Auction of teen's Beatles photographs soars over $360,000

NEW YORK Thu Jul 21, 2011 5:54pm EDT

1 of 16. The Beatles perform on stage during their first tour of the U.S. in this photograph taken by Mike Mitchell and auctioned by Christie's in New York on July 20, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Mitchell/Christie's/Handout

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A trove of unpublished photographs of The Beatles' first U.S. concerts taken by a Washington teen-ager in 1964 took in more than $360,000 at auction, selling for many times their estimates.

Forty-six lots of about 50 pristine black-and-white photographs of the Fab Four that had sat in a box for 45 years totaled $361,938, including commission at the sale Wednesday night, Christie's said. The collection had been expected to fetch about $100,000.

Bidders paid anywhere from $813 to $68,500 for Mike Mitchell's gelatin silver prints which chronicled The Beatles' appearances in Washington and Baltimore. Every work sold, most all exceeding the pre-sale estimates.

In one striking shot, the band members were photographed at a news conference from behind with each of their heads encircled by a thin halo of light. The 16-inch by 16-inch print fetched the top price and was the last lot of the enthusiastic sale. It had been estimated at $2,000 to $3,000.

Christie's had said the photographs were priced conservatively because Mitchell was not a known photographer.

But Christie's director of iconic collections, Cathy Elkies, said their "intimacy and up-close quality" differentiated them from later Beatles photographs.

Calling the sale "an outstanding success," Elkies noted that bidders in the packed salesroom became part of Beatles history, as well as "the excitement that the Beatles still inspire all these years later."

The Beatles performed their first U.S. concert at the Washington Coliseum on February 11, 1964, two days after their legendary debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Mitchell, then 18, was at Union Station when the Beatles arrived and documented the shrieking hysteria of their fans. He also shot the pre-concert news conference and was positioned at the stage for the entire Coliseum show. Months later he documented the Beatles concert at the Baltimore Civic Center.

Friends encouraged him to put his little-seen photographs up for sale.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Doina Chiacu)

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