By Susan Sliwicki
Some folks like to follow specific themes when building their vinyl record collections, such as collecting by a specific genre, format, label or even artist. Well, here's a new way to define your collection: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame membership.
Since the articles in this Spring 2011 special issue of Goldmine all focused on inductees to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we wondered just which of the subjects of our articles would be at the head of the class for collectibility, at least in terms of online auctions.
The answer most folks would guess right off the bat is, of course, is The Beatles, who are featured in a roundabout way in our article about Bruce Spizer’s latest must-have book about collecting Beatles records.
But if you take Butcher Covers and other Fab Four rarities that tend to show up in auction houses (and bring tens of thousands of dollars apiece) out of the picture and look simply at results of collector-to-collector-style online auctions that occur on eBay, the answer is a bit different. Copies of The Fab Four’s “Please Please Me” are the most popular of the group’s recordings listed on Popsike, and they sell for $5,000 and up. But, there are a few other students who — gasp! — easily beat out The Beatles in year’s edition of Collecting The Rock Hall, based on auction results listed at Popsike.com.
The Sex Pistols (Class of 2006): While the Pistols have always happily thumbed their noses at the establishment, we’re betting they’re secretly pleased — well, the ones that are still alive, that is — that collectors are really into their records. The Pistols hold the honor of topping our countdown of Popsike-recorded auction results with copies of “God Save The Queen,” which brought a high of $22,227.50 at auction in 2006. Copies also sold twice in 2009 for $13,073.40 each time and sold twice more in 2006 for $18,879.80 and $17,536.50.
Robert Johnson (Class of 1986): When you’re the stuff of legends, it seems only reasonable that your records command legendary prices, and that’s just what Robert Johnson’s do. The most recent example? A NM copy of Vocalion 4108 featuring “Me And The Devil Blues” b/w “Little Queen of Spades” sold for $12,100 in fall 2010. (It also brought $3,304 in February 2011). Four-figure sales tend to be the rule, and it’s for all manner of Johnson’s songs, including “I’m A Steady Rollin’ Man” b/w “Stones in My Passway ($9,782.80 and $4,529); “Dead Shrimp Blues” b/w “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” ($5,100); “Kind Hearted Woman Blues” / “Terraplane Blues” ($4,330, $3,506.58 and $2,711); “Honeymoon Blues,” “Sweet Home Chicago” / “Walkin’ Blues” ($3,575); “Me And The Devil Blues,” “Malted Milk” b/w “Milkcow’s Calf Blues” ($4,350 and $2,717); and “Come On In My Kitchen” / “They’re Red Hot” ($4,000).
This is especially impressive if you consider that these prices are coming for the equivalent of a week’s studio work. All of Johnson’s issued recordings were cut from three days’ worth of sessions in November 1936 and two days in June 1937. He recorded 29 songs in his all-too-brief career, which came to a painful halt Aug. 13, 1938, when Johnson died of suspected poisoning.
Elvis Presley (Class of 1986): They don’t call Elvis “The King” for nothing. His records regularly command royal prices at online auctions, including his top-performer to date on popsike.com, a Mint, unplayed copy of Sun 209, “That’s All Right” / “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” which pulled in a hefty price of $11,400. (A similar copy of Sun 209 sold for $10,000 in March 2010). In fact, every single Sun 45 and 78 Elvis ever made shows up somewhere in the list, and all of them command four figures and more. He’s got plenty of other strong draws, too, including $5,000 paid for an unopened copy of “Speedway” sold in 2007.
Buddy Holly (Class of 1986): Another artist gone far too soon, Buddy Holly left behind a distinct musical legacy that collectors are happy to pay nice prices to own. Among the top examples: A complete set of Holly’s U.S. EPs that sold for $1,782 in 2007; an acetate of Holly’s “I WantTo Play House With You,” which brought $1,725 in 2009; a 3-EP collector’s pack that sold for $1,488.81 in 2005; and some promo pressings, including a pink-label copy of Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day” ($1,211) and a yellow-label Brunswick pressing of Holly and “The ‘Chirping’ Crickets” ($1,250).
Alice Cooper Band (Class of 2011): Alice Cooper may be the new kid on the Rock Hall block, but records related to its early days — particularly the 45 "Lay Down and Die, Goodbye" b/w "Wonder Who's Loving Her Now" on the Very Record label recorded when the band still called itself Nazz, have brought a pretty penny at auction, selling for up to $3,050. The band's incarnation as Spiders for "Don't Blow Your Mind" b/w "No Price Tag" on the Santa Cruz label ($788 to $1,525) has also done nicely.
Tom Waits (Class of 2011): The eclectic singer-songwriter may not be all that much to look at, but his records draw some nice attention, particularly a promo test of 1983’s “Swordfishtrombones,” which sold for $1,090.59 in a 2008 online auction. Also of interest is the diverse pool of records toward the top of Waits’ popsike list, including a red/blue vinyl recording of “I Sing You Under The Table” ($607.09); a 3-LP box set of “Ended up in Edinburgh” ($563.66) and a 3-LP copy of “Make It Rain” ($562.) Also interesting? Many of these sales were originating in Britain and Germany, which makes us ponder Waits’ collectibility overseas vs. in the U.S.
Jerry Lee Lewis (Class of 1986): A 78 RPM Sun Records acetate of Lewis’ “It’ll Be Me” takes top honors for the outspoken artist also known as The Killer. It sold for $1,561 in 2008. Also on the list? A South African 10-inch pressing of London 5520 that sold for $826 in 2006.
Bob Marley (Class of 1994): Bob Marley’s recordings consistently draw $500 and up, topping out at $3,075 on the popsike list for “Diamond Baby” b/w “Where’s The Girl For Me” on the CoxSone label; other copies of that record brought $1,225 in 2010, $1,401 in 2005, $1,650 in 2008 and $2,850 in 2009.
Donovan (Class of … Not Yet): OK, OK, we know The Sunshine Superman isn’t in the Rock Hall … Yet. But he’s already there in Goldmine readers’ hearts (which is why he was featured in our Rock Hall issue as our fan pick). So how does he stack up with collectors? Surprisingly, better than several members of the 2011 class. A two-sided, 12-track acetate Donovan cut at The Beatles’ Apple studios in 1969 or 1970 sold for $1018.41. Also of interest? A cool blue vinyl, 10-inch U.K. acetate, also cut on the Apple label, that sold for $578 in 2009.
The Allman Brothers Band (Class of 1995): When it comes to collecting big-ticket Allman Brothers Band records, there are two titles that dominate popsike: so-called holy grail mono copies of “The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East” and the Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs pressing of “Eat A Peach. “Fillmore” has sold for $600 and up in online auctions conducted since 2004, while “Eat A Peach” has brought between $385 and $910, depending upon condition.
The Rest of the Graduates
Chuck Berry (Class of 1986): Chuck Berry’s a rock and roll legend. Unfortunately, his records haven’t quite hit legendary status among collectors. A first-pressing Mint mono LP of Chuck Berry “After School Session” has honors for the biggest auction price tag of $980. A mono copy of his “Rocking At the Hops” on Chess sold for $970 in January 2011, and a NM U.K pressing of his “One Dozen Berries” brought a handsome $837.51 at auction in February 2011.
Hank Ballard (Class of 1990): Alas, Hank Ballard, either with or without The Midnighters, is not a super-hot artist to collect compared with other Rock Hall alumni. His top-performing records at auction include a NM Hank Ballard and The Midnighters “Singing and Swinging” on King ($396); a still-sealed copy of Hank Ballard’s Biggest Hits on King ($257); and a VG+ copy of “The Midnighters: Their Greatest Hits” on Federal ($244.)
James Brown (Class of 1986): Record prices don’t exactly reflect Brown’s stature as the hardest-working man in show business. His top auction result was for an unissued LP on the People label that Brown completed with Fred Wesley, which sold for $1,600 in 2004; it included the tracks “Watermelon Man” and “Everybody Plays The Fool.” His other top offerings were an unissued 3-LP set on the King Label ($1,260 in 2004) and a trio of records — “Please Please Please,” “Try Me” and “Think!” — that sold for $1,082 in 2007.
Ray Charles (Class of 1986): It’s a crying shame that, for a man of his musical talent Ray Charles isn’t a hot-ticket artist with collectors. His top draw? A VG++ copy of “What’d I Say” on Atlantic 2031, issued in 1959, that sold for $315 in 2006. For folks who just love good music, seems like collecting Ray Charles is a relative bargain compared to other Hall of Famers.
Sam Cooke (Class of 1986): Sam Cooke was shot to death in December 1964 altercation, but even death couldn’t stop his hits from rising up the charts. But unlike fine art, the value of a musician’s work doesn’t necessarily appreciate with his death. Cooke is just such an example: His top entry on Popsike.com was $986 for a mono Mint-condition copy of his second album, “Encore” followed by $836 paid for a Mint copy of “I Thank God.”
Fats Domino (Class of 1986): Of course, living a long life doesn’t mean your records will cruise to the top of collectors’ lists, either, as Antoine “Fats” Domino can attest. But he does have one very beautiful auction entry for a mono, splash-color vinyl pressing of “Just Domino” on the Imperial label (LP 9208), which sold for $1,190 in September 2010. The record was a one-of-a-kind pressing made at the Imperial plant.
The Everly Brothers (Class of 1986): Goldmine readers love their music, but The Everly Brothers aren’t necessarily heating up a lot of high-end collectors’ want lists. Their top-selling record to date on popsike is a 78 RPM pressing of “Keep A’Lovin’ Me” / “The Sun Keeps Shining” on Columbia 21496, which sold for $356 in 2007, followed closely by the 1960 Apex 78 “Let It Be Me,” which sold for $354 in 2008.
Little Richard (Class of 1986): Whop bop-a-lu-a, a whop bam boo! You’d think the artist who could string together such a catchy clutch of scat would rank higher on collectors’ lists, but alas, there are really only two Little Richard records that regularly see higher-end action on the auction circuit. Interestingly enough, they’re both on the Specialty label, which was founded by 2011 Rock Hall inductee Art Rupe. In the past four years, “Little Richard” has brought between $262 and $866 at auction, while “Here’s Little Richard” has drawn between $242 and $510.
Darlene Love (Class of 2011): Perhaps this fierce songbird’s induction to the Rock Hall will boost collectibility of her records. Her best performer so far on Popsike.com has been a VG+ copy of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” b/w “Winter Blues” on Philles X125, which brought $610 at auction. For the most part, though, her records are selling in the $150 and under range.
Neil Diamond (Class of 2011): He is, he said. But what he isn’t is particularly collectible, at least so far. The most desirable item shown in Popsike.com is a deejay copy 45 of Neil & Jack on Duel 517, “Till You’ve Tried Love,” which is Diamond’s first recording, and which sold for $532.
Dr. John (Class of 2011): Alas, Dr. John is in the same general boat as Darlene Love and Neil Diamond when it comes to collectibility. There are a few nice pieces that have sold in the $400 to $500 range, including a promo copy of “Zu Zu Man” by the Zu Zu Blues Band on the A&M Records.
Leon Russell (Class of 2011): Elton John loves Leon Russell’s work. Now that Russell’s in the rock hall, maybe the rest of the world will discover his treasures. But to date, his big-ticket records are topping out less than $300. At the top of his Popsike list? A Mint, limited-edition, unplayed copy of his duet with Elton John, “If It Wasn’t For Bad” on Mercury, which sold for $242.97 in October 2010.