By Susan Sliwicki
So, just when are the blues a good thing? When you’re making a tidy profit from them, of course.
1. $12,100 —Robert Johnson, “Me and The Devil Blues” b/w “Little Queen of Spades.” Robert Johnson is one of those big-name artists even casual music lovers revere, so it’s no surprise that this Near Mint copy of Vocalion 01408 brought good money. The seller touts it as “near perfect” — both for the label and playing surface. “You’ll never see a better copy unless you were standing at the pressing operation in 1938,” the seller wrote.
2. $5,000 — The Beatles, vinyl record collection. This lot has us wondering who really got the best end of the deal.
“This is an incredible collection and was all originally bought by the same collector the day they were released,” wrote the seller, who assessed the 15-album collection’s “book value” at $5,965 to 7,965; excluding values for 18 vintage 45s “in great shape” that the seller threw in without offering any details or estimated values, which had us scratching our heads.
The keynote piece in the lot is a copy of “Introducing The Beatles” with the multi-album cover back, which the seller declared to be “beyond rare” and said carries a book value of $4,000 to $6,000 — but for which the seller failed to provide a record grade, let alone show photos of the record label. That’s unfortunate, because this is an album whose label you need to see to figure out whether it’s a legitimate copy, let alone a desirable one.
The seller gave a few record numbers and some details about mono or stereo pressings in the lot, but it’s what the seller didn’t share that has us concerned. No vinyl grades. No label shots. No individual or closeup photos. The seller also misspelled “Abbey Road” as “Abby Road” and listed a stereo copy of “Beatles IV” in the collection (instead of “Beatles VI”).
So, was this a novice seller who has done just enough homework to get in trouble? Was this a buyer who employed some super power to discern the records’ true value? Or did a new collector learn a $5,000 lesson the hard way? Guess it always comes back to caveat emptor.
3. $3,107 —Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Axis: Bold as Love.” Up next, the “rarest commercially released Jimi Hendrix record ever;” at least, that’s how the seller bills this mono copy of Reprise 6281.
“This pressing was almost nonexistent in stores due to low demand, since mono had already declined in popularity in America beginning in late 1967 and early 1968,” the seller writes. The vinyl and cover both earn grades of VG++,
According to musicpriceguide.com, the record has sold for $1115.93 to $1,222.77 within the last year. Goldmine’s Standard Catalog of American Records 1948-1991 places a value of $2,500 on a Near Mint copy of this record, so it looks to us like this seller turned a nice profit.
4. $3,107 —Various artists, “Black Out: New Sound of ’70,” double LP. “The Holy Grail is back!” the seller writes of this copy of Century Records 38127, which features soul, funk and gospel performances by the likes of the Soul Sonics and Anatics. But for a holy grail, this record sure has shown up on Market Watch a lot this year, selling for $5,801 for a VG+ copy and $3,700 for a Mint Minus copy, both this spring.
This one earns a Near Mint grade for the vinyl (“probably never played before me to make soundclips,” the seller says) and Near Mint for the cover, which suggests that it’s either No. 3 of the three purported copies to be in existence or people who can’t grade records are selling the same copy and taking a loss. Regardless, demand for this “holy grail” appears to be cooling.
5. $2,600.05 — Johanna Martzy and Jean Antonietti, Mozart’s “Sonate for Klavier and Violine” and Beethoven’s “Sonate fur Klavier und Violine Nr. 8,” LP. Classical music continues make a regular appearance in Market Watch, this time with a mono Deutsche Grammophon pressing (18075) that drew 21 bids before a winner was declared. The first-issue record graded NM, and its sleeve earned a grade of VG.
6. $2,580 — Playboy Fuller, “Sugar Cane Highway” / “Gonna Play My Guitar” 78. More blues, this time from Playboy Fuller. This red-label copy of OP-171 was pressed in the early 1950s and is in “super nice condition” except for some minor scuffs and barely visible initials on the label, according to the seller. We can’t be sure, though, as the seller only showed a photo of one label.
7. $2,576.37 — Various artists. “Top of the Pops” LP. Here’s a label you don’t see everyday: the green, gold and white colors of BBC Transcription service. “Top of the Pops-408” features segments with Slade, Hawkwind, Mott The Hoople, Roxy Music, Hot Chocolate, Gallagher & Lyle and Nicholson. The record, covers and cue sheets all grade EX.
Please note these items have never been seen on eBay ever!” said the seller, who also believes this is the only copy of this record in circulation. “Time to get rid of worthless paper currency and buy vinyl gold — something the private bankers can’t devalue!!!!”
8. $2,550 — Various artists, collection of vintage 45s. This lot employs the warehouse club mentality: just 3 cents per record for more than 8,000 records. The catch? You’d really better like classic country music, because that’s the meat and potatoes of this collection, which covers music from the 1950s through the 1980s, and features Elvis and rockabilly artists, too.
Most of the records are in their original sleeves and were rarely played. “I have recently moved, and I must break up my collection of over 73,000 records. This is your chance to own a piece of vintage music history!” the seller said.
9. $2,500 — Lill’s Hot Shots, “Georgia Bo-Bo” b/w “Drop That Sack” 78. This EE-plus copy of Vocalion 1037 drew 14 bids. “Plays so loud and strong it may blow the hat off your head,” the seller said.
The seller touted a “beautiful Louis Armstrong autograph” that appears in white ink on the B-side, but there’s nothing more offered about the signature’s authenticity.
10. $2,252.99 — Elvis Presley, 12-song RCA set, 3 EPs. This set (SPD-23) is a premium offered by RCA in 1956 for those who purchased specific record players. The triple gatefold jacket comes in at NM to VG++ condition, and the play-graded 45s range from VG+ to NM-, with minor surface noise evident, the seller said.
“Holy grail for any serious fan or collector,” the seller wrote. “This has a book value of $5,000 and has sold in the past for over $6,000. To find a complete set like this in this condition is quite rare.”
While we won’t quibble over past auction results, we do question the seller’s book value for the set, which only rates $3,000 in Near Mint condition ($2,000 for VG+), according to the “Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records.”
For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
• Get a Goldmine collective on The Beatles, "Meet the Fab Four CD"