. The band’s place in music history, guaranteed by their chart-topping song “Stairway to Heaven,” one of the most requested songs ever to be heard on the radio, didn’t hurt. It’s a stunning ballad that’s been covered widely, although it seemed a bit at odds with their hard rock image. The truth is Led Zeppelin was always a versatile group of musicians who couldn’t be pinned down to one genre.
The continuing legacy of the band is demonstrated by the popularity of a rare rock t-shirt used in 1979 as a backstage pass for a concert the band played Hertfordshire, England. It sold for $10,000 on eBay in 2011.
Sadie Black, a writer for rockerteeshirts.com, said it was the “most money ever spent for a vintage t-shirt. Nothing else even comes close,” she said. “I’d pay that much for a rare item like this if I had the money.”
James Applegath of defunkd.com, an online site that is one of the largest sellers of vintage tees, told ultimateclassicrock.com, “Other t-shirts have been priced higher on eBay, but never sold.”