When Dana Mecum staged his first collector car auction in 1988, at the local airport in Rockford, Illinois, he had another Rockford resident, Mike Domino, print up souvenir T-shirts to sell alongside the cars.
“Dana and I have been buddies for more than 35 years,” Domino said recently. “I started a T-shirt company in my garage a few years before he started his collector car auctions.”
Domino’s business grew from doing shirts for local businesses and for special events such as Mecum’s auctions to producing the T-shirts sold at rock concerts across the country, “all the top artists, about 7 million shirts a year,” he said.
Domino eventually sold his business and instead of producing shirts for rock stars, he started chasing down the guitars those stars had used.
“I had a lot of relationships,” he said, adding that as it turned out, “guitars were a better investment than the stock market. Guitars purchased for a couple hundred bucks are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
One example: Back when he was much younger, Domino, now 57, bought a Fender bass guitar or $100. That guitar now sells as a collectible for $10,000.
All of which brings us to the recent announcement that Mecum Auctions’ upcoming Las Vegas collector car sale will include the company’s inaugural vintage guitar, branded as “Mecum Presents Guitar Search by Domino.”
For the inaugural sale, a docket of 21 guitars will be offered up for bidding.
Domino said the first sale is being conducted “to let people know we’re in business.” He and Mecum plan to stage four or five (or more) such sales in 2020.
“Few things have the power to stir us at a near cellular level the way music does,” Mecum Auctions said in announcing its partnership with Domino.
“Those permeating reverberations of sound ranging from gentle strums to thunderous punches have a way of affecting us to our very cores, compelling toes to tap in unison as heart beats quicken and neck hairs rise to the occasion; it is a symphony of sensations that simply cannot be replicated, and the guitar is one of the most moving producers of musical sound that has ever existed. Recognizing that unparalleled significance, Mecum is proud to announce the addition of its newest segment: Guitar Search by Domino.
“For those who’ve spent years passionately studying, playing or collecting history’s finest stringed instruments, picking up a vintage guitar that has proven itself to be a true work of art produces a feeling akin to slipping into the driver’s seat of a dream car and wrapping one’s fingers around the smooth curves of the steering wheel before shifting into gear and taking off down a winding, endless road.
“The guitars to be offered by Mecum are investment-grade collector’s pieces, many with direct ownership ties to some of history’s most celebrated musicians, including Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and Rush’s Geddy Lee.
“They’re guitars that have already established themselves as some of the most coveted and collectible instruments ever created, and they’re all in search of new homes with knowledgeable enthusiasts who appreciate art-creating instruments as fine art installations.”
While Mecum started with a collector car auction, he has evolved the dockets since then and has added motorcycles, vintage tractors, automobilia (“Road Art”), and now guitars to his auction dockets. In 2019, Mecum Auctions will conduct 14 collector car auctions, a stand-alone motorcycle sale at which 1,750 bikes crossed the block, 3 “Gone Farmin’ auctions, and in addition to selling Road Art at all venues, added separate Road Art auction blocks in several venues.
For his part, Domino said he is encouraged by the realization that, “Millennials are into ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s artists,” and thus are likely collectors.
He also said getting ready for the auction has been a flat-out flog.
“Dana and I were on his boat the July 4 weekend,” Domino said. “I looked at him and said ‘let’s do this guitar auction.’ But by the time everything was signed and sealed, he said, ‘here’s the bad news: you only have two weeks to put everything together.”
Given the time frame for this first sale, Domino has assembled a 21-guitar docket that ranges in age from a 1949 Gibson SJ 200 Sunburst Acoustic to a 2016 Gibson No. 31 remake of the 1959 Les Paul electric guitar. In between are instruments such as a 1983 Paul Reed Double Neck electric produced for Carlos Santana, a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard electric, a 1965 Fender Stratocaster electric, a 1963 Fender Telecaster electric, and a 2015 Gibson “Donna” Les Paul Collectors Choice.
The auction, which also includes 1,000 collector cars, is scheduled for October 10-12 in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
To view the complete guitar docket, see the Mecum Auctions website.