Unseen Beatles First US Concert Photos Go On Auction Block

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LONDON, England ~ (Reuters/Huffington Post) ~ A collection of never-before-seen photos of the Beatles first concert in America are going up for sale at auction.

Photographer Mike Mitchell has had the pictures stashed in his basement for almost 50 years, but when he lost money due to the recent US housing crisis, he decided it was time to dust them off and let the world bid on them. He’s selling the shots at Christie’s auction house in New York City on July 20th, and will be displaying them in London beforehand to raise awareness among potential bidders. Several of the photos are listed with starting bids between $1,000 to 6,000 and the entire collection has an estimated value of around $100,000.

Mitchell, now in his 60s, was given a press pass to the Fab Four’s live show at the Washington Coliseum in 1964, which was their first concert in America and just days after their breakthrough appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’. His photographs show a unique spontaneity hard to find in modern photo spread sheets. “Things were much different back then,” Mitchell told Reuters on Friday. “There was no big security presence, the press wasn’t corralled and I was free to sort of embrace my own ambition.” He was just 18 years old when he took the pictures and by the 1970s he knew he had been part of rock & roll history. “You cannot forget 8,000 screaming girls,” he said of his earliest memories of the Beatles. “It was like the birth of my generation.”

Cathy Elkies, head of Iconic Sales at Christie’s auction house, knew they were “something extraordinary” the moment she saw them in an e-mail. “There’s a lot of Beatles images out there, no question,” she said. “(but) they are amazing, highly intimate, high-access kinds of images … to find a treasure trove of art, you just don’t find that any more.” Elkies said Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as family members of John Lennon and George Harrison, may show up to view the black-and-white photos before they go on sale.

Photo credit: Mike Mitchell/Reuters

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