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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Vinyl collecting

Why 120, 140, 150, 180 or even 200 grams of PVC should have average price-tags spanning between EUR 0,50 to 3-4-500 or more?
I tried to understand the above carefully considering Ebay and Gemm offers of various items from several sellers coming from different countries, using different "auction styles".
My most beloved seller is a gentleman from England who put his records in front of a window, where natural light in close-up pictures let wax shining to show pristine, well kept pressings.
He quotes matrix and stampers on disc inner rim, a very cool habit - once only used for classical Decca, RCA and EMI's - near the label and shows also tiniest cover defect.
Records are not hideously priced, as the records auctioned aren't truly collector's items, only nicely preserved discs from, say, Television, David Sylvian, David Bowie, King Crimson and other UK's artists, but that added value - i.e. the sense of quality coming from those auctions - are a joy for eyes and wallet - i.e. you can be sure that the chosen disc will be the best copy you can find, period.
Then, there is a seller from Hong Kong who's dealing in jet-set priced waxes - first japanese pressings, unplayed, looking so well kept like coming from being stored in a vault, absolutely not showing being 40 and also 50 years old...

Then - fortunately - there still is the old-timey alive browsing and shopping...

I used, in the several decades of records-collecting, almost every technique available: Web, flea-markets, specialist shops in London, NYC, Tokyo, LA, Paris, Berlin, Milan and Wien, friends going digital, record-fairs, passed-away collectors widows, book-shops occasionally dealing in vinyl, often in dusty corners and open-air markets, brocantage and Marche au Puces...

Every a.m. place or situation has its technique and methods, as well... finding a sought-after item you must pay utter attention and tame your happiness and joy, as sometimes records are not priced and - you know - cost is proportionate to the elusiveness and/or pleasure showed by the buyer;-)

If you see a thick little, worned out book, be sure the seller "knows" what's selling - Goldmine or several other specialized collector's items books are really something truly unfriendly for we buyers all... too bad.

Then, finding a treasure, you can keep with you while browsing several more records bins, then, among cheaper stuffs, playing the fool with the seller at a fair, treating the valued finding as an unassuming item... sometimes it works...

Vinyl treasures are coming both from famous and unknown musicians, also a zillion pressed Jacko's Thriller became a collector's item, after his death... a cover or a label with a defect is a possible collector's item... a seldom seen disc isn't necessarily and automatically a golden nugget... mono are both sough-after AND hated... it depends on artist... I own His Bobness (Bob Dylan) and Rolling Stones first discs in mono, and they're gorgeously sounding vs. stereo copies and worth something.

... but some classical music monos are throwed away for nothing... so a cheap method to own great performances.

Some unknown, obscure artists are cherished by collectors and others not... a true, veritable jungle!

When talking about records, prices and collecting with my wife... well, she has the power to let me feel a lunatic... "Why same record (different pressings vs. reissues) costs more or less?"

"What makes a record "rare"?" "In the case you gonna re-sell it, what will be the price-tag?" ... and again and again are her questions... and myself, talking about "fried-air facts" like: "A first pressing is nearer to the recording event, so to the artist and to the music..."

... followed by positiveness about the real-estate-like standing of those "right" records... am I sure?

An example: few months ago, an Archiv 3 Lps of Bach's Cello Suites played by Pierre Fournier was sold on Ebay for USD 500+... it was a 1961 first pressing with a "made in Germany" writing on label at noon position...

The above mentioned seller from HK sold for EUR 600+ a Japanese first pressing of same discs... few days ago I received an e-mail discs-list from a French merchant and he's selling the same - the VERY same?!?! - disc for EUR 895! Chance or...?

I paid EUR 150 for an Archiv box-set of same recording - the one with Leipzig view painting on cover and slightly more for the classic linen covered/silver label with "Prix du Disc" golden stamp.

Prices on Ebay are around EUR 200 to EUR 300 for both mono AND stereo pressings.

Are these differences among (apparently) same discs "sane" and worth spending? Are those prices ruled by Keynes' laws or there is a Pierre Fournier's related lobby or mafia;-)?

Don't have a definite answer, folks... my opinion is that, for a sum worth a day sking or two weeks cigarettes or two single malt bottles or.... two hours in Las Vegas at slot-machines,-) I got my memories back, my (long forgotten) past returned to my heart, as (remember?) my mom used to play those Fournier's cello suites when I was a kid...

I guess I would have paid more for listening to this music... so they're - IMO - well spent money, as also owning more editions of Bach's masterpiece, I never played it like I'm playing the Archivs'...

I'm not buying such an item and putting it on a dusty shelf, BUT lively enjoying it.

Collecting is mysterious, indeed... not only accumulating and ownership, not only enjoying... it's a mix, as life is.

Mysterious... and worthwhile.

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