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Hi:  Sorry if this isn't protocol format...I'm having to work within Yahoo mail in order to stay in touch with ARSC.

Many early sellers of recordings sent out bid lists (now one can do that on ebay) and price lists were developed on the basis of some of those sales.  This is generally how value of "rare" books are established over years. I only wish I could have saved my Motown collection or Jazztone society recordings until eBay arrived.

Like coins, books and Hummels, prices also vary with the number of pressings made; as mentioned, uniqueness and numbers.  I've seen a publication of a book on a single auto with a production run of only 250 copies, sell brand new for $50,000.  A few collectors wanted to be the owners of "the only one" recording and would buy up all the others and destroy them, picking out the best first, while other collectors sell what they don't want. On the other hand destroying by accident back in the 60s had every collector looking for another extant recording of a Mexican performance conducted by Stravinsky of his own work...not because it was a unique recording but rather a unique performance...one that Stravinsky said was the best performance ever. It turns out it was unique both ways, as an item and a performance.

Oral history tapes and interviews that I've had...I couldn't give away, but eventually found a place in the prison library.  It's doubtful anyone there will ever use them, but I couldn't just dump them.

I'm wondering if the Project Gramophone and LCs American Memories will make price for a performance moot.  Certainly there will be libraries or more likely museums collecting these "unique" items and therein require establishing a value.  Will value be reduced when everything is on-line?  Just because no one can find one, does that mean the 10s of thousands of existing Montevanti recordings are worth more?

I think Steve Smolian a while back wrote a very good article on valuing recordings. If not Steve, someone had produced a rather useful guideline for pricing. I've read it but don't have it. Perhaps eBay will have a way of tracking prices paid and produce an account for recordings.

Paul T. Jackson
Trescott Research



-----Original Message-----
From: Steven C. Barr [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 03 March 2004 01:40
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Appraisal of Sound Recordings

----- Original Message -----
From: "David S Sager"
> I'd like to initiate a thread about appraisal of sound recordings. I
> know that there are many price guides out there, but there must be some
> more substantial benchmark to go by. What are the tools needed. I
> suppose an extraordinary knowledge of all recorded media and the history
> of market prices for any and all. But what does one do when confronted
> with something that has never been sold before? No known precedent?

Keep in mind that for sound recordings...and more so than with many other
"collectibles"...the value or worth of an item depends on two things...
how badly the buyer wants it (i.e. how much he/she/it will pay) and how
badly the seller wants to exchange it for money (or another recording!).
At some point, the two come to an agreement (or don't) and a value is
established...but one which applies ONLY to that instance of the sale
or trade of the recording in question!

Most of the price guides I have seen are based on the opinion of one
person and as a result are often not all that accurate (or even
reasonable!). Further, no two collectors will pay the same amount for
particular records...I often paid $2 or $3 for Grey Gull discs that no
one else would have given a dime for, simply because I was trying to
come as close to a complete collection as possible and/or wanted the
discographic information.

Further, popular tastes, often short-lived, fads or rumors can give
ephemeral value to certain records...like the $7,000 prices paid for
original Robert Johnson records, or the ridiculous prices asked (and
in some cases obtained!) on eBay for certain Elvis Presley records.
It is doubtful these values will last 50 years from now!

Finally, when confronted with an actual *unique* recording, all that
can be done is to look for other precedents which are as similar as
possible...and even then the expected price may not be reached, or
even approached! It depends not only on what the record is assumed
to be worth, but whether the one (or a few) collectors who will pay
that price can be made aware the item is being sold.
Steven C. Barr



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