Sound Advice: Is autograph worth unsealing an album?

By Dave Thompson

Question: I have a sealed album that is more than 30 years old. Soon I may have a chance to obtain an autograph from the artist herself, Sylvia Tyson. I am wondering if it is best to ask her to sign the plastic wrapper or to open it and sign the cover.
— Mike, Oregon

Answer: Sign the cover! Artist autographs frequently enhance the value of a disc, and while there is a lot to be said (in terms of future resale value, if nothing else) for a record remaining sealed, that is really only a consideration if the record itself is of great value. Otherwise, future owners — and, indeed, most fans — are far more likely to value a personally autographed copy of the sleeve.

Question: I have a quick question on sealed albums. I own a sealed Beatles VI mono on Capitol Records. I purchased it some time ago by a guy who claimed he owned a record store.

I have recently gone over the cover and found that it had no breathe holes whatsoever. It looks authentic, with a tight seal. The cover is in terrific shape with white borders and no yellowing of any kind. On the back top left corner there are some small staple holes — about four or five — that you can feel if you put your hand on them and see them embedded through the shrink. I suppose this is where a price tag may have been some time ago?

There is also a slit running down the left and right back covers that were clearly made through the shrink. I cannot detect the color of the inner sleeve because the shrink is real tight. I was looking for a red Capitol sleeve, but they can always be added to a resealed album, can’t they? Do you think that this particular copy is original and was placed in a bargain bin at some time? I cannot detect any soil or dirt under the shrink. It just bothers me that there are no breathe holes of any kind. The vinyl feels heavy as the old records of yesterday.

— Jimmy

Answer: It is very difficult to distinguish between a genuinely sealed LP and a resealed one, and while you have definitely done your homework on this one (and it sounds as though you do have a genuine item), the key probably lies in the one check you didn’t mention — comparing your shrink to that on a second disc of similar age and manufacture; in other words, another sealed Capitol LP manufactured in mid to late 1965. Again, this is not 100% foolproof, but it will narrow the odds a little further.

Question: After collecting records for the past 30-plus years, I am finally unloading most of my collection — in other words, I’m keeping the good stuff. After relocating this studio-bootleg LP [Grateful Dead — Mountains Of The Moon] that had been lost amongst the thousands, the same questions still remain.

Supposedly it’s one of just 10 copies. I have some quasi-knowledge of the history of this (only through fans) and the cover seems to authenticate some of the history, but my gut feeling is that there is more behind it. Would you or someone you know be able to fill in the gaps? It would be greatly appreciated.

— Rick Faas

Answer: This collection of (primarily) outtakes from the Dead’s Aoxomoxoa album originally appeared in the early 1970s on the Big Bang label and was available with at least two different sleeve designs; the colorful skull-in-space imagery that you own and a predominantly blue illustration of a bunch of astronauts.

Of the two, the latter is by far the most common, although whether yours is one of just 10 copies is as open to conjecture as any other piece of bootleg lore. As for the history of the recordings themselves — as in how the tapes made their way out of the studio and into the hands of the Big Bang-ers — well, that is a question that Big Bang alone can truly answer, although there will always be rumors and legends!

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