The Original Cover Art For ‘Led Zeppelin I’ Has Sold For $325,000 At Auction

Words by Riley Fitzgerald
Graphic by Press

The cover art for Led Zeppelin I has passed under the hammer for $325,000.

Artist George Hardie‘s design fetched well in excess of the $20,000 to $30,000 expected from the June 18 auction.

Those witnessing the Christies auction report ferocious competition, with bids reportedly only escalating past the $100,000 mark in the last hour.

Hardie was paid only a small fee of £60 for the artwork in 1969.

Fortunately, he held on to the original, placing it aside with a note reading “George’s Pension Fund”.

He only recently recovered the item while clearing out his studio.

Inspired by the work of pop artists like Andy Warhol, Hardie used a technique known as ‘stipple’ to trace the image.

In constructing the image in small dots, the artist evoked the feel of the low-resolution newspaper photo.

(In doing so Hardie would also circumvent any copyright legalities.)

The image was based on photojournalist Sam Shere’s famous image of zeppelin The Hindenburg crashing in an attempt to “dock” in the US state of New Jersey in 1937.

The spectacular crash of the German airship killed 35 and was covered extensively in newsreels around the world.

Use of the image was initially suggested by Led Zeppelin mastermind Jimmy Page, after rejecting a handful of Hardie’s earlier designs.

Led Zeppelin’s choice of cover was not without controversy.

In 1970 Frau Eva von Zeppelin, a descendant of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, objected to the image and mounted a public campaign to prevent the band from touring Denmark.

Not looking to raise the ire of local authorities, Led Zeppelin temporarily changed their name to The Nobs while touring the country.

Despite Eva’s continued denouncements of the group as “shrieking monkeys”, authorities ultimately decided there was nothing legally objectionable to the band’s use of the Zeppelin name.

Hardie’s success with the album cover would later lead him to design many the prominent rock album covers of the 1970s as part of the Pink Floyd’s go-to design studio Hipgnosis.

He would also work on the later Zeppelin covers for Presence and the film soundtrack for The Song Remains The Same in 1976,

View the auction here.

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