An original Grateful Dead T-shirt from 1967 has broken the record for the most expensive vintage rock shirt ever sold at an auction, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The tee — free from the band’s notable tie-dye or dancing bear graphics — sold for $17,640 through Sotheby’s on October 15.
With expenses and fees included, auction winner Bo Bushnell paid a total of $19,315.80 for the Grateful Dead souvenir, which was listed in excellent condition among the Sotheby’s lot “From the Vault: Property from the Grateful Dead and Friends.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the shirt is believed to be one of the first mass-produced tees by the band, although still made in limited quantities.
For real Deadheads — The Sotheby’s listing for the simple yellow tee explains it was designed by “the Hells Angel Merry Prankster, and graphic artist Allan “Gut” Terk, a key figure in California counterculture in the 1960s.” By 1967 — the year this T-shirt was made — Terk was known for his work for the Dead, and was acclaimed in the Bay Area music scene for his shirt and poster art. Per Defunkd, the Grateful Dead tee was previously owned by Dan Healy, an audio engineer who worked with the Dead.
Over the past few years, Grateful Dead merch has become highly valuable — not just because of its age or rarity, but because the band’s iconography has been transformed into streetwear staples. Recently, the Dead has collaborated with Nike, M@rket, and even Crocs, producing everything from sneakers to hoodies. Celebrities like LeBron James, Jonah Hill, and A$AP Rocky — many born too late to be considered “true” Deadheads — have also been spotted in the band’s collaborative offerings.
Of course, streaming platforms and Dead & Company, the recently formed touring band consisting of three surviving Dead members plus John Mayer, have allowed the Grateful Dead’s music to transcend time, and apparently, fashion trends. While some original Deadheads may scoff at the band’s streetwear pieces, the Dead were all about inclusivity — and newer merch is much more accessible to young fans than a near-$20k original T-shirt.