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RIAA Awards Fans Can Buy: Are They A Good Deal?

Posted by James Duncan on

Official RIAA awards have historically only been made available to those who worked on the recordings in a creative, technical or marketing capacity. According to the RIAA: "Any artist, label or other affiliated party who contributed to an RIAA certified title (riaa.com/gold-platinum/) and would like to obtain a physical plaque, can do so." (Source: riaa.com, underline added).

What about RIAA awards made available to fans?

A trend that has seen some minor growth in recent years is for artists to make arrangements with the RIAA for fans to be able to directly purchase official awards with their own personal names as the presentation.

This creates new merch sales revenue for artists and is also a nice development for fans. Prices are reasonable as well with genuine RIAA awards including personalization selling in the $250-400 range. It is notable, however, that these awards cannot be ordered with the artist name or any of the individual names of group members as the presentation.

KISS is an artist that has been tapping this market for several years. Recently a few more artists have joined them, including -- at time of article writing in mid-2022 -- Aerosmith, Def Leppard (example below), The GoGos and ZZ Top.  

Def Leppard RIAA fan award for High N Dry

Def Leppard fan award closeup
These awards often have wonderful artwork and sometimes some special notations which differentiate them from actual industry RIAA awards issued for the same recording. An example of this is the "40th anniversary" text on the award above. These special features can make them popular with fans of the artist.

How valuable are these "fan market" awards for collectors? And will they rise in value?

While valuation of awards is always at best a game of educated guesswork, the answer is likely: If they can be purchased at the artist's website, the value of these awards will remain stable at their original purchase price since anyone can order them at any time. 

Their value will rise only after the artist stops selling them. And in a typical supply-and-demand scenario, that value going forward will depend on how many were sold into the marketplace and how many fans wins up wanting to sell the one they bought.

What is certain is that they will be out there in much greater numbers than industry-presented awards. This will in turn most likely depress their value for all time unless everyone who buys them holds onto them for a long time. This seems very unlikely.

It is also worth noting that, as with all awards, the presentation is one aspect of the award that contributes to collector value and unknown fan presentations naturally will fall at the low end of the scale in terms of desirability. What we have typically seen in terms of presentation is the following, ranked from most- to least-desirable:

  • Solo artist name (Elvis Presley, Elton John, Prince, etc.) or individual member of a group (Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury, etc.) with the highest profile member of group fetching the most, typically. As always, there are exceptions such as deceased group members.

An example of the most desirable type of presentation on a Rolling Stones 1968 RIAA "white matte" award:

Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet award to Mick Jagger

  • Special celebrity. Example: An RIAA Gold award for "Gonna Fly Now", the theme from the movie Rocky by essentially unknown artist Bill Conti sold in 2015 for $8,125, likely because its' presentation plate read "presented to Sylvester Stallone"
  • Group (The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc.)
  • Producer, songwriter, or engineer of note (Geoff Emerick, Quincy Jones, George Martin, Phil Ramone, Bernie Taupin, etc.)
  • Record label (Elektra, RCA, Columbia etc.)
  • Manager or industry executive of note (Peter Grant, Clive Davis, etc.)
  • Industry executive, lesser known
  • Record stores, radio stations, distributors
  • Hard Rock Cafe (since most of these were made later especially for HRC in a display deal they made with the RIAA)

And coming in at the tail end of all these presentations will no doubt be "miscellaneous fan X," who 99% of the time will be someone no one knows.

Autographed RIAA awards made available to fans:

Occasionally artists will release limited edition runs available to fans/the general public of official RIAA awards with the special feature of being autographed.

Examples of these in the past decade include official RIAA plaques issued by artists as diverse as Backstreet Boys, Def Leppard, Elton John, Genesis and KISS. These awards have typically had the artist's name as the presentation as well, and together with the autographs these make for a pair of really attractive features for collectors.

These awards do typically appreciate in value since they are issued in limited numbers of 100 or 200, or occasionally more. While not many artists have released these awards, the ones that have been issued have for the most part increased in value.

A recent sale of the Genesis signed RIAA award for the Invisible Touch album pictured below with only 50 issued was highly coveted by several buyers and fetched a relatively healthy price of $1,900 here on MusicGoldmine.com.

Genesis signed RIAA award

An Elton John signed Madman Across The Water album RIAA award, one of a limited edition run of 100, sold for $2,400 here on our website. It was notably in supreme condition in its' original shrink wrap, making it an especially prized find:

Elton John signed RIAA award

Signed, limited edition (of 200) Backstreet Boys awards for their Millennium album like the one below have sold here in the $1,000-1,500 range:

Backstreet Boys Millenium signed RIAA award

In the end, it comes down to collector preference as to whether the standard fan RIAA awards are worth collecting.

On the one hand, they are certainly fantastic tributes to a favorite artist and can be really nice pieces of art for the wall. 

On the other, the numbers produced and the fan name presentations will likely make them not worth much more than their original purchase price, even though some appreciation is certainly possible.   

While some might call them purists, for many collectors only the awards presented to people or labels, etc. actually involved in the recording are ones they would want to own.

Which would you rather own? The 2022 fan award on the left for Def Leppard's High 'n' Dry, or an original industry award like the 1990 example for Def Leppard's Hysteria on the right? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Summary

While standard fan RIAA awards are probably unlikely to gain much in value, at least in the near- to mid- term, they are very attractive fan art.

Conversely, limited edition, signed RIAA fan awards are different story as the Backstreet Boys, Elton John and Genesis examples above help validate. Because of their strictly limited production numbers and special features they can become quite valuable.

We wish you good fortune in your collecting, whichever type of awards you like to acquire! 

Check out our current selection of RIAA and other collectible record awards here

Want to learn more about RIAA and other record awards? Check out our Record Award Guide here.

Important Notice/Disclaimer: While many record awards and music memorabilia items appreciate in value, others fall in value and MusicGoldmine.com makes no claims, express or implied, that any item will appreciate in value at any time in the future. Further, MusicGoldmine.com is not providing investment advice in any of its' content. 

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