Sound Advice: How collectible are first-gen CDs?

Question: I got my first CD player back in 1983 when CDs themselves were hard to come by. I used to go to Tower Records on Wednesdays at 4:30 because that is when the new CDs came in — always one box with maybe 100 CDs. 

My question is, are any of those older CDs worth more because they are first-generation? For example, I got a copy of the Beatles’ Abbey Road from Japan #CP35-3016 by Toshiba EMI Ltd. in Japan. Is it going to be a case-by-case situation?

— Butch Moncla via e-mail

Answer: The short version is yes to both questions — yes, some of the older CDs are worth more because they are first generation, and yes, it’s on a case-by-case basis.

Because you brought it up, I’ll discuss Abbey Road. This Japanese release was the first legitimate Beatles CD in the world; it was available for a short time in the mid-1980s. But though EMI owned the rights to the music, it needed The Beatles’ permission to do anything with it. It was quickly removed from the market, and it became an instant collector’s item.

Even though the “officially sanctioned” version of Abbey Road has been on CD since late 1987 and is common, the original Toshiba-EMI release is still highly sought and fetches hundreds of dollars every time it comes up for sale, which isn’t often.

That, however, is an exception. The collectibility of a compact disc is more often determined by whether there is an in-print CD version of the album. Here are two fairly recent examples.

As common and cheap as the original LPs are, the CDs of original Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass albums were quite rare and fetched pretty big bucks in the secondary market — until many of those albums were remastered and re-released by the Shout! Factory label several years ago. The ones that weren’t part of the incomplete reissue program are still expensive, but the others aren’t.

Also, for several years in the early 2000s, the two Traveling Wilburys CDs were out of print. Though the originals were (and are) fairly common on disc, they routinely fetched prices in the $20-$30 range. Then the albums were re-released on disc in 2007, and the price for the originals dropped.

Interestingly, this phenomenon is the opposite of the way things work in vinyl collecting. A reissue of an out-of-print album on the LP format rarely dampens the demand for the original. Sometimes, the reissues can become more valuable than the original — examples include many Mobile Fidelity and DCC vinyl releases of the 1980s and 1990s — but the existence of a reissue doesn’t usually affect the value of the original.

In recent years, original 1980s CDs are gaining new interest, especially among audiophiles. Many of the early CDs were criticized for not taking advantage of the format’s potential for improvement over vinyl. Compared to the crimes that are committed against music today in the name of “remastering” — noise reduction, quashing of dynamic range, maximization to the point of deafness, artificially narrowing or expanding the soundstage — these “compromised” originals are often sonic marvels.

Question: I saw your column on “The Jingle Jump” 45. The writer may be correct when he says it was a “girl” version. Around the same time as the Danny Peil version, there was a version by Kim Marie with Dave Kennedy’s Orch. It is on the Raynard label #10018 from 1964.

— Ken Freck via e-mail

Answer: You are correct. It completely flew under my radar when I was writing and researching the original question, probably because the Kim Marie version is a lot harder to find than the Danny Peil version. 

I was able to find many copies of both variations of the Peil recording for sale on the Internet, in addition to the 45 in my own collection, but I found only one of the Kim Marie version — and that was listed as in only Good condition. Even the original picture sleeve is more readily available.

Kim Marie was (and still is) a mainstay of the Milwaukee music scene. In 1962, she was singing with a version of a garage band called The Darnells, which made 45s for the Sara and Tide labels in the early 1960s, but she was not on either of those discs. More recently, she has been one of the organizers of an ad hoc group called The Oldies But Goodies Spectacular.

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