Europe's Largest Rolling Stones Collection Unveiled

For Reinhold Karpp, collecting Rolling Stones fan merchandise was his life.

Posted Mar 27, 2017

Collecting things isn’t just reserved for the landed gentry.  It is a passion for something greater than ourselves that people across all socioeconomic lines share. As a child, I collected horse statues, then later Madame Alexander dolls. But I never got past a few Christmases before moving on to the next thing.

For Reinhold Karpp, whose love of the Rolling Stones has spanned five decades, he spent his entire adult life gathering anything and everything that had to do with his beloved rock band.

As a teenager, he discovered the Stones while on a remote island off the coast of Germany. As the youngest of four children, he was sent to an all-boys’ boarding school. “It seemed to make sense for him,” his sister told me at a recent press conference for the unveiling of his private collection of over 15,000 recordings and fan paraphernalia. His daughter, Annette Karpp, presented the reasons behind their loaning the collection out for scientific research at the Center for Popular Culture and Music at the University of Freiburg, Germany.

Christine Hohlbaum
Source: Christine Hohlbaum
Christine Hohlbaum
Source: Christine Hohlbaum

“My father loved the Rolling Stones for their music,” she said. “In fact, I attended my first Stones concert with him when I was eight years old.”  His legacy and love for all things Stones-related should live on. “We as a family agreed we wanted to share it with the world. It would have been a shame for it to collect dust in a basement somewhere.”

Before his death in 2012, Reinhold dedicated an entire floor of his suburban home to his collection. With over 130 concerts under his belt, the father of three traveled the world to see his favorite band whenever he could.

The Reinhold Karpp Rolling Stones collection is Europe’s largest private Rolling Stones collection, if not the world’s. To hand over a private collection to a public institution such as the University of Freiburg is an unusual move.

“The first of its kind,” a member of the panel said during the unveiling.

What is particularly unusual about Reinhold’s success in finding out where the Stones would perform next is he did a great deal of it during analogue times. He didn’t have the advantage of the Internet back in the mid-1960s when his passion was ignited. Somehow he built a network of fans who would call him on his landline to inform him of their next show. He exchanged records in the Netherlands at a large record fair. He even bought himself a Rolling Stones pinball machine.

“We are interested in studying the history of things,” said Dr. Michael Fischer, the Center’s Managing Director. Tangible items such as collectibles add meaning to our lives.

Christine Hohlbaum
Source: Christine Hohlbaum

According to psychology professor Mark B. MicKinley, “For some people collecting is simply the quest, in some cases a life-long pursuit that is never complete.“ After viewing select items from over 100 boxes still unpacked, I can definitely say that Reinhold’s collection is a tribute not only to a band with staying power that’s lasted over half a century. It is also the recognition that our world is made up of more than just digital ephemerality.

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