When I sift through the stubs, a symphony of memories play. That night when Johnny Mathis sang “Misty” to me. Those crazy trips to the Gorge with college friends. My handcrafted Fleetwood Mac book that won a South Hill performance of “Tusk” from the Davenport High School Marching Band.
Despite the wealth of souvenir merchandise available at concerts these days, nothing screams, “I was there” louder than a ticket stub. With us from the moment of purchase until that final encore, this inclusive keepsake packs it all – date, time, artist, location, seat number and even a price tag. While printed concert tickets can still be purchased at many local box offices, these tiny mementos we once tucked with a special record are fast becoming relics of the past with the increasing convenience of online ticketing. That satisfying feel of an authentic ticket is now replaced by the sound of dinging cellphones at concert gates.
“Most of us didn’t realize when we were young and we started going to concerts that we should have kept them and for those who did, they’re really cool pieces of memorabilia,” said Bob Gallagher, owner of the record store 4000 Holes. “I think it brings back a time and place … especially if you’ve been going to concerts a lot. It can bring you back to those shows, but also there’s just something cool about having ticket stubs.” Gallagher still sells at his store printed tickets to Big Dipper concerts booked by local company Monumental Shows.
In addition to that nostalgic appeal, concert stubs provide valuable timelines for both bands and the venues where they performed. Gallagher cited Gonzaga University’s Kennedy Pavilion, which hosted myriad artists during the ’60s and ’70s. While records exist for bigger bands that played in the venue, many remain undocumented.
“They had tons and tons and tons of concerts, but even they don’t have a (complete) list of the concerts,” said Gallagher, who occasionally stumbles upon a Kennedy Pavilion stub. “In some ways it’s historical. It can actually bring a record that there is no record for right now.”
Ticket stubs are just the opening act for Mike House’s enormous music memorabilia collection, which also includes thousands of flyers. The 33-year-old owner of Spokane’s Resurrection Records has accumulated more than 500 show tickets over the years, including a 2006 Dirty Rotten Imbeciles stub he displays in a special hutch at his home. “I collect T-shirts too, I have hundreds of T-shirts,” said House, who like Gallagher is rarely asked about concert ticket stubs by customers and sees more demand for posters.
“You can’t get posters anywhere now,” added House.
Most Spokane area-stubs carry only sentimental value, but those from concerts featuring legendary artists such as Nirvana, KISS, Jimi Hendrix and Pearl Jam often command premiums and there is one other rare exception.
“I don’t know if any exist. I’ve never seen any, but obviously the Vanilla Fudge/Led Zeppelin show, that would have been a highly collectible one,” said Gallagher, who was a teenager when he attended the 1968 Kennedy Pavilion event which featured a young Led Zeppelin – or Len Zefflin, as newspaper advertising incorrectly called them – as the opening act. Gallagher said past ticketing practices have increased both the desirability and scarcity of vintage stubs.
“Sometimes they didn’t give you your ticket back … in fact, a lot of stubs from the ’60s don’t even have the band on it, they have the date and there are some Beatles ones like that and Grateful Dead, they’re very collectible,” Gallagher added.
While a passion for older music might spark an interest in ticket stubs and other concert memorabilia, House believes a younger fan base is driving collecting trends for these items.
“There are so many people that would say they love ticket stubs and they want ticket stubs back that are older, but they don’t have any ticket stubs. They don’t have one ticket stub,” House said. “I think younger people collect them a lot. While they don’t get them as much, I think they’re more actively collecting them and wanting them and looking out for them like me.”
To satisfy these nostalgia enthusiasts, some online concert ticketing sites now offer virtual commemorative tickets to customers. And, while I’m still singing the blues over that missing stub from Spokane’s 2022 Paul McCartney show, Gallagher seemed content with his own paper souvenir from the historic event and was quick to point out that concert ticket stubs haven’t gone away, they’ve simply changed.
“I still have the print out. The difference is those will never be valuable,” Gallagher said. “That’s sort of the beauty of rock ‘n’ roll, we take value in the funniest things.”