In October of 1965, the Beatles were awarded the Member of the British Empire (MBE) medal, given to those who excel in their fields, by the Queen of England.
In November 1968, John Lennon gave his back.
Fast forward to 2016, and someone in England got more than the gift of music when they rediscovered a vinyl bought for 10 pounds at a used-item sale in their attic. In the vinyl’s sleeve was Lennon’s protest letter to the Queen of England.
Lennon penned the letter, citing dissatisfaction with the country’s international affairs. According to musician Yoko Ono, married to John Lennon, he defined the term “bagism” as a force against stereotypes and prejudice during their peace campaign in the late 1960s.
The letter, signed “John Lennon of Bag,” reads: “Your Majesty, I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts.”
“Cold Turkey” was a song by Plastic Ono Band, Lennon and Ono’s music project.
The vinyl is now valued at $75,000.
So how were there two copies?
The anonymous owner brought the discovery to a Beatles expedition in Liverpool. There, a music memorabilia expert, Darren Julien, said, “You can quite clearly see that the signature in this letter has been smudged. My theory is that John Lennon never sent this draft because of the smeared ink,” according to CNN.
He continued, “If you’re writing to The Queen, you want the letter to look pretty perfect, you don’t want the ink to be smudged. This suggests that he wrote a second version of the letter, which was the one that was actually sent to The Queen.”