Before Auction, Lennon Has Brush With the F.B.I.
By BEN SISARIO
Published: October 6, 2010
John Lennon has been dead for 30 years, but the Federal Bureau of
Investigation is still on the case.
On Wednesday morning a small pop-culture memorabilia shop in Midtown
opened an 836-lot auction timed to what would have been Lennon's 70th
birthday, which is Saturday. The prized item was a set of Lennon's
fingerprints made in 1976 as part of his application for citizenship.
Minimum bid: $100,000.
But after an hourlong standoff involving cellphone calls, faxes and
meetings with an agent in a parked car outside the East 57th Street
storefront, the F.B.I. served the shop called Gotta Have It! with
a subpoena and seized the fingerprint card, which was made at a New
York police station on May 8, 1976, and bears a signature and the
name John Winston Ono Lennon.
Given Lennon's history with the F.B.I. he was under surveillance in
the early 1970s for his antiwar activism the events were strange
enough to make Peter Siegel, an owner of the store, wonder what the
fuss was about. Since last Thursday, he said, the F.B.I., the
Department of Homeland Security and the United States attorney in
Manhattan had asked about the card.
"I've been doing this 20 years and have never had this much
government interest in something," Mr. Siegel said. "Here he is, one
of our greatest musicians ever, and they just don't stop
investigating this guy."
Jon Wiener, a history professor at the University of California,
Irvine, who wrote the book "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon F.B.I.
Files," also noted that 1976 was a bit late in the F.B.I.'s Lennon timeline.
"As far as I know, the F.B.I. interest in Lennon was in the J. Edgar
Hoover era," Professor Wiener said on Wednesday, "and his successors
fairly quickly closed the books on the investigation." Mr. Hoover died in 1972.
Yet despite the display of federal investigative force, the interest
in Lennon's fingerprint card may turn out to be prosaic, perhaps
having to do with ownership of government property. On Wednesday an
F.B.I. spokesman, James Margolin, said there was an "investigation
into how that item came to be up for auction."
The card, Mr. Siegel said, was being sold for a private collector,
whom he identified only as a former concert promoter who had bought
the card at a Beatles convention about two decades ago.
It is not the first time a Lennon fingerprint card has been offered
at auction. In 1991 Sotheby's sold a similar item for $4,125, without incident.
Leon Wildes, Lennon's immigration lawyer in the 1970s, offered a
theory about the document's provenance.
During the summer of 1976, Mr. Wildes said on Wednesday, he had some
of Lennon's paperwork with him, including a fingerprint form, while
making a television appearance. "When I returned to where I was, from
New York, it turned out it was missing," he said. "I was very upset.
We called about it, and nobody seemed to know where it was."
At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, an F.B.I. agent appeared outside Gotta Have
It!, parked in a blue Ford. Mr. Siegel said the agent lacked a proper
subpoena. After a flurry of phone calls between the store owners and
their lawyer, and many visits to the agent in the Ford, the store
owners received a subpoena by fax that satisfied their lawyer, and
turned over the document.
"If it was anybody else's fingerprint card," Mr. Siegel said, "I
wouldn't hear from anybody."
Imagine That: FBI Confiscates Lennon's Fingerprints From Auction
Feds likely not interested in slain Beatle, just stolen property
By GREG WILSON
Oct 7, 2010
The FBI is still very interested in John Lennon, even though the
former Beatle, who would have been 70 on Saturday, has been dead for
On Wednesday, federal agents went into a small shop in New York and
seized a Lennon fingerprint card that was the centerpiece of an
auction of Lennon memorabilia. The signed card, made in 1976 as part
of Lennon's application for citizenship, was expected to fetch more
Owners of Gotta Have Rock and Roll told The New York Times the FBI,
the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Attorney in
Manhattan had started asking questions about the card last week.
Lennon had well-chronicled issues with the FBI, mainly for his
antiwar stance, but such buzz 30 years after he was assassinated had
shop owner Peter Siegel perplexed.
"I've been doing this 20 years and have never had this much
government interest in something," Siegel said. "Here he is, one of
our greatest musicians ever, and they just don't stop investigating this guy."
It's more likely the feds just want to know how government property
fell into private hands and ended up ticketed for an auction. FBI
spokesman James Margolin said there was an "investigation into how
that item came to be up for auction."
Siegel told the Times the card was being sold for a private
collector, whom he identified only as a former concert promoter who
had bought the card at a Beatles convention about two decades ago.
FBI seizes John Lennon's fingerprints in N.Y.
Card signed by Beatle in 1976 on auction at Manhattan memorabilia shop
Oct 7, 2010
NEW YORK A set of John Lennon's fingerprints being auctioned for at
least $100,000 was seized by the FBI on Wednesday 30 years after the
The 1976 signed application for Lennon's U.S. citizenship was one of
the hallmarks of about 850 celebrity items in an online sale timed
around Lennon's 70th birthday on Saturday.
The fingerprint card was being shown to media at a midtown New York
store early Wednesday in an auction preview of more than 90 Beatles
items when the FBI faxed a subpoena there and took the card.
Lennon, who was born in Liverpool, England, had been investigated by
the FBI in the early 1970s for anti-war activity.
Peter Siegel, co-founder of GOTTA HAVE IT!, the shop selling the
fingerprint card, said he was bewildered by the FBI action and
interest during the week also by Homeland Security.
"This great icon has been deceased for 30 years," he said. "This is
not a national threat."
The card was consigned to the shop by a well-known promoter who
bought it about 20 years ago, Siegel said.
In a week-long discovery, Siegel said the FBI, "with a sense of
urgency," was concerned with whether the card had been part of
Lennon's file and was lost or missing.
"We're investigating how the item came to be in a private
collection," FBI spokesman James Margolin said. "It is apparently a
government document and would not normally be in the commercial stream."
Lennon's 1970s immigration attorney Leon Wildes told The New York
Times that the fingerprint form was among papers in his possession
that were missing after a 1976 television appearance.
John Lennon's Application For U.S. Residency Banned From Auction
October 6th, 2010
John Lennon's application for U.S. residency has been banned from
auction by officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The rare piece of memorabilia from the late Beatle was expected to
fetch upwards of $100,000 at a planned Rock & Roll Pop Culture
Auction beginning on Wednesday - but the FBI has stepped in to remove
the item, because it's considered government property.
The document, dated May 8, 1976, features Lennon's finger and
thumbprints and his signature.
A spokesperson from the auction house confirms to TMZ.com: "The item
has been under investigation by the FBI because it is considered
The auctioneers were hoping to cash in on the fact it's Lennon's 70th
birthday on Saturday. The star was tragically shot dead outside his
New York home in 1980.