My Beatles Collection - Jeff Thelen

My Beatles Collection

Jeff Thelen has been collecting Beatles memorabilia since the 60s and visitors to The Beatles Story can view a selection of his exciting pieces on display in the USA room.

5 min read

Jeff Thelen is a friend and ambassador of The Beatles Story who has been collecting Beatles memorabilia since the 60s and we caught up with him to find out more about his love of the Fab Four from Liverpool.

“Not only did the British Invasion shape my life musically, but little did I know I would fall in love with the city that started it all and its residents, for which I will forever be grateful.

The date, just ten days after my 6th birthday, Sunday, February 9th, 1964, will forever be etched in my mind. My immediate family, then four of us, mom, dad, older brother and I, sat in front of our black and white, Zenith brand 23” TV to watch the Ed Sullivan Show. With snack trays in front of us, we anxiously waited for the now historic, American debut of The Beatles.

The hype was real, and on that night, The Beatles unveiled a totally new sound as well as appearance with their impish charm, wit & mop tops, invading 73 million living rooms of viewers. Liverpool, UK, didn’t just introduce The Beatles to the world, they also unleashed the beginning of the British Invasion!

I’m constantly asked how and when my fascination with The Beatles started as well as when my collection was born. From as far back as that magical night, I was blessed to be surrounded by numerous influences that allowed me to appreciate The Beatles at a more mature level than my age suggested.

My older brother, who I naturally looked up to, was 10 years old and just on the cusp of wanting a little more creative thinking and independence, as everyone, no matter how young, wanted to emulate The Beatles, especially around their schoolyard friends!

Although I wanted to mimic my brother, I have to say, my mother was my biggest influence. Being a young woman, she had a secret crush on The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney.

When My brother and I requested Beatles merchandise, haircuts, clothes styles or even shoes, or should I say, Beatle boots, she delivered. Thank you, Mom, I will ever be in your debt, for you are the reason I now have wonderful friends and memories of a city I call my second home, Liverpool!

I was an instant McCartney and Ringo fan and received my first toy drum set in 1964. I have a photo of my brother and I opening Revell brand Beatles models with my drum set in view, to my right. A set of those models, which were made as individual Beatle characters, can be viewed at The Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool. The contents of which are still sealed, 60 years later!

Jeff and his brother unwrapping Revell brand Beatles models
Jeff and his brother unwrapping Revell brand Beatles models

Forward to the mid to late 1990s, eBay not only took the world by storm, but enabled individuals like me easier and more convenient access to search for hard-to-find Beatles’ merchandise and memorabilia that I remembered possessing as a young boy. Although I still had several of my Beatles albums, I can now add to or replace my long-lost Beatles’ items, reliving the fond memories of my childhood. I credit eBay for drawing me into the world of collecting. The thrill of the search, find and last-minute stealing bid, especially during the ever-slow dial-up internet at that time, was thrilling to me and I was hooked!

By the early 2000s, my collection was growing into a respectable size and was admired by my family and close friends. Adding to my existing records, I now had all the Beatles’ American album releases. I especially sought stereo copies of their early releases, as most homes in those days did not have stereos. My copies are pristine, with vinyl that shines like a mirror, original sleeves and beautiful covers.

My collection includes The Beatles’ first American album titled, Meet The Beatles, still sealed as well as the infamous Yesterday and Today album, which is also known as, the Butcher Album, due to the disturbing photo of The Beatles in butcher coats, with slabs of bloody meat and pulled-apart baby dolls. This album was pulled off the shelves after one day and re-covered with a photo of The Beatles having McCartney sitting in a travel trunk. This album has an interesting history and if you’d like to learn it’s in-depth history, click here.

Butcher Album on display at The Beatles Story Museum, Liverpool
Butcher Album on display at The Beatles Story Museum, Liverpool

Another interesting fact which helped make Beatles’ merchandise obtainable can be understood in this article on the Music Network site. With the hype and year-long anticipation of The Beatles’ arrival to the States, the US market was saturated with Beatles’ merchandise for both male and female fans alike as well as for all age groups.

The merchandise included everything from Halloween costumes, model kits, record carriers, lunch boxes, to record players. The American merchandise list of items is too vast to list. Aside from authentic autographs, which I stay away from due mostly to a lack of provenance, the Beatles record player, a working record player, is one of the holy grail pieces to own. They made 5,000 and not many have survived. In 2013, one sold for $12,000 American dollars on eBay. I am fortunate enough to be able to share mine with you, through The Beatles Story Museum, Liverpool.

Fast forward to 2010, my collection grew, as I previously mentioned, with items I remembered as a child, as well as items I found interesting and affordable to me. My memorabilia room was getting full, and I enjoyed arranging the pieces to be eye-catching, interesting and memory provoking to other Beatles fans, whether family, friends or just other Beatles’ memorabilia collectors I met along the way.

I was fortunate to tour the world with Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and Liza Minnelli and one day I had an epiphany, throughout my world travels, I have never seen or heard of anyone sharing their collection with others in a major way and as a permanent display. I could be wrong, I thought, but there was one way to find out.

I got in touch with the World Museum in Liverpool, and I was pleasantly surprised, I was correct. Unfortunately, although I dealt with a wonderful staff there, we couldn’t come to terms. I then did a little web searching where I found The Beatles Story and contacted them. I was greeted with the same courtesy and excitement by their staff and an agreement to bring the first American collection of Beatles memorabilia was set into motion.

My decision to ship my vinyl record and memorabilia collection to Liverpool was based on my interactions with most of the viewers of my personal collection. Even those who were not devoted Beatles fans had a positive reaction. Also, it was getting too large for my memorabilia room and although no one knew it at the time, those visiting my collection convinced me, with their comments, to share my collection with the public. Sharing my collection and placing it in the wonderful venue, The Beatles Story Museum, now meant my collection would be enjoyed by the masses, insured and safeguarded for years to come.

The entire process of getting my memorabilia to Liverpool, was a concerted effort, with my meticulous friend Stacy helping me carefully pack my memorabilia, to then President and CEO of Continental Airlines, Jeffery Smisek, securing that my memorabilia and I arrived safely in Manchester, UK Airport, where I was met by The Beatles Story staff and driven safely to Liverpool. A wonderful and perpetual relationship was born!

Arriving in Liverpool, as I mentioned in the opening line of this blog, I fell in love with the city of Liverpool and its residents. I am proud to call so many Liverpudlians my friend. The friendships I made are now 14 years old and I look forward, with great anticipation, each and every visit to this wonderful city.

One cannot visit Liverpool without going to several of the music venues The Beatles performed in, a stop in their itinerary. My favorite is the Cavern Club. Some of my closest friends in Liverpool work there, or I have been introduced to other friends through them. I love each and every one of them!

One stop I must make, is to my favorite building, the Town Hall, where the city’s Lord Mayor occupies. I have been honored to have met 5 Lord Mayors, who are always kind as well as accessible to a brief visit, with me. Recently my interest in the Lord Mayor’s responsibilities has prompted me to get involved with a few good causes, for the city I love so much. Shared Solutions, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), the Liverpool Signing Choir and The Beatles Story Museum are several of the institutions I proudly support.

I will end this blog with the best story yet, after 14 years of my love affair with Liverpool and my 60 years of being a Beatles fan, I was honored and blessed to meet my idol and one of my life’s heroes, Sir Paul McCartney. Little does he know I am friendly with several of his personal friends, and I wish I could have had just a minute longer with him, but nevertheless, I can live out my life knowing a life dream was met!

Peace and blessings to all!” Jeff Thelen

To view Jeff’s collection along with other exciting pieces of memorabilia, book online.

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Jeff Thelen, Beatles' memorabilia collector
Jeff Thelen, Beatles’ memorabilia collector
you know i love you ... i'll always be true ... you know i love you ... i'll always be true ... you know i love you ... i'll always be true ... you know i love you ... i'll always be true ... you know i love you ... i'll always be true ...
Jeff Thelen has been collecting Beatles memorabilia since the 60s. His other interests include writing children's books, song lyrics and of course, travelling and maintaining his friendships in Liverpool.

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