The Insider: Austin Records Show remains key event for collectors, dealers

For many collectors and dealers worldwide, Doug Hanners’ Austin Record Show has been the place to be twice a year. This past October’s three-day get-together provided a good look at the current state of the record collecting marketplace — the tangible one where people hold records, CDs and memorabilia in their hands rather than look at them on a computer screen. Call some in the field old-fashioned, but there is a school of thought that what records and collectibles actually sell for across the show table is more realistic than much of the mythology attached to eBay and online auctions.

“Soul is still the most popular category. Rockabilly and ‘50s stuff has dropped but still does all right. Doo-wop is the deadest category of them all. Some old-time collectors with giant collections can’t sell them at all,” Hanners lamented. “1950s blues is doing the best out of material from that decade, but ‘60s soul and garage records are still in more demand and selling easier and for more money than any other category.”

I asked him to clarify this statement, wondering if he was speaking of both albums and seven-inchers, and he was only talking about 45s. So of course I wondered about good-old 33 1/3 albums, often neglected in today’s world of collectible vinyl.

“Albums as a category have also dropped,” he said. “This trend is more pronounced now, but has been going on for a while. Albums still sell if priced right, and overseas collectors still buy a lot of it. The stupid [high] prices we used to see for rockabilly don’t happen any more.”

Regarding general pricing trends for collectors, Hanners used Buddy Holly albums and jazz LPs from the 1950s as examples. They used to be big with Japanese collectors, and for years Asian dealers were a fixture at the Austin show, buying all the quality ‘50s vinyl available, often for more than anyone else would pay.

“Today, the same albums in this category that would have brought $50 to $100 a few years ago today and at the show were selling for $30-$50. Generally speaking, the same percentages apply to 45s in the current market,” Hanners said. “If you use price guides for buying and selling records today, you’ll die, as the markets change more quickly than books can be published.”

Dealer John Tefteller had a different viewpoint. For him, this edition of the Austin Record Show was all about trends. “This show, for the first time, was a lot different for me. Not necessarily bad, just different, in the sense that I couldn’t find much at all to buy in the way of good ‘50s material,” he said. “There was almost nothing there, not the high-quality stuff I need for auctions, no rare blues for my collection.”

He also noted that activity was minimal when it came to ‘50s records, either buying or selling.

“It was as if a corner had been turned and there was no going back,” Tefteller said.

As I’d heard from many attendees that the recent Austin Record Show was a whopping success for buyers and sellers alike, I asked Hanners why he wasn’t more optimistic, and whether any categories were doing better today than they have in the past.

“One percent of the best of the best,” he said. “For example, the very rarest Beatles records, or the ‘Holy Grail’ vinyl in any category, are holding up or even increasing in price. For example, Shrine 45s, an obscure soul label from Washington, D.C., are hot today and were in constant demand at the show. Everything on Shrine is collectible.”

 At the show promotional copies of collectible records, those with rare promotional sleeves, were selling for big bucks. Hanners knows of a Beatle

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