NEBRASKA COUPLE HAS ASSEMBLED ONE OF THE LARGEST, MOST COMPREHENSIVE FAB FOUR COLLECTIONS EVER
By Steve Lansdale
For many, collections evolve from a way to enjoy a subject of interest into a way of celebrating particular people. This certainly is the case for Dennis Dailey.
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Growing up in North Platte, Neb., Dailey was friends with Jeff Agler and his sister, Pat. In 1964, when Dailey was about 8, Pat purchased a copy of the Beatles’ I Want to Hold Your Hand, and at the risk of oversimplification, Dailey’s life changed forever.
“The first time I heard that song I was just mesmerized by it,” Dailey says. “I played that thing until I wore it clear out. That was the first piece of Beatles memorabilia I ever purchased … and I still own it. That would be pre-Ed Sullivan Show appearance – seeing them on The Ed Sullivan Show absolutely cemented it for me.”
What began as a one-time hand-me-down from Pat over the years has mushroomed into a trove of all things Beatles-related. He complemented his albums and 45s with photos and sunglasses, jukeboxes and pinball machines, promotional marketing pieces, and lunchboxes. His collection swelled until it filled a room in his house, until he and his wife, Connie, built an addition – largely for the collection. He even recreated the legendary Cavern Club, the Liverpool venue where the band was first seen by Brian Epstein, who later became the group’s manager.
The collection, he says, “just kept growing. We have thousands and thousands of pieces.”
Whether it is the world’s largest collection of Beatles memorabilia is a matter of debate, but if it isn’t, it definitely is on the short list.
“I know several collectors who have huge Beatles collections, and I always have taken a step beyond what they did, because I included newer stuff,” Dailey says. “The Guinness Book of World Records lists some guy in South America that it claims has the largest collection, but from the pictures I have seen, I didn’t think that collection held a candle, compared to what my wife and I have. Maybe we’re not listed [in Guinness] because we have so many things that really are groups of four, of 10, of 50 items, and we just count them as a single item.”
“What’s amazing about the collection,” adds Garry Shrum, consignment director for Heritage Auctions’ entertainment and music department, “is how thorough it is, how complete it is. Someone else might have a particular Beatles lunchbox, but if it was made in six different colors, this collection has all six. The effort he put into making this complete is unbelievable.”
Dailey was fortunate that his wife already had an appreciation for the Fab Four when they tied the knot.
“Connie always was a fan, and when we met, she was aware that I had a few records,” he says. “I guess I kind of educated her about the culture of the Beatles, and this became a partnership, a joint venture. We have done the same with our children and grandchildren, and really have an atypical Beatles family. They’re all aware of the culture that surrounded the band.”
The Daileys now have decided to downsize – a decision with which they have wrestled for five or six years – and have consigned the collection to Heritage Auctions, which will split it up over several auctions over the next few years, beginning in November 2017. They are keeping their Beatles history – the records, the tapes, the books – but are offering an incredible array of everything else, from concert tickets and programs to Beatles-themed toys.
“I always loved the toy musical instruments – the guitars, the drums,” Dailey says. “Those are some of my favorites, for sure, and it was always extra-special if I could find those pieces in their original packaging. I also always loved the vintage advertising pieces.
While he has come to grips with the idea of auctioning off the collection, Dailey hopes the new owner will have the space and ability to create the presentation he thinks the collection deserves.
“We have spent our lives building this collection, and we are extremely proud of it,” Dailey says. “We have had a lot of people – collectors, friends, family – who are in shock when they see the collection. But there’s that old adage: ‘You’re not going to be able to take it with you.’ That’s how it is with any collectible. Now is the right time.”
STEVE LANSDALE is a public relations specialist at Heritage Auctions whose writing has been published in numerous publications, including The Dallas Morning News and Sports Illustrated.