Collecting pieces of rock 'n roll history may not be easy or cheap, but it's definitely worth it once you have them in hand. Here's what to look for.
You'll have to decide if you want to deal with auctions, and the steel nerves required, or just plunk down the cash to pay for an item outright.
If you decide to go the former route, take your chances on eBay (EBAY) (check seller feedback and return policy). But if you're dealing with a reputable house such as Christies, Sotheby's (BID) or Julien's Auctions on the West Coast (which authenticates items for a fee), it's much less risky.
Items Julien's has handled in the past have included the white suit John Lennon wore on the cover of the Abbey Road album, which went for $117,600 in October 2005; Bono's famous shades ($24,000); a guitar used in concert by Bob Dylan ($192,000); and Elvis Presley's microphone from his pre-fame days on the Louisiana Hayride ($15,000), as well as various gold and platinum albums presented to artists.The auction rule of thumb is to bid the absolute utmost you would pay for the item. Don't lowball just because there's a low opening bid, or there doesn't appear to be any action going on; there are often "snipers" lurking in wait, ready to pounce and put in a high bid at the very last second.
Or, you can patronize a place like Gotta Have It! (Joni Mitchell's signed guitar: $3,500) or Wolfgang's Vault (the company behind the late Bill Graham's Fillmore empire), and pay whatever the market will bear.
Remember who you're competing against: It isn't just the sharks who are looking to buy and re-sell for a profit, but the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (which mostly looks for donations), the Hard Rock Café, with its seemingly bottomless pockets, and other well-heeled collectors.
If you see it, and you want it, and it has the imprimatur of authentication, grab it while you can, because they're not making any more and the price will probably be more next year -- even if, say, Jimmy Page's bow never quite fetches the price of a Van Gogh canvas.