King of Elvis collectibles
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Apr 15, 2013, 13:44
ASHLEY McLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Bage sits in front of items from his collection, which takes up an entire room in his home. The room is lined with cabinets, as well as boxes, filled with Elvis memorabilia.
The King has left the building.
But for one Hopewell resident, his memory lives on, in many different items that fill an extra room of his home.
Ken Bage has been collecting Elvis memorabilia for at least 30 years. His collection holds more than 5,000 items, which include records, books, clothing and novelty items.
Bage began his interest in the King when he was just a kid, buying Elvis records. After Elvis died in 1977, his collecting started without him even noticing.
“I seemed to start accumulating pieces and it just went from there,” Bage said.
Bage owns numerous records from Elvis, both common and rare.
He became serious about adding to his collection around 1980.
At this time Bage found himself attending conventions in Memphis in order to extend his collection, as well as sell some of his memorabilia, to in turn buy more pieces for his collection.
“I found that the economical way to do things is sell the memorabilia, and then buy other pieces that I personally want for my collection,” Bage said. “Everyone specializes in different items, so going to the conventions is always profitable.”
ASHLEY McLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT This television was owned by Elvis, and originally housed in Graceland, where Elvis spent the last years of his life.
According to Bage, Elvis collectibles began to be produced in the late 1950s, with items such as belts, clothing, books, and a variety of other things.
Some of the key items in his collection include a television set that was owned by Elvis at Graceland, an Elvis jacket with original tags still attached, which is one of only two known to exist, and one of three copies from NCR paper of the police report from his death.
Bage, a retired police officer who runs a photography studio out of his home, is also the co-author of the Presleyana book, which acts as a price guide for different Elvis memorabilia.
With the help of the Internet, particularly eBay, Bage said collecting has become easier, as before you would have to travel to the conventions in order to purchase collectables.
Every piece in his collection holds a story behind it, such as a scarf thrown by the King into the crowd at a show in Austin, Texas. On the scarf are visible makeup stains from Elvis himself. Accompanying the scarf is a photo of the exact moment it was thrown. Bage’s friends’ hand, from who he received the scarf, is visible in the right corner of the photograph.
But why Elvis collectibles?
“He changed our lives,” Bage said. “He changed expressions we used, how we dress, how we look, and how we act. He was an absolute cultural phenomenon.”
A slot machine, Elvis style
His love for Elvis brought him and his wife to Memphis in 1982 for their honeymoon. His son is also named after the star.
From lipstick to fake sideburns, record players, poodle skirts and even an Elvis doll, Bage’s collection focuses on records and memorabilia from the 1950s and 1960s. This era is when these types of collectables were popular in dime stores across America.
Every year, for the past 25 years, Bage has traveled to Memphis to attend the annual Elvis Memorabilia Sale, which is held on Jan. 8, Elvis’ birthday. Bage says the fun is in the collecting, finding that one precious item you’ve been searching for.
A well known item worn by by Elvis, this scarf was thrown into the crowd at one of his shows. Makeup stains are visible on the cloth.
“There are certain things you can search the world for, for years, to find it,” Bage said. “That’s the fun you know, the chase.”