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Only known poster from 'The Day the Music Died' show sells for $447,000, beats Beatles record

The only known flyer from the doomed show in Minnesota became the most expensive concert poster sold at auction. Buddy Holly and several other musicians died on their way to the show in 1959.

Tour poster
This poster from 'The Day the Music Died" sold for $447,000 at auction on Nov. 11. To see the full image of the poster, scroll down.
Contributed / Wikipedia Commons
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MOORHEAD — Buddy Holly died on his way to a Minnesota concert in 1959 , a date memorialized in Don McLean’s epic 1971 song, “The Day the Music Died.”

Now, the only known flyer from the doomed Moorhead Armory show has become the most expensive concert poster, selling at auction last Friday, Nov. 11, for a record $447,000.

“That’s just crazy for a concert poster,” says Pete Howard, director of concert posters at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, which held the auction.

The previous record for a show poster was for the 1966 Beatles concert at Shea Stadium, which sold at Heritage on April 18 for $275,000.

What makes the one that just sold extra special is that it’s for a show that never happened.

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At the top of the flyer is written, “Moorhead Armory Feb. 3 2 shows - : 7:30 + 9:30.”

Howard says the provenance of the poster is also intriguing. The flyer was found intact on the ground a few days after the show by a maintenance worker who took it home, put it in his closet and let it sit there.

“It’s amazing that a maintenance man just found it in the street,” Howard says.

Buddy Holly & the Crickets The Day the Music Died 1959 Historic Concert Poster_Heritage Auctions.jpg
This poster from 'The Day the Music Died" sold for $447,000 at auction on Nov. 11.
Contributed / Heritage Auctions

“In my mind it’s the most important poster to ever come to auction,” Andrew Hawley, a dealer and collector said in a video promoting last week’s auction. “It’s an amazing, amazing piece and I dare say we will never see another one.”

020221.F.FF. BUDDYHOLLY
Buddy Holly's promotional photo for Brunswick Records. Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons / Special to The Forum

Between his breakout in May of 1957 and Feb. 3, 1959, Holly scored hits with “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” Everyday,” “Oh, Boy!,” “Not Fade Away” and “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.”

Holly headlined the Winter Dance Party, which also included the Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper,” J. P. Richardson as well as Dion and The Belmonts.

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At a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 2, 1959, Holly rented a plane for his band to fly to the next day’s show in Moorhead and avoid the long drive on a cold bus. Bassist Waylon Jennings gave his seat to Richardson who had the flu and guitarist Tommy Allsup lost a coin flip and gave his seat to Valens.

The plane took off around 1 a.m. Feb. 3 and crashed in a cornfield outside of Mason City, Iowa, shortly after, killing all three musicians and pilot Roger Peterson.

1566524+buddy holly.JPG
The single-engine plane carrying Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens crashed in an Iowa corn field the night before they were to appear at the Moorhead Armory.
Contributed / Mason City Register

The Moorhead show still went on with locals Bobby Veline and The Shadows filling out the bill and kickstarting the career of the singer who soon became known as Bobby Vee.

The previous record for a show poster was for the 1966 Beatles concert at Shea Stadium, which sold at Heritage on April 18 for $275,000.

“I would’ve been happy with just $1 more to set a new record. I’d never dream it would top it by such a wide margin,” Howard says, referring to the 1966 Beatles show poster that sold for $265,000. He added that the Holly poster was estimated to go from $300,000 to $500,000.

“It’s such a special poster. It’s marvelous it fell into that upper part of the range,” he says.

While the historical significance of the bill is understandable now, at the time there was no value for rock and roll collectibles until the early 1970s, so the man never fully recognized its worth.

The finder’s name was never revealed, but Howard said he died and when his son was cleaning out his father’s house, some 50 years after the fateful date, he found it and sold it to a dealer who flipped it, selling it to Jim Cook, a Minneapolis collector. Cook’s collection of just under 200 posters made up the Friday auction and Howard estimates the collection was worth about $1 million.

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“This was the crown jewel,” Howard says of the poster collection.

Cook is a noted collector in many fields and Howard says his accumulation of wooden duck decoys is “worth north of $20 million.”

Howard would not reveal who the buyer was, only that the purchaser is from the Midwest.

Howard likens the Feb. 3 Winter Dance Party poster with the 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card that sold through Heritage in August for $12.6 million.

“This is the rookie card of rock posters. It’s very unique and special,” he says. “It’s like they say, the cream always rises.”

In 2020 Heritage sold a Winter Dance Party poster for a Jan. 25 1959 date in Mankato, Minn., for $125,000.

Asked if he thinks another tour poster will ever best the Buddy Holly print, Howard says no, but the next time that copy gets sold, it will attract even more interest.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see another come along,” he says.

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