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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Beatles discs 'worthless'
The Beatles and Ed Sullivan
Beatlemania: Appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964
Customs officers seized 10 gold discs belonging to The Beatles at the height of the band's fame and almost destroyed them, new documents reveal.

The discs, awarded to the band in America, were confiscated at Royal Victoria Docks in east London because the band refused to pay import duty.

Although the band were at the height of their fame, officers considered destroying the records, but baulked at the possible adverse publicity.

One officer recommended a quick sale because he felt they would be "worthless" within a couple of years.

I understand the Beatles are on their 'way out'

B Lambert, Customs officer, March 1967

According to officials, the haul was not deemed exempt from import duty because the discs were not awarded "for distinction in art, literature... or otherwise as a record of meritorious achievement or conduct".

Officials listed the contents of one case as including 10 presentation plaques, five LP facsimiles and five EPs.

The 10 discs are currently owned by the HM Customs and Excise National Museum and would be worth thousands in sold at auction.

The company acting for the Beatles, NEMS Enterprises, failed to pay the charges, which were unspecified, despite being regularly contacted by Customs officers.

The Beatles
The group had no problems with these silver discs

On 10 March 1967, one officer wrote that the band were a passing fad.

He wrote: "I have no idea of the price we could expect to realise but I understand the Beatles are on their 'way out' (result of quick market research on teenage neighbours!)"

His manager responded by saying a sale of the "golden discs" would need "immediate action - when the Beatle craze is ended, the disc will be valueless".

But it was decided that the department risked embarrassment if it sold the items and decided not to advertise the sale in music papers of the day.

Another officer, L Brook, suggested the records be destroyed: "It would probably be undesirable to advertise them in any musical papers as we might be swamped in enquiries from teenagers seeking souvenirs of their idols."

We might be swamped in enquiries from teenagers seeking souvenirs of their idols

L Brook, customs officer, October 1967

The following year, a valuation was carried out on behalf of the government department, which decided: "The discs have no commercial value."

It added that if the discs were sold, "the Beatles or their managers can scarcely grumble if they fail to answer letters".

On 23 May 1968, the items were handed over to the Customs and Excise departmental library for safe keeping.

In 1994 the the 10 gold discs were handed over to the HM Customs and Excise National Museum in Liverpool.

One is on display at the Albert Dock premises in the city and another is on public show at the Conservation Centre in Liverpool.

A spokesman for the museum said: "We received all of the discs in 1994 and two are currently on display to members of the public in the city.

"The remaining eight are being kept safe in storage."

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