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Rare items from John Peel’s legendary archive to go up for auction

Exclusive: Bonhams will sell items including an annotated test pressing of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 'Two Lovers'

By Nick Reilly

John Peel's record collection at his home in Suffolk
John Peel's record collection at his home in Suffolk (Picture: Bonhams)

Rare records and memorabilia from the likes of John Lennon and Marc Bolan will go under the hammer this summer as part of an auction of BBC DJ John Peel’s sprawling archive.

The legendary broadcaster amassed more than 120,000 albums, 12 inches and 7 inches at his Suffolk home prior to his death in 2004.

Now, renowned auction house Bonhams has confirmed that highlights from his personal archive, including radio-played test pressings from landmark musicians, rare records, personal correspondence, and memorabilia, will be offered at auction for the first time ever.

The sale will be held on the 14 June, the week before the long-awaited 50th anniversary of Glastonbury – the very same festival where one of the festival’s most popular stages is named in Peel’s honour.

An annotated copy of Lennon and Yoko Ono's 'Two Lovers' is up for sale
An annotated copy of Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Two Lovers’ is up for sale

Highlights of the sale include a Mono Pressing LP of ‘Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins‘, the 1968 experimental album recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The pressing is annotated by the pair and has an estimate of £15,000-20,000.

Other items include Marc Bolan’s unreleased 1972 EP ‘Hard On Love‘ and a ‘Queen II‘ LP with hand-written letter from Freddie Mercury, 1974.

You can check all the items on offer below:


  • John Lennon/Yoko Ono: A Mono Pressing LP ‘Two Virgins’ Annotated by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1968. Estimate: £15,000-20,000.
  • The Rolling Stones: A Promotional Album LP Signed by the Band, 1969. Estimate: £6,000-8,000.
  • Marc Bolan: An Unreleased LP ‘Hard On Love’, 1972. Estimate: £5,000-6,000.
  • Queen: A ‘Queen II’ LP with hand-written letter from Freddie Mercury, 1974. Estimate: £1,000-1,500.
  • The Damned: An LP ‘Damned Damned Damned’ Signed by the Band, 1977. Estimate: £1,500-2,000.
John Peel's home studio in Suffolk
John Peel’s home studio in Suffolk


  • Joy Division: A 7″ ‘An Ideal For Living’, 1978, with Letter from Stephen Morris. Estimate: £4,000-6,000.
  • Sex Pistols: An Acetate ‘Nevermind Buzzcocks’. Estimate: £5,000-7,000.
  • Nirvana: A 7″ Single ‘Love Buzz/Big Cheese’, 1988. Estimate: £3,000-4,000.
  • The Clash: An 8″ Single ‘London Calling’, 1979. Estimate: £2,500-3,000.
  • U2: A 7″ Single ‘Joshua Tree Collection’, 1987. Estimate: £1,500-2,000.

  • Joy Division: A ‘Unknown Pleasures’ Poster. Estimate: £3,000-4,000.
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience: A ‘Christmas On Earth’ Poster for Olympia, 1967. Estimate: £1,000-1,500.

  • David Bowie: An Early Five-Sided Handwritten Letter With Stage Sketches, Signed. Estimate: £3,000-4,000.
  • Yoko Ono: A Note Regarding Forthcoming Demos. Estimate: £1,000-2,000.
  • John Peel Handwritten programme running orders. Estimate: £300-500
  • An NME Award for Godlike Genius, presented to John Peel in1993. Estimate: £800- 1,200.
  • A Horn Gramophone, First Half 20th Century. From John Peel’s desk in his studio at his home in Suffolk. Estimate: £800-1,200.

John Peel’s family commented: “By virtue of the role he played in it, John/Dad was in a position to have access to many of the most celebrated people and events in the history of popular music. This is reflected in a wealth of souvenirs he collected throughout his life. He had not only a voracious appetite for vinyl, but a keen sense of what memorabilia, ephemera and correspondence might find an interested audience in decades to come (though it could be argued that this was achieved by a strategy of keeping almost everything that crossed his path).

“In going through the accumulation of 40 years of pop music moments, we decided that some of the most interesting items might find a home, with fans of his programme or of the artists whose music he played. Bonhams have assisted us to carefully select what is being offered for sale, and we hope these items find the attention and appreciation that we’re sure John/Dad would feel they warranted. We had no desire to split up his beloved record collection but have included in the sale a selection of particularly rare or unique records that do not take away from the integrity of his archive.”

John Peel’s Horn Gramophone, First Half 20th Century.
John Peel’s Horn Gramophone, First Half 20th Century.

Katherine Schofield, Director of Bonhams Popular Culture department, added: “John Peel had an incredible impact on the new music landscape. Without his passionate advocacy of emerging talent, generations of music lovers may never have heard the sounds of The Fall, The Undertones, The Sex Pistols, and countless others.

“This collection, offered directly by the family, comprises some of Peel’s most collectible and rare records, spanning decades in music – many of which are accompanied by letters from the artists or their management. A number of the test-pressings in this collection were the source of the first airplay for landmark songs. This sale offers a chance to own highlights from Peel’s unbeatable personal archive for the first time, and to share in Peel’s passion for music.”