Thursday June 11, 1964, was B-Day, when the Beatles landed in Sydney to start their 13-day Australian concert tour. Those who were there will never forget it.
"The eruption of Beatlemania here was more intense than anywhere else in the world," says Powerhouse Museum curator Peter Cox, who has sourced hundreds of objects for an exhibition that starts next month.
"People remember the Beatles' tour as a major Australian event of the 1960s," Cox says. "They seemed to unite a whole generation in a joyful, exuberant rebellion against the older generation. I wouldn't say the Beatles were responsible for the social change of the 1960s, but they were an important part of it." The exhibition moves to Melbourne next year to mark the 50th anniversary of the tour.
Exhibits range from the priceless - including a suit worn on stage by John Lennon in 1964 - to examples of the kitsch memorabilia produced at the time.
Australian collectors have long been picking up anything connected with the tour of the Fab Four, with prices at auction steadily rising over the past decade. The Sydney and Melbourne exhibitions are expected to push values even higher, with a spike in June.
In December 2012, Leonard Joel in Melbourne sold a souvenir booklet autographed by all four Beatles for a cool $9760, including buyer's premium (IBP). At the same auction, a set of Beatles Bobb'N Car mascots sold for $793 IBP.
Beatles signatures always push up prices, but only if they can be verified as authentic. About 90 per cent of those done on tour were by Neil Aspinall, the group's road manager who was assigned to sign on their behalf.
Experts can easily spot the difference.
The car mascots are an example of the bewildering variety of Beatles merchandising, some approved, some not.
The value is also increasing according to Giles Moon, Leonard Joel's resident Beatlemaniac, though top prices are only paid for those in the original packaging. The exhibition should particularly boost this segment of the market, as 1964 fans realise that the memorabilia they have kept for sentimental reasons could now have considerable monetary value.
Merchandising sold during the Australian tour included Beatles curtains, wallpaper, belts, tea towels, handkerchiefs, talc, combs, toy guitars and drums, crockery, a record disc carrier and lots of magazines.
Some made especially for the Australian market included a "Beatlemania Sweeps Australia" scarf (made in Italy, Cox notes), MacRobertson's Superfine milk chocolates with Beatles packaging, a set of Happy-Ade cards, and plastic Beatles wigs (the latter sold in large numbers through Coles).
A pair of Beatles stockings in original packaging would fetch $200, while those toy guitars, imitations of the ones Paul, John and George used, are perhaps the most desirable of all. Expect to pay $1000 for the set in mint condition.
Moon suggests Australian material should fetch as much, if not more, than the British equivalents. The big money is for one-off material with an Australian flavour, such as a set of candid photos taken on the flight to Australia by a fellow passenger. Moon is hoping to offer these in the near future.
Beatles material also appears periodically at Charles Leski's auctions in Melbourne. Best price paid was $10,000 in 2004 for a large, mounted photo signed in Australia by the Beatles (verified) as well as many of the support artists, plus managers and crew. The vendor was a drummer with support band the Phantoms.
Concert tickets and programs from the Australian performances are also increasing in value. Tickets are rarer than programs. In 2011, one from the Melbourne Festival Hall concert sold for $574 as part of a general lot of ephemera. A Sydney Stadium ticket, again part of a general lot, sold for $420. Programs generally sell for about $100, though a signed one can be worth up to $15,000.
These values are expected to increase over the next 12 months as the next wave of Beatlemania hits our shores.
The Beatles in Australia exhibition starts September 26, 2013 at the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, Sydney, then the Arts Centre Melbourne from March to July, 2014.