Please Mr. Postman: A collector reflects on the hobby

Collector reflects on the hobby

I saw your invitation to write regarding collecting, and the general health and welfare of it and I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you my story.

I’ve been collecting music since I was 7. I’m 51 now. At the end of each year I look back on what I bought during the year (yes, I keep lists) and take stock of where I’ve been as a collector, and where I might be heading. (I should say that I collect what I love, and I don’t sell or trade. My collection is strictly a hobby for me.)

But last year was different. Even though I’d added some terrific things to my collection, I wasn’t excited about it. It wasn’t as much fun as it always had been. And I wondered why, because I love music more than anything. It still occupies the primary place in my life, and remains my favorite pastime. Yet buying music now wasn’t as much fun.

The collapse of the industry probably was a factor, but for me what was missing was vinyl. Unlike most of my friends, I did not dump my record collection when the CD became the dominant format. But because LPs and 45s were, for a long time, becoming more scarce, and lately more expensive, I was buying mostly CDs, and doing downloading when it was the only source for owning something I really wanted. In 2007, I bought only a handful of LPs, and most were used records that weren’t particularly noteworthy except that they were bargains.
But I still love records. I never bonded with compact discs the way I did with records. Maybe that has to do with my age. But I decided that when the vinyl went missing, so did the fun.

So I made up my mind that I would either go back to collecting records again, or I would stop buying music and look for something else to occupy my time. (Women, drugs and gambling looked enticing, but in the end, records are less expensive.)

So after spending the online gift certificates to CD Web sites I got for Christmas, I turned back the page and began looking for sites and stores that were still selling records. To my complete surprise, and delight, there are still a lot of places selling vinyl online, and there are even a couple of shops left in town to get records as well. And just five months into the year I’ve already bought more 45s than I did in the past 20 years combined, and more LPs than I have in the past 5 years put together. More importantly, I’m having the most fun buying music I’ve had in years. I even scored copies of two singles I’d been searching for for 40 years.

There’s something special about records. And Goldmine readers know exactly what I mean by that.

In my opinion, the 45 rpm record is the greatest invention in the history of popular culture because it meant that for the first time in history, anyone — especially kids — could buy art — real art — with just the change in their pockets. That’s why popular music is called “popular” music. It’s affordable art for everyone. Even at today’s inflated prices, it’s still a better bargain than just about anything else, and it lasts a lot longer than a tank of gas.

There’s an interesting p.s. to this story, by the way.

One of the first new LPs I bought online this year was the latest Fleshtones album on Yep Roc. I bought it direct from the label. It was very reasonably priced, and when I purchased it, I was given, free of charge, a digital download of the album as well. I downloaded it to my computer, and now have the music available to listen to on my iPod, and upstairs in my music room next to my turntable is the record that I can play any time I’m home and want to listen from my easy chair. (Although I’m rarely sitting when I have a Fleshtones record on.)

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