Thursday, May 16, 2019

More on Collecting - For Fun - Not For Profit

For me collecting LPs enhances the musical experience and history. And although when I'm away, I listen to Spotify like everyone else, when I'm home I sit down and put on the phonograph (for me, a 1961 Magnavox). Some will argue the richness of vinyl, particularly through an old vacuum tube receiver, and while that may be true for me as well, I'm more about the aesthetics of the format: the music, coupled with the jacket and the lyrics, is something we never got with CDs and their jewel cases, and certainly, something we don't get with digital music. (And aside from the aesthetics, how, exactly, do kids today roll a joint without a gatefold cover?)

Let me make it clear that I am a collector and not an investor. And so, While Ringo Starr's personal copy of the White Album sold at auction for $790,000 in 2015, that's a wee bit out of range for most of us. Ringo's copy was stamped 0000001; the very first issue; in essence, a museum piece. Conversely, I'm pretty proud of my copy, A1412599 in VG+ condition, which is worth about $150. That's extravagant for me.

A signed copy by all four Beatles of Sgt. Pepper recently sold for more than $300,000 and an acetate copy of Elvis Presley's "My Happiness" was bought by Jack White in 2015 for nearly the same amount. I'm sure there are some collectors who have these albums, but for the most part (like Jack White), these are prices associated with investors instead. I like collectors better: those of us who listen to our records, who put them on the phonograph and keep them alive. 

Of course, there are still big guns for the average collector. A sealed copy of the Beatles Yesterday and Today in its first state recently sold for $125,000; unsealed copies of the LP range from$150 to more than $10,000. First State copies are those with the Beatles in medical garb with baby dolls and blood splattered over them. The record was released in both stereo and mono versions with 10 times as many mono versions printed, and obviously, the stereo version commands a higher price. These are the ones that can range up to six figures. Second state LPs, often called paste-overs, had a more tasteful cover glued over the original with a photograph of Paul sitting in an open travel trunk and the other Beatles standing around him. You can see the original image bleeding through the paste-over in a kind of pentimento, an art term that means being able to see what's underneath before the artist finished his work. Depending upon the condition, unpeeled copies are also among the most valuable collectibles. 

Third state covers are those that had the butcher cover and the correction, but the consumer removed or partially removed the paste-over. I have a copy of that third state in nice condition that if I were to buy it today would set me back some $500. That's a bit rich for my blood, but I was lucky enough to buy it years ago for what I thought, then, was far too much. Records like these are a real extravagance for me. Similar collectibles are on my wishlist, my win the lottery list, but each year I increase that collection of luxuries by one or two. (I'm honestly more the look what I found for a dollar collector. Last week I picked up four late 60s Conway Twitty LPs in very-good-plus condition for a dollar apiece. They're worth five to fifteen dollars each and so it was a great score, and obviously in my price range.) 

In future posts I'll elaborate, but for now, here's one of my favorites, an LP that in great condition, will usually fetch 100 bucks. But look around for a bargain. I got mine on eBay for $35. It's Alice Cooper's School’s Out. Aside from being among Alice Cooper's best, the cover looks like a scarred up school desk from an old high school with the album's title scratched into the wood surface along with other graffiti. The bottom corners are rounded off, just like those old desks. And the fun part? The original LP came with a pair of cotton panties, some green, some white, some pink.* The vinyl was adorned with the panties inside the LP. School's Out is my unofficial album of early summer. As a school teacher for 30 years, I was just as excited as everybody else when school was indeed out for summer, out till Fall. I'll get it out of the special cabinet I have reserved for my true collectibles, put it on the phonograph and crank it up every year as May turns to June. The panties my vinyl wears are pink. It's collectibles like these - fun, rare, great rock 'n' roll to boot - that truly make having a growing vinyl collection 

*Watch out for imposters on eBay, though. The panties are what increase the value and often you'll see posted offers that include a facsimile artifact, but are not original. 

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