Paul McCartney-Signed Pot Arrest Cartoon Appears on Antiques Roadshow, Valued Up to $3,600

An old cartoon showing airport customs finding pot in Paul McCartney’s luggage was an episode highlight.
Courtesy BBC

A cartoon depicting Paul McCartney being searched for pot by airport customs and with an autograph from the singer appeared on Antiques Roadshow season 46, episode 2 on Sunday, Oct., 5. The cartoon was valued between £2,000 – 3,000 ($2,437.12 – 3,655.71 USD).

On the episode, Antiques Roadshow traveled to Crystal Palace Park in the heart of southeast London, revealing all sorts of treasures including a cigar once belonging to Winston Churchill and vintage Vivienne Westwood outfits.

A guest arrived and said her father Pete was a cartoonist for over 30 years, and that one of his cartoons depicted Paul McCartney. The cartoon shows McCartney being searched by airport customs for pot in his luggage—drawn when The Beatles star and his late wife Linda were arrested for 10 grams of pot in 1984 in Barbados. It’s a single-frame cartoon similar to The Far Side. McCartney was apparently amused by it and signed the cartoon, pumping up the cartoon’s valuation dramatically.

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away,” the cartoon reads. Pete drew McCartney being questioned by customs officials and singing sadly. The authorities emptied his luggage and placed what looks like a film canister and a little pile of weed on the table in the cartoon. There’s a newspaper on the floor that reads “Ex-Beatle Barbados Drug Sample…”

At the bottom of the cartoon, it says “Play the pipes of peace”, a reference to “Pipes of Peace,” his No. 1 single on the UK Billboard at the time. “Yesterday” is one of 32 No. 1 songs composed or co-written by Paul McCartney—the most covered song of all time, according to Newsweek

Antiques Roadshow antiques expert and frequent guest Hilary Kay was delighted by the cartoon of The Beatles star. “In turning it over, this is really nice, because it looks like a piece of HMRC notepaper, it’s got the reference there,” Kay said. “So while he was drawing this, Paul McCarney was being interviewed, and then, how come Paul McCartney has signed it?”

The guest replied, “I think he just showed him the cartoon, that would have been my dad. He would have said ‘Hey, this is a bit of a tense moment, but this might make you laugh.’ “

Kay then said, “And Paul McCartney would have thought, ‘That’s just great’ and signed it off. How lovely, what a great story. Let’s cut to the chase, there was your dad sketching away, I wonder if he ever thought that it would be valuable?”

The guest replied, “He wouldn’t have done, and I can tell you why—my dad hasn’t signed it. It will have been just a quick scribbly thing and I don’t think he would have valued it at all.”

Kay said, “Well the market values it highly, because it’s a very interesting incident in McCartney’s career, and it’s too good a story. I think we’re talking about at least two to three thousand pounds.

“And I hope that your dad would be really proud.”

The daughter said, “I think he would, and I think he’d be proud that I’ve done this today.”

You can watch the entire episode here.

The Pot Arrest that Inspired the Cartoon

Inspiring the cartoon, McCartney and his late wife Linda were arrested for possession of 10 grams of pot in Barbados in January 1984 and fined $200 dollars—$100 each. McCartney was arrested frequently for pot, and I profiled his top five pot arrests in 2019, including this one. Undeterred, Linda was fined $105 on January 24—eight days later—on another cannabis charge. For the second charge, Linda was with McCartney at Heathrow Airport on their way back to the U.K. from their vacation in Barbados, and was carrying five grams of weed stuffed in a film canister that they apparently scored during the holiday. 

This was nothing compared to his most serious arrest, though, four years earlier: On January 6, 1980, McCartney was caught with 218 grams (7.7 ounces) of “dynamite weed” into Japan at the Narita International Airport. He was locked up in a 4 x 8-foot cell in jail for nine days, and a spokesperson said that the Japan incident set McCartney back $420,000.

While still in The Beatles, McCartney also paid the equivalent to a year’s worth of average wages to run an ad demanding that the U.K. legalize pot in a full-page ad to run in The London Times on July 24, 1967. The Beatles and band manager Brian Epstein joined a few dozen activists to urge lawmakers to legalize pot in the U.K. All four band members smoked and liked cannabis—but especially McCartney.

“The law against pot is immoral and unworkable in practice,” the ad title reads. Pot is “the least harmful of pleasure-giving drugs, and […] in particular, far less harmful than alcohol.” 

McCartney agreed to finance the full-page ad himself, and recruit the band to join in. Steve Abrams contacted Brian Epstein’s office, and shortly afterwards received a personal check from McCartney’s funds for £1,800 made out to The Times–the equivalent to £37,303.23 today, or $51,321.78, modified for inflation. McCartney said that 1966’s “Got to Get You into My Life,” was his first song officially about pot, though he tried it at least two years earlier.

This cartoon pays homage to the artist’s troubles with pot.

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