Elvis Presley Collectibles of the 1960s and 1970s
After he returned from the army in 1960, Elvis Presley sought to change his image. Elvis and the Colonel wanted to present Elvis as a more mature artist and family-friendly movie star, rather than the rebellious rocker of his youth. In keeping with Elvis' new image, the collectibles marketed with his likeness were no longer geared toward teenage girls, but rather to a wider audience of fans. This trend continued as Elvis' movie career ended at the end of the 1960s and gave rise to the concert legend of the 1970s. Here are a few of the Elvis Collectibles from the 1960s and 1970s.
Elvis Presley RCA Pocket Calendars
From 1963 through 1980, RCA Records printed pocket calendars with Elvis' picture on one side and a 12-month calendar on the other. To promote good will, as well as Elvis' singles and albums, RCA issued the calendars to fan clubs and to record stores as give-aways for their customers. Versions of the calendars were printed for foreign markets as well, including Germany and Japan.
The promotion proved to be a popular one, particularly after Elvis died. The rarest and most valuable calendar is the 1963 issue, while those from the years 1976 to 1980 are worth less than any others.
In 1980, RCA celebrated 25 years of releasing Elvis Presley records. They issued authentic reproductions of all 18 calendars for individuals who ordered the 25th Anniversary limited-edition Elvis Presley box set. The reproductions feature small imperfections and differences, making it possible to spot the reissues. The pocket calendars remain a popular RCA collectible because they are inexpensive and part of a series.
Elvis Presley RCA Catalogs and Bonus Photos
Promoter extraordinaire Colonel Tom Parker convinced RCA that they should more actively tout their top artist by offering slick-looking annual catalogs to list available Elvis records. Issued throughout Elvis' career, the catalogs were compact booklets that not only promoted Elvis' music but were also collectibles. Some were printed vertically and stapled in the spine, and others were printed horizontally and spiral-bound.
RCA also offered bonus photos with many of Elvis' albums though only for a limited time. Sometimes, bonus photos served the same function as the catalogs because lists or photos of available Elvis albums were printed on the backs to promote the singer's records.
Because they were offered for a limited time, bonus photos have a higher value than the catalogs. Currently, the photos offered in the Gold Records Volume 4 and It Happened at the World's Fair albums are worth over $250, making them the most valuable.
Elvis Presley Holiday Postcards
Every year at Christmas, Colonel Tom Parker printed greeting cards as gestures to fan clubs, lesser business associates, the media, and miscellaneous contacts. Occasionally, one of these postcards ended up as a bonus in an Elvis album. Sometimes Elvis was pictured alone on the cards, but often the Colonel was pictured alongside him, usually in a Santa Claus suit.
As the years went by, stranger versions of the annual Christmas postcard began to appear. One card from the early 1970s showed Elvis performing in his white jumpsuit on a snowy rooftop while the Colonel, dressed in a Santa suit, popped out of the chimney. The most valuable are the two Christmas cards issued while Elvis was in Germany.
The Colonel had Easter postcards printed between 1966 and 1969, though they lack the humor and imagination of most of the Christmas cards. The holiday postcards are an interesting collectible because they typify the Colonel's carny-style promotional tactics.
Elvis Presley Movie Memorabilia
All but four of Elvis' narrative films were released in the 1960s, so movie collectibles best represent his career during this decade. One-sheet movie posters and lobby card sets remain the most popular collectibles, because they are relatively easy to obtain.
Perhaps the most entertaining movie collectibles are the miscellaneous items given away as promotion. Each movie slated for promotional gimmicks inspired a different trinket, with the wackier items bearing the mark of the Colonel. Some of the most interesting items include a lei with a color photo of Elvis to promote Blue Hawaii, pens with feather tips to advertise Tickle Me, and a brown paper army hat to tout G.I. Blues.
When the promo items for It Happened at the World's Fair ran out, the Colonel struck a quick deal with a novelty manufacturer to make Psycho-Sticks -- two flimsy sticks that were rubbed together to spin a propeller on the end of one of the sticks. While certainly a memorable promo item, they bore absolutely no connection to the movie.
Books Into Movies
Elvis' movies are frequently criticized as quickly produced, formulaic musical comedies written by Hollywood hacks. While some of his films had original stories, many were based on popular novels. In general, books that were made into movies are desirable collectibles, and those that inspired Elvis' movies are no exception. Several of the books are difficult to find today, though most are not very valuable.
The paperback version of Wild in the Country, written by J.R. Salamanca, is perhaps the most sought after because the cover shows a photo of Elvis and costar Hope Lange. Other books include A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins (King Creole); Charro! by Harry Whittington; Pioneer, Go Home by Richard Powell (Follow That Dream), Flaming Lance by Clair Huffaker (Flaming Star); Kid Galahad by Francis Wallace; Mister, Will You Marry Me? by Frederick Kohner (Girls! Girls! Girls!); and Chautauqua by Day Keene and Dwight Babcock (The Trouble wth Girls).
1968 Elvis Presley Comeback Special Promotions
Elvis, the 1968 television special sponsored entirely by the Singer Company, marked a turning point in Elvis' career. The success of the special inspired him to return to live performances and helped revive his recording career. In retrospect, the program was his finest hour, and it is known in Presley lore and literature as "The '68 Comeback Special."
Promotions for Elvis were not particularly clever or attractive, but they are worthy because of the special's significance. The best collectible is a 32-page, 4×9-inch booklet that listed every television station carrying Elvis' special on December 3, 1968, and every radio station airing his half-hour Christmas radio special, also sponsored by Singer, two days later. Other "Comeback Special" collectibles include electric store displays of the album cover, posters, ads for the special, and insert cards given away at Singer stores.
Albert Hand Elvis Presley Publications
One of the most collected publications about Elvis Presley is a fan club magazine from England titled Elvis Monthly. Albert Hand, who was the president of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain, launched the magazine in February 1960.
The first 18 issues were 51/2×81/2 inches and contained 24 pages, but the size was changed permanently to 5×7 inches with 32 pages in August 1961. The content consisted of fluffy, fan-targeted stories about Elvis and his family, but the professional-looking production values made this fan publication highly respected. Todd Slaughter took over the presidency of the fan club and the publication of Elvis Monthly after Hand died in 1972.
From 1963 to 1982, Elvis Monthly issued an annual covering Elvis' activities for that year. The hard-cover annual, titled Elvis Special, featured rare photos, cartoons, poetry, and complete lists of every Elvis song, single, and album released in England.
Elvis Presley Concert Souvenirs
After Elvis returned to live performances in 1969, a whole new field of collectibles appeared. Whenever Elvis performed, souvenir stands were erected in the lobbies of venues where he appeared in concert. The souvenir stands sold tour books, pennants, posters, pins, scarves, and other trinkets.
Among the better concert souvenirs were the tour books, also called concert photo folios. Because a new tour book was featured every year, they serve as a chronicle of this phase of his career. Usually 16 or 24 pages in length, the tour books contained color photos of Elvis in performance.
Shows at the Las Vegas Hilton always generated additional souvenirs in the form of menus, vinyl or cardboard promo disks that hung from the ceiling, mobiles, and postcards. The menus have since become popular and very valuable collectibles, while the promo disks (which were stolen by adventurous fans from the ceiling areas of the Hilton) have become much sought-after collectibles.
Elvis Presley Scarves
Elvis established the tradition of tossing scarves and towels to the fans in the audience as soon as he began appearing in concert in Las Vegas in the summer of 1969. In the beginning, he threw one or two of his sweat-soaked scarves into the audience per performance. As the habit turned into a ritual, dozens were hurled during each show. Sometimes, fans walked down to the edge of the stage, and Elvis would hand them a scarf. Occasionally, he might pick some lucky soul out of the audience and place the scarf around her neck before kissing her.
Anyone who ended up with the scarves now owns an irreplaceable collectible that is priceless. More than memorabilia, a scarf from Elvis' hands is a virtual relic of a performer whose concerts represented extraordinary personal experiences for the members of the audience. Scarves with Elvis' name printed on them were sold at the souvenir stands in the lobby for those not lucky enough to receive one from Elvis himself.
Elvis Presley Mathey-Tissot Watch
The Mathey-Tissot wristwatch represents one of the first jewelry items that Elvis had custom designed. A tastefully designed man's watch that displayed the date, the timepiece featured the name "Elvis Presley" on the beveled edge that encircled the face. Elvis gave the watches as gestures of respect and fellowship to friends and acquaintances.
After being honored as one of the Jaycees' Outstanding Young Men of the Year, Elvis hosted a cocktail party at Graceland for the other nine honorees, and he presented each of them with a Mathey-Tissot watch as they came through the door. A mix-up ensued, and Elvis accidentally gave one to an assistant transportation chairman for the Jaycees. Elvis as embarrassed but would not ask the Jaycee to give the watch back, lest he would embarrass the man as well. Instead, he ordered an additional watch for the ninth honoree. Today, any of the Mathey-Tissot Elvis Presley watches are worth at least $8,500.