A section of plastic wall signed by The Beatles during their iconic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 will go up for sale at auction in New York on April 26, The Associated Press reports. The Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auctions is selling the memorabilia item and estimates that it could draw $885,000 to $1.1 million.
The Beatles made their live TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show 50 years ago Sunday. The performance came on the heels of their single "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which was officially released on December 26, 1963 — after record company executives were unable to stop radio stations from playing a leaked version. Within weeks, the single had sold over a million copies and went on to become The Beatles' first U.S. #1 record.
On February 7, the band flew from London to JFK Airport in New York, where they were received by a throng of screaming fans, almost instantaneously. According to Newsweek, four days after reaching New York, Lennon told an American reporter: "We thought we'd have to grow [on] everybody, and everybody seems to know us all as if we've been here for years." The band's arrival at JFK will be commemorated on Friday with the unveiling of a historical marker at the airport's central terminal.
Two days after their arrival in New York, The Beatles' appearance on the Sullivan Show drew 73 million viewers — about two fifths of the U.S. population at the time, according to Newsweek. The plastic wall from the show was rolled back and forth on set to reveal the next act. Jerry Gort, a stagehand at the show in 1964, told AP that the signing happened in the spur of the moment. "They came down from stage right from their dressing rooms, I gave them a marker and asked them to sign the wall," he said.
The band signed their names and drew caricatures on the wall from the bottom up, starting with John Lennon. McCartney wrote "Uncle Paul McCartney" and Ringo Starr, the last to sign, needed to be lifted up by Gort in order to reach above the other autographs. Right after, Gort recalls, Ringo "made a mad dash to get to his drums" in time for the band to start playing "I Saw Her Standing There."
At the end of the show's season, the four-foot-by-two-foot wall section, which also features signatures from British band The Searchers, was saved from the trash by a carpenter, who then gave it to a young disabled Beatles fan as a present. It's unclear what happened to the wall in the following decades. The current owner is Andy Geller, a longtime collector of Beatles memorabilia, who purchased it in 2002 from an unknown vendor. Geller is selling it to take advantage of the 50th anniversary of the Sullivan Show performance. "Now I kind of get to prove that it is an investment," he told the AP.
For more on how the Beatles were able to command such massive audiences on their first visit to the U.S., see this Wall Street Journal article.
Via Yahoo! News