Sound Advice: Jackson albums jump in value after death

By  TIm Neely

In the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, asking prices for even fairly common items like the

In the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, asking prices for even fairly common items like the “Bad” picture disc have shot up. However, collectors can expect to see them stabilize in the near future. (Sam Emerson/©MJJ Production)
Question: I’ve had this item since the late 1980s. It’s a Michael Jackson picture disc of the album Bad, with the standard photo on the front and three images of him dancing on the back. It’s in a clear plastic sleeve. Around the diameter of the LP it says in part: ©1987 MJJ Productions Inc./Manufactured by Epic Records/1801 Century Park West, Los Angeles, Calif./Epic & “Epic” are trademarks of CBS Inc./9E9-44043. Do I have anything special here?

— Charlie J. from Philadelphia

Answer: You have a commercial picture disc released by Epic in 1987. It was once fairly common and not particularly sought-after; the last listed price in the Standard Catalog of American Records for a near-mint copy was $12. But since Jackson’s death, all bets have been off. I’ve seen some ridiculous minimum bids for what is, by picture-disc standards, a relatively easy-to-find record. By the time the current Michael-mania eases, my guess is that the price will settle to somewhere in the $20-$30 range, which is still a significant increase from pre-death levels.

As a side note, the U.S. and U.K. versions of this picture disc are different. The American version simply has the word “Bad” in red letters on the front, whereas the U.K. version contains the bold “Michael Jackson” along the right-hand side, as on the original LP cover.

Question: I have the album Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 (Motown MS-700). On the cover, the last song is printed as “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” but on the actual record, it’s “Born to Love You.” Is this a misprint worth keeping? Thanks!

— via e-mail

Answer: Yes, this is indeed worth keeping. When the Jackson 5 were first signed to Motown Records in 1969, they recorded a lot of material, both new and old, including Motown standards and songs from outside the company. Twelve songs, including the hit “I Want You Back,” made the cut; at least as many did not. Evidently, right up to the last minute, Motown was trying to decide which songs were going to go on the LP, and one of the contenders was a cover of the Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There.” Covers were prepared with the dozen “final” selections and printed.

Meanwhile, before the records were pressed, the final song on Side 2 was changed to “Born to Love You,” a lesser-known Motown catalog item that first gained notice on The Temptin’ Temptations in 1965. It was too late to change the covers immediately, so some early copies of Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 have the wrong final song. Once the error was spotted, it was rectified on future covers.

The Jackson 5’s version of “Reach Out I’ll Be There” remained in the can until 1995, when it appeared on the Soulsation! box set on a disc of rarities and unreleased songs. It has since been added to the remastered version of the debut album.

Unlike similar errors that were corrected, this one doesn’t seem to be that well-known (though, surprisingly, it’s mentioned on Wikipedia). I don’t see any difference in value between yours and the standard copy, but I suspect that is because most sellers don’t know about the cover variation.

Even before Michael Jackson’s passing, a near-mint copy of Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 with the original catalog number (not the 1980s reissue with a different number) was a $25 item. Remember, most of these ended up in the hands of kids — remember how we treated our “toys”! A copy of the LP with the incorrect song title on the cover? That remains to be seen, but eventually I expect to see a difference in value between those that mention “Reach Out I’ll Be There” on the cover and those that correctly mention “Born to Love You.”

Question: Is my opened but excellent condition Michael Jackson vinyl album of Thriller with two different labels worth anything special to a collector? Side 1 has the correct Epic label for Thriller, but Side 2 is a Warner Bros. label for the Emmylou Harris album White Shoes. The entire album plays Thriller.

— Chris Furtsch via e-mail

Answer: Sadly, no. “Error” pressings such as this have never been a favorite among record collectors — unlike in coin and stamp collecting, where misprinted items can go for significant sums.

I will say that it is an interesting juxtaposition. During most of its history, Warner Bros. didn’t have its own pressing plants; it contracted out to others. Some of those other plants were owned by CBS. So I can understand how an Emmylou Harris label — White Shoes was released in 1983, when Thriller was selling hundreds of thousands of copies a week — might have ended up on a Michael Jackson album.

If, somehow, the label printing from Michael Jackson’s Thriller had ended up on an Epic or Warner Bros. label by mistake, that would be worth something! Those are among the only inadvertent pressing-plant errors that seem to generate collector interest.

Question: I was hoping you could provide a value on a 78-rpm set I found recently. The title is Songs By Woody Guthrie on Asch 347. The “album” contains three 78’s with the following six sides: “Talking Sailor,” “Coolee Dam,” “Ranger’s Command,” “Gypsy Davie,” “NY Town,” and “Jesus Christ.” The liner notes, as well as the cover art, were done by Woody. There are additional liner notes by John Steinbeck. All the lyrics are also printed inside the back cover. From what I found out on the Internet, it looks like this was issued in 1944. However, I can find no other information (as far as value) on the net nor in any record price guides.

— John Peluso, Raleigh, N.C.

Answer: What you have is one of the first Guthrie releases. The six songs on this 78-rpm album were recorded in a flurry of activity in April 1944, during which Guthrie, along with various musical friends such as Leadbelly and Sonny Terry, recorded at least 150 sides for Asch Records. Moses Asch, the co-owner of the label and who later founded Folkways Records, didn’t have the resources to issue so many recordings at once. The album Songs By Woody Guthrie was released near the end of 1944 or at the beginning of 1945.

Asch Records went bankrupt in 1947, which resulted in this album going out of print. Since then, these songs have been reissued numerous times, but never in exactly this same configuration.

After an exhaustive search, I could not find a copy of this album for sale. Based on values of early Guthrie 10-inch LPs, original pressings of which can go in the mid-hundreds, my best guess is that your find is in the $100-$200 range. But that’s only a guess.

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