The Elvis Collector

September 2022

One of the biggest movie releases of the past few months is the biographical drama ‘Elvis’. Enough time has passed for most of us to have forgotten just how badly Elvis had been exploited by his manager Colonel Tom Parker (not a real Colonel) - a snake oil salesman and grifter who latched onto the talented superstar as his meal ticket to support his lifestyle and gambling addition.

It’s one of those stories that’s played out many times in popular culture as a talent puts their faith into a bad manager that ultimately leaves them penniless.

The movie spends time spotlighting Parker’s knack as a master marketer in created movies and merchandise that helped make Elvis one of the biggest celebrities of his time.

Today, Elvis memorabilia continues to be in high demand among dedicated collectors from around the world.

Thunder Bay’s Greg Cieslik, is such
a collector. An accomplished Chartered Accountant, General Manager and partner at Lakehead Motors by day and dedicated Elvis collector by night.

Cieslik recalls his fascination with Elvis at the age of 9 while growing up in Poland.

“Elvis was very popular in Europe, and it is argued that he was even more popular there than in North America. There was something special about him on TV and in his voice that triggered my interest in Elvis collecting. I started collecting cassette tapes, records and posters. Most of the items were imports from Germany that I was able to buy at flea markets which were very popular in Poland at the time. It was always fun to run to the market on Saturday mornings and try to find something new for my collection. A few of my friends also had the same interest and it became a competition between to see who could amass a bigger collection. After moving to Canada in the mid 1980’s it became much easier to collect original records, books and memorabilia”, admits Cieslik.

For those interested in collecting Elvis memorabilia, Cieslik says you’ll need to do your research.

“Elvis collecting is an extremely unique and compartmentalized hobby. The reason for this is that you can’t just say that you collect “Elvis” items. One would become overwhelmed and confused in the process. You have to decide if you will focus on his music, personal items, clothing and stage wear, photographs, movie memorabilia, signatures, etc. And once you decide for example on music collecting, then it has to be decided on LP records, Extended Plays, Singles, CD’s and are you going to focus on specific countries. Probably, The Beatles fans are the only other ones who face the same challenge.

Before the internet, the only way to buy any original records was through mail order record stores, visiting record stores while on vacation or traveling, or by going to record conventions. At that time, there were so many publications that specialized in record / music collecting with hundreds of pages of listings of items for sale from around the world. The ultimate place to get unique Elvis pieces was to go to Memphis – Graceland in August during the Elvis week. Every year there is an Elvis convention where dealers from around the world come and trade /sell ‘anything Elvis’.

Once the era of internet arrived, it became much easier to find items you were looking for.

EBay was the next milestone in the era of collecting. The EBay platform allowed everyone overnight to become a “dealer” from anywhere in the world. But within a couple of years, the prices started to fall across many type of memorabilia – not only Elvis. It was inevitable to happen as items became easy to find and markets were flooded with memorabilia.

However, rare items always hold
their value and are difficult to find. Today, collectors demand items in mint pristine condition or sealed if possible. Japanese record / CD releases have always been the pinnacle of record collecting and demand top dollar in mint condition. Records in less than mint condition are almost worthless.

Before Elvis became a worldwide star, he was a Memphis artist on the local Sun label. There were five singles issued on the Sun label, these are extremely hard find individually and a rarity to have all five in mint condition. There have been a few sets that have sold for over $25,000 in the last few years at various auctions. His personal jewellery, guitars and stage wear are the most expensive items to collect. His engraved Omega watch sold in 2018 for $1.8 million and his early Sun Studios guitar sold for $1.32 million. It is very important to be able to determine if the items offered are authentic or fakes”.

When asked to describe his most prized Elvis possession, Cieslik says it was his first find.

“My first Elvis piece drew me into the world of collecting. It was the reissue of Elvis’ Golden Records Volume 3 release. It was an easy piece to find. However today, finding an original USA copy in mint condition with the original booklet that was given with the record is very challenging to find. I also really love the original still sealed USA pressing of Elvis Touch Of Gold Volume 3 Extended Play from 1960 with the original price sticker of$1.29. It’s a really nice piece especially in pristine mint condition as the cover has a white background”.

When asked to share some thoughts on the Elvis movie, Cieslik admitted it was
‘great entertainment’. “Hardcore fans will spot inaccuracies and Hollywood artistic liberties taken in the movie. The most obvious departure is the public firing of Colonel Tom Parker on stage which never happened. It was felt that this scene was necessary to show Elvis’ breaking point and dissatisfaction with his manager. The movie has made over $270,000,000 before entering the home movie market”.

Cieslik admit the movie has rekindled interest in Elvis, exposing him to younger audiences.

“You can really see the impact of the movie. Elvis streaming on Spotify and searches on YouTube have substantially increased. There is also renewed interest in his physical product as Elvis titles have entered the Amazon top selling lists for video and music product. It has also been reported that licencing inquiries for his name and image have increased subsequent to the movie release”, says Cieslik.

With values of his collection on the rise, Ceislik admits what started out as some childhood fun has become a really good investment…thank you, thank you very much.

Bill Wrightsell is a marketing consultant and regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Email him at

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