"What's Going On?" These could have been the first words uttered by a man who accidentally discovered a genuine 1964 passport belonging to Motown legend Marvin Gaye inside of an album he bought for just 50 cents.
The memorabilia collector from Detroit had purchased a handful of albums at an estate sale. When he was sifting through them at home, Gaye's passport literally fell out of one of the record sleeves and into his hands. Having no idea how much the rare find was worth, he appeared on the February 3 episode of the PBS series Antiques Roadshow to have the unique item once belonging to the "What's Going On" singer appraised.
"The thing I'm in love with is how young he is here," appraiser Laura Woolley said about the photo on the document. Woolley also explained more about why the find was so special. "This is dated 1964, which is great, and it is after he added the 'E' to the end of his name, because when he was signed as a solo artist with Motown, he decided to add that 'E,' and there's a lot of different theories," she said.
"People say it's because he wanted to separate himself from his father or because he actually liked Sam Cooke so much, who had an 'E' at the end of his name, that he wanted to imitate his idol."
She then advised that he insure the passport for nothing less than $20,000.
The man was shocked when he found out how much the document was worth. "Are you kidding me?" he asked incredulously. "I'm not kidding you," she responded. "Nothing comes up for Marvin Gaye. It's not a really common thing to see Marvin Gaye memorabilia."
Woolley added that passport collecting is very popular. "People love passports," she said. "They show where [Gaye] was all over the world, what he's doing during these years – he's obviously traveling, he's touring. People also like them because we know that they're real signatures because you have to sign your own passports."
We can only imagine that the collector, who bought the album containing the passport for less than a dollar, was singing "How Sweet It Is" on his way out the door.