A Return to Rock ’N’ Roll High School With Joey Ramone Auction

Joey Ramone's passport. (Courtesy of RR Auction)

Joey Ramone’s passport. (Courtesy of RR Auction)

It’s rare to find a passport for sale by a reputable vendor, but if you can pass for a young man named Jeff Ross Hyman, then the New Hampshire-based RR Auction has an item you might be interested in. Sure, the current bid is $4,840 for the international identification card once owned by Joey Ramone, but it’s worth every penny.

In fact, each of the 81 lots currently up for auction in the Joey Ramone Collection is a priceless piece of punk-pop history, as evidenced by the bevy of fans lined up outside The Bowery Electric on February 7, hoping to catch a glimpse of the artifacts during a special two-hour display. They might have been surprised by the contents.

Though RR deals mostly in signed items such as: letters, photos and books, according to the company’s vice president of marketing and sales, Bobby Livingston, there’s always room for exceptions—especially when it came to Joey Ramone.

“We actually got to know Joey back in the ’80s,” Mr. Livingston told the Transom when we caught up with him at the Midtown Sheraton earlier this week. “He showed up in Amherst one day outside our building looking to buy autographed Rolling Stones cards.” When the frontman couldn’t afford the $500 or so for the card he wanted, Mr. Livingston recalled, he jumped back into the van to bum the cash from his band’s manager.

“He was just such a sweet kid, and so incredibly passionate about collecting autographs,” Mr. Livingston recalled. Ten years after his untimely death, the story came full circle when RR was approached by Joey Ramone’s estate to help with the selling of the punk rocker’s personal collection. (The proceeds from the Bowery viewing went to the Joey Ramone Foundation for Lymphoma Research.)

There are some surprises beyond the usual concert memorabilia and signed posters. Like two electric guitars, an Epiphone with a sunburst finish and a Stratocaster-style Ibanez Roadstar II. Who even knew the Queens-born singer could play?

“He knew how to pluck out songs,” Mr. Livingston said. “But he only used the A and the E strings.” So far, the guitars are a steal, with the highest bids currently at $1,264 and $1,152, respectively.

butthead A Return to Rock ’N’ Roll  High School With Joey Ramone AuctionMore prized, apparently, is the artist’s record collection. There are 97 albums in the lot, only a handful of them from the Ramones’ contemporaries. Aside from some T. Rex, Iggy Pop and Cheap Trick records, the itemized lot contains some unusual picks: Ike and Tina Turner (Workin’ Together), The Righteous Brothers (Greatest Hits), The Four Seasons (2nd Vault of Golden Hits), The Allman Brothers Band (At Fillmore East), Canadian tweenyboppers the DeFranco Family band (Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat) and Peter, Paul and Mary (10 Years Together).

If we had to pick one item to bid on, it’d be a toss-up. On one hand, there’s Joey Ramone’s Rolodex—Geffen Records! Lucinda Williams! Wayne Kramer! Sushi restaurants in the city! But really, it’s only valuable if no one has changed phone numbers since 2001, which might explain why it’s only going for $533 at the moment.

On the other hand, there are the front man’s scribbled musings on various scraps, like lyrics to the unreleased “Elevator Operator,” penned on an Alka-Seltzer box; his thoughts on watching Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction for the first time, written on Hotel Buena Vista stationery; and a ripped sheet of notebook paper with the author’s thoughts on capital punishment: “Slowly sinkin drifting off subconsious / You get what you see / Death penalty should be reinstated / A life for a life.”

And yes, that’s the original spelling.

Of course, the sartorial collector won’t be disappointed either, not with the array of ammo-adorned belts and leather pants, the official Simpsons bomber jacket (from when the Ramones lent their voices to the cartoon), the Late Show and Beavis and Butt-head T-shirts and the studded fingerless gloves.

But you’ll want to hurry hurry hurry. With the online auction ending this Thursday at 7 p.m., by the time you read this, you’ll only have about twenty-twenty-twenty-four hours to go before the last bids are tallied.