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ARSCLIST  July 2007

ARSCLIST July 2007

Subject:

Re: off-topic: guilty pleasure in hi-fi demo records

From:

"Steven C. Barr(x)" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 23 Jul 2007 20:58:09 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (71 lines)

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]>
> There is no rationality to "collector value" -- for anything. That's why all
the claims that ebay is
> a "perfect market" are total bunk. Remember that ebay's very founding proves
my point. It was
> founded on the inflated collector market for ... Beanie Babies. Being someone
who has less than zero
> interested in Chinese made beanbag "dolls," I can't see paying one cent for
any of them, but some
> people were willing to pay dozens and even hundreds of dollars for certain
"characters." I've even
> heard of people collecting certain "limited availability" Jelly Belly beans!
So, I'd say that values
> for old recordings are just normal in the world of collectables -- 
unpredictable and all over the
> map. Just be happy if you find out you're a fan of something off the beaten
path and can thus
> collect to your heart's content for very little dough.
>
Well..."Beanie Babies," like many other "hoi polloi" collectibles...exist
primarily, at least IMO, to allow everyday folks a slightly more affordable
"collection" (as compared to stamps and coins...the most respectable forms
of collecting!)...complete with "official" handbooks identifying "rarities"
and "errors!" The problem is, of course, that these fad-collectibles will
inevitably be worthless (except for a tiny group of REAL collectors...!)
within a decade or two of their appearance.

As far as shellac phonorecords, they have been actively collected for about
the last seven or eight decades...first classical vocal discs, then, a bit
later, original jazz discs, and, finally, just about anything on 78 (with
some exceptions...!). However, we do not yet have a guide on the level of
"Scott" for philately and I dunno who for numismatics. This is why I noted
that the "value" of about 99.9% of 78's is simply whatever a buyer and a
seller agree on! In certain cases, we "know" (or, probably closer to
correct, "ASSUME"...) that a given phonorecord exists in very few copies...
and is therefore more valuable that another disc we see all too many of...!

Now...consider that there are probably phonorecords which currently exist
as only one single surviving example! A few of these are "jazz rarities,"
"blues rarities" or are part of other highly collectible genres...and thus
draw astounding prices when/if an example is offered for sale. In other
cases, they are more like the "Okie" 78 I often cite...a record which had
only very local interest, was probably pressed in three-figure quantities...
and most were sold on the basis of temporary interest (i.e. off the stage
of a local venue...to folks who probably lost, broke or discarded their
copies not too long after the purchase. This means, for example, in the
case of my "Okie" disc (a hillbilly record, on an East Chicago [Indiana]-
based label) whose label name probably describes its demographic...homesick
"Okies" who had moved north to work in the steel mills on the south end
of Lake Michigan...?). It was probably made about 60 years ago...meaning
the artist may be dead, as well as anyone else who recalls such a disc
ever existed...! There is minimal discographic interest in the vast plethora
of post-WWII "indie labels"...and any documentation of this disc has
probably long since been discarded. Thus, I may not only have the single
surviving copy of the disc...I may be the only living person (well, not
once I post this...?!) who is aware that such a record exists...or ever
HAS! And...there are probably other records of this sort as well!

As far as the original subject of this thread: the extreme rarity of
the disc I cite does not result in extremely high "value!" Yes, it may
be the only extant copy...but of a record which nobody wants. So, a
supply of 1 meets a demand of 1 (me)...! IF some label-oriented
collector out there in Radio-Land is trying to collect an example of
EVERY 78 label in existence...and IF it happens that 1) he doesn't
have an Okie record, but 2) HAS heard of the label (how?)...I could
probably ask a price right up to the maximum amount of funds he has!
But...

Steven C. Barr

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