The haircut was like any other. John Lennon was preparing for his role as Gripweed in the film "How I Won the War." The performance was unmemorable. So, too, was the coif. But on Saturday, nearly 50 years after it was chopped from his head, Lennon's lock of hair sold for $35,000.
The clipping garnered triple the amount Dallas auctioneers expected it to sell for. The hair was in high demand by professional hair collectors — that is an actual business. From George Washington to Justin Bieber, tresses of the famous are bought, sold and showboated across the country.
This lock of Lennon's wasn't even the first to go commercial. In 2007, a longer strand sold for $48,000. An unknown bidder purchased it along with a book Lennon signed for the Beatles' personal hairdresser. Saturday's strand went to Paul Fraser, a collector in the U.K. who has an enormous inventory of art, antiques, stamps and coins. Fraser believes in investing in irreplaceable objects, bucking the "throwaway culture" of today.
"We live in an age where few products will see next year, nevermind the next century. Your new iPad may cost a fair amount, but it won't survive for long before it is outdated and replaced with the latest gadget," Fraser once wrote about his love of collecting. "However, a piece of art has immutable quality. It's a real, tangible object, that someone has crafted by hand."
No one has crafted these hairs by hand. They have, of course, grown out of real people's heads, only to be sliced off and squirreled away by opportunistic hairdressers, morticians or zealous fans. Lennon's bandmate Ringo Starr once had his hair quickly chopped by an 18-year-old girl with a pair of nail scissors at a D.C. charity ball.
Fraser doesn't own the Ringo hair, but he does own a half-inch strand from Paul McCartney. He also claims he owns hairs from President John Adams, Napoleon Bonaparte, Marilyn Monroe, John Steinbeck, Michael Jackson, Katharine Hepburn, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Taylor, President John F. Kennedy and Bieber. They're all for sale online: $570 per strand. Want a whole jar of Bieber's trimmings? Fraser's price tag is $50,032.
That's a pretty sweet deal, depending on who you're comparing Bieber's mane with. In 2007, hairs from the revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara sold for $119,500 along with sets of his fingerprints and photographs. The highest price on a swath of hair alone came from the head of Elvis Presley. It sold for $115,000 in 2002.
The pursuit of famous hairs combines two great pastimes of the human psyche: collection and celebrity obsession.
Collections and celebrity love mix easily. Fans collect autographs, film and TV memorabilia, magazines, et cetera.
"People are interested in owning a piece of history and a piece of famous people," collector John Reznikoff told CBS. Reznikoff is best known for owning locks of Abraham Lincoln's hair that are said to have little bits of brain on them from his assassination.
But the newer hair in Reznikoff's collection may serve as a cautionary tale. Those whose locks might be worth something one day might want to be careful when selecting their stylist. In 2005, it was discovered that Reznikoff purchased the hair of Neil Armstrong, who was still alive. The astronaut had no idea, and the barber earned $3,000 in the deal.