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Sound Advice: Promotional records can be tough to price accurately

Collecting advice to Goldmine readers
It can be tough to establish values for promotional records, such as this Ascot 45. Photo courtesy Richard Kaplan.

It can be tough to establish values for promotional records, such as this Ascot 45. Photo courtesy Richard Kaplan.

By Dave Thompson

Question: I have 200 to 300 promo albums in my collection. A few are listed in the price guides. The vast majority are not.

Is there any rule of thumb that one can apply to regular album values to price the promos?

Answer: Unfortunately, there is no hard-and-fast rule for promos. In fact, they can often be more confounding than stock copies. For example, a late 1960s promo might well be in mono, whereas the stock copies are exclusively stereo. Or, an album might be far more common as a promo than a stock, after the label over-estimated the interest in a new release. And those are only two of the most common variables that the hardened promo collector will face. Then there is the matter of condition — some collectors view any kind of promotional mark, whether it’s an unobtrusive “promo only” stamp or an irremovable label plastered across the cover, as a major flaw. And so on.

Assuming there are no extenuating circumstances or complications whatsoever, one can generally assume a promo to be worth much the same as a stock copy. But it is always wise to research your LP before accepting an offer for it, and to offer every conceivable detail before selling it.

Question: I was reading the “Sound Advice” column in the latest (issue 781) copy. There was the sentence “You may have spent half your adult life gathering together every single 45 release on the London label ...”

Let’s see. I started in 1966 at age 19 and I’m now 62. Of course many numbers don’t exist, many of the early ones are only 78s, which are outside my parameters, and I don’t do either the classical series’ or the London 100, which is for U.S. artists, but yeah, that’s a LARGE part of my collection, to which must be added the London 33 1/3 Personality packages, which are early jukebox stereo sets with regular London numbering, Parrot, Press, Felsted, and early Phase 4 records which are co-numbered with the London 9501-9828 series — and that’s just London itself ... I collect all the UK-associated labels’ U.S. releases, though none aside from the London group are very large.

Yes, there are some rare picture sleeves — I don’t actually do those, though I have some — and one outrageously expensive record, 9641, the Rolling Stones “Stoned”, which I actually have a stock copy of, but very few of the other hundreds of singles have significant value, so you’re certainly right.
Did you people happen to remember that somebody really did this, or just take a guess? Funny as all heck if it was just a “pick a label out of a hat”.
But this gives me an excuse to write something I’ve been meaning to for many years — the probable source of most, if not all, of the London 9641 stock copies. It did start in 1966 (or possibly 67), as an outgrowth of becoming a Beatles record collector, as I definitely had them check Parrot, too.
At that time, Colony Records of New York City had an annex a few blocks away, which had a wall (or more) of shelves of 45s exposed to the public, though behind a counter. They were arranged by label/number — just what I wanted. I explained to the clerk that I was collecting the London label (though not yet the older series) and would buy one of every record I didn’t have, no matter who the artist was.

Yes, I got a funny look! So he started at the 9501 end and called out numbers and I would reply that I either had or needed the record. (I think they were only $2 each — I didn’t have much money then and couldn’t afford much more.)

When he got to “9641” I said I needed it, so he pulled it out from the file. There were several (say, six) copies IN that file, though, of course, I have no way of knowing whether they were promos or not. But the one he put in my pile was a stock copy.

If they were all stock copies, that explains where at least most of the ones known today come from, and this GM readers might be interested in.

Of course you’ll have to edit the first part, perhaps boiling it down to “Somebody actually does collect [almost] all U.S. London 45s. (And yes, I’m aware that early Londons — the old blue series that started out as 78s, originally said “Made In England”. But that was not true; I think they may have been referring to the masters. The sleeves always said “Made in U.S.,” and I can’t imagine the records being imported and resleeved. — Richard, via e-mail

Answer: Actually I picked it as a tribute to a friend of mine back in England, 20-plus years ago, who also collected the label — but only the U.K. pressings. I remember sitting in a pub with him one night while he tried to explain to his new girlfriend the difference between two pressings of the same single he’d just bought that day, and watching as her eyes just glazed over — and my friend didn’t even notice. There’s dedication for you, I thought ... and no, I don’t think he did go out with her again....

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