Collector's Corner: Rick Nelson's collectibles

Kent McCombs, one of the foremost experts on Rick Nelson collectibles, shares his thoughts on the market for Nelson’s vinyl records and other products, including the rarest Rick Nelson records and the prices they command, plus picture sleeve collectibles.
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Kent McCombs is one of the foremost experts on Rick Nelson collectibles, and he shared his thoughts on the market for Nelson’s vinyl records and other products.

When it comes to Rick Nelson records, what are some of the rarest pieces out there, and what kind of prices could they command?

Kent McCombs: Ricky’s rarest vinyl collectibles are the Imperial red-vinyl 45s (four different Imperial 45s were released on red vinyl, as noted in the two most respected domestic price guides, Goldmine and Rockin’ Records).

Only one copy of “Lonesome Town/I Got a Feeling” red-vinyl 45 is known to exist at this time and could easily realize upwards of a five-digit price tag in the right auction or to the right buyer. In addition, a somewhat recent discovery of Ricky’s first Imperial LP called Ricky (LP-9048) in red vinyl drew much attention. Only one is known to exist, and it could command upwards of five digits in the proper auction, as well.

Also, some of Ricky’s early original gold 45s issued by Imperial Records can easily fetch upwards of $5,000 (as realized from a Heritage house auction a few years back). From what I understand, Lew Chudd of Imperial Records only had two gold records of each manufactured: one given to Ricky and one kept on the wall at Imperial Records Recording Studios.

Is there a big market for signed Rick Nelson collectibles?

There is still a large market (both domestic and international) for Ricky Nelson collectibles in general.

However, authentic signatures/autographs will add a premium to any item. These collectibles include (but not limited to) magazine covers, paper-dolls sets, comic books, postcards, promotional items of any kind, all recorded media (with/without picture covers).

What advice would you have for collectors looking for Rick Nelson items? Are there special conventions or record shows that would seem to have a lot of Rick Nelson material?

KM: With today's technology, online stores and auctions can be very helpful in locating Ricky Nelson collectibles.

Advertising in Goldmine is still very viable in reaching a selected audience and can produce some interesting results. Any record show/convention will always contain Ricky Nelson material; sometimes rare finds can be found by asking at the seller tables.

Heritage auction house has a few auctions each year that include Ricky Nelson memorabilia as well and is definitely worth reviewing. And finally, junking in local used record stores is still an option as well.

It seems like picture sleeves were a big item with Rick Nelson.

Yes. Without a doubt, the two most sought-after 45 domestic picture sleeves are "Easy To Be Free/Come On In" (Decca 32635) and "Fire Breathin' Dragon/Your Kind of Lovin'" (Decca 31900). In near-mint condition, these sleeves can easily fetch $500 plus, depending on market conditions. Any of Ricky's picture sleeves in near-mint condition have value and are sought after as well — even the more common ones.

International picture sleeves (and EP covers) in near-mint condition can range in value, with some being well over $300 each. Scandinavia, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Malaysia and other countries all manufactured Ricky Nelson picture covers/inserts for vinyl that are in demand and can have significant value in the global market.

Conversely, what are some items of Rick's that are fairly common that collectors might think would go for higher prices?