Monday, January 4, 2010

Golden oldies

I want to thank the author and his publication for the exclusive reprint rights to this interesting feature!

Those vinyl albums in your cellar rarely sell for much, but there are exceptions, such as a Beatles pressing that went for $32,000

Richard Morrison, Financial Post
Published: Saturday, January 02, 2010

Almost everyone has boxes of old vinyl records stored somewhere, but unless they are rare and in near-mint condition, they probably aren't worth much. Recordings by popular artists were turned out by the millions, and most LPs and 45s were played on crude turntables and tossed about by teenagers without thought for their future value, which means most sell for less than $1.

But there are exceptions. According to,a website listing auction results for rare records, on Nov. 23, 2008, Beatles LP dealer Andrew Milton sold a mono pressing of the Beatles 1968 White Album, with cover number 0000005, on behalf of an Austrian seller for £19,201 ($32,167) after 85 bids on eBay. The No. 5 copy was the earliest pressing available, since the members of the Beatles got the first four. "I had the chance to buy it for £1,200 years ago," says Garry Shrum, consignment director and music and memorabilia expert at Dallas, Tex.-based Heritage Auction Galleries. Mr. Shrum says he had been in England and had agreed on the price for 0000005 with an LP dealer, who offered to hold the LP for Mr. Shrum until he returned to the United States. But the seller's partner got a higher offer on it and he took it, he says.

Among those who collect the White Album, "anything under 0001000 is a really big deal," Mr. Shrum says, adding he found an American copy of number 0000012 at a used record store in Britain. Although it was well used and had writing on the cover, Mr. Shrum was able to get £1,000 for it.

On eBay on Dec. 13, a 1969 stereo pressing number 0000018 of the White Album sold for $5,523.53 after 35 bids.

Beatles collectors come in all shapes and sizes, says Mr. Shrum, who opened Blue Meanies Records in San Diego, Calif. in 1976. "It's the one band that people really go hard core because there's a lot to collect. There's all different toys, boots and curtains and bedspreads and buttons and pencils and combs and on and on."

Those who began collecting Beatles LPs and 45s from the beginning could well own valuable items, Mr. Shrum says, but those who didn't begin buying until the 1970s are likely too late.

Autographed albums are more valuable if they come from the Beatles early years, Mr. Shrum says, as once they became hugely popular and had stopped touring, the group members were rarely in the same place, so secretaries or whoever was around at Apple or EMI would simply forge the signatures on an album cover and send it back.

"You've got to know what you're looking for. Joe Average can't just look at it and say, 'This is it.' It's got to be taken to somebody who really knows their records, knows what pressing it is," Mr. Shrum says. New collectors can also get a copy of The Price Guide for the Beatles American Records, by Perry Cox and Frank Daniels.

Mr. Daniels, co-author of the price guide, says Canadians who have a copy of the White Album may have one of the 3.2 million numbered copies made in the United States and used on the first run of Canadian LPs. Later albums bearing no number were made in Canada, but there were some unique Canadian labels.

Several Beatles LPs sold for more than $5,000 on eBay in December alone.

- On Dec. 12, an original 1964 Vee Jay Records stereo edition of Introducing the Beatles, with a blank back and still in its shrink wrap, sold for $7,367 after 39 bids.

- On Dec. 13, a 1963 Parlophone gold label stereo edition of the Beatles Please Please Me LP sold for $19,446 after 35 bids. As a stereo copy, this album was aimed at hi-fi enthusiasts, not teenagers, and only 900 copies were ordered and pressed. The LP was made without the knowledge of Beatles producer George Martin, and most were sold in northern England.

- On Dec. 15, a mono Vee Jay copy of Introducing the Beatles, with an ad for other LPs on the back cover, sold for US$4,939.99 after 25 bids. It had originally been bought for US$2.98 at a Los Angeles record store.

- On Dec. 6, a copy of the Beatles Please Please Me LP with a black and gold label sold for $3,355.85 after 23 bids.

Perhaps the most famous collectible Beatles LP is the "butcher cover" version of Yesterday ... And Today. The album was originally printed with each member of the group happily holding what appeared to be dead babies -- an idea devised by photographer Robert Whitaker that was intended to poke fun at their popularity. The group members liked the photo and Capitol Records' art department prepared the cover artwork and sent the necessary shots to their three U.S. factories and to Parrs in Canada. Posters were made and sent out, and the album was rushed to radio stations.

"The butcher cover did make it out to a few shops in its original form, but when the backlash against the cover emerged, Capitol ordered the covers to be destroyed," says Mr. Daniels, noting that only two Canadian copies are known to have survived.

Instead of destroying them, however, Capitol decided to paste over the album with a new cover -- a photo showing the Beatles standing around a steamer trunk with McCartney inside.

"First-state butchers -- copies that never had another cover over them -- all sell for big money," Mr. Daniels says.

"The two Canadian copies haven't come up for sale in quite a while, so who knows what they'd sell for today? Paste-over copies sell well, but they don't get the kind of money associated with first state copies. ... Copies that have had the top cover peeled off usually sell for the least, although a truly nice peeled cover goes for more money."


The Beatles may be popular with record collectors, but they are certainly not the only artist of value.

There are more collectors around the world who pursue the history of rock 'n' roll than any other category, says Neil Patte, president of Continental Records Co. Ltd. in Streetsville, Ont., whose website,,offers a wealth of information for those who believe they may have valuable vinyl. "Rhythm and blues and rockabilly records from 1948 through 1963 traditionally have the highest value of all collected records," Mr. Patte says.

The most valuable records are the "first pressing" of releases -- the records that people purchased when the LP or 45 was first on the charts and played on Top 40 radio, he says.

Along with early rockabilly, blues and jazz recordings from the 1950s, completed listings on eBay show there are many who will pay top price for copies of punk rock, heavy metal, classical and alternative rock.

Early pressings of LPs and singles of punk rock legends the Sex Pistols are prized by collectors.

For example, an original 1977 copy of God Save The Queen went for $10,813, in an eBay auction that ended Dec. 10 and attracted 24 bidders. This pressing was one of a few given to laid-off executives when Polygram closed A&M's London office in 1998, the seller wrote.

A 1983 test pressing of heavy metal group Metallica's Kill 'Em All LP, one of only three or four known, sold for US$6,660 on eBay on Dec. 17.

Albums from German experimental rock group The Can are extremely valuable. A 1969 LP from the group sold for US$6,295, attracting 37 bids, while on Dec. 18, 26 bidders vied for a copy of the group's Monster Movie album, of which only 500 copies were made. It sold for £2,150 ($3,632).

A test pressing, What Was Me/Beat Happening by Olympia, Wash. alternative rock singer-songwriter Calvin Johnson, sold for $4,269 at Extremely Rare Records; seven bidders fought over the horror-punk rock band The Misfits' Horror Business LP, with the winner paying $4,000; 25 bidders anted up US$3,000 for jazz alto saxophonist Jackie McLean's The New Tradition LP.

Among 45 rpm singles, a copy of Delta bluesman Jimmy DeBerry's Take A Little Chance, issued as #185 on the Sun label in June 1953, sold on eBay for US$4,477.99 after 22 bids on Dec. 23.

A similar 45 rpm single, a special Portuguese mono pressing of David Bowie's Space Oddity, sold for US$3,000 on Dec. 21.

For a 45 rpm record from any artist to have collectible value, the paper sleeve or cover must be intact and preferably in good condition. Most U.S. record manufacturers printed only a limited number of "picture" sleeves, and when these ran out, resorted to a standard company sleeve. That makes U.S.-made 45s with picture covers more valuable than those from other countries, says Garry Shrum of Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, Tex.

Source: Richard Morrison, Financial Post

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.