Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
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The Day I Finally Sold My Record Albums
“This isn’t the original paper sleeve, you know. It looks like someone just cut it out of a grocery bag and stuck the album in it.”
Off The Record co-owner (at the time) Rich Horowitz wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t know about the copy of “Two Virgins” he’d pulled from my collection of around 4,000 vinyl albums.
His expert eye quickly noticed that the cover jacket featuring a nude photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono was as counterfeit as the wraparound sleeve that had been cutout in one spot, to reveal famous faces rather than Beatle balls.
The bootleg release commonly sells for around $40.00 in collector’s magazines like Goldmine and through online auctions. Horowitz added my copy to a stack of records he was willing to buy for $5.00 or more apiece, along with about two dozen choice selections.
There were three other stacks of potential purchases, worth to OTR either twenty five cents, fifty cents or one dollar. Several hundred albums were separated into these stacks, with what Horowitz and company called “the quarter bin,” sprawling in six long rows across my living room floor.
I’d heard good things from other vinylholics about OTR’s willingness to buy large collections, to supplement the inventory described on their website then as “250,000 titles of all genres of music…expertly graded for appearance, sound quality and authenticity.”
The mountain of LPs I’d hoarded while running a record store in New England occupied nearly one full room in the two bedroom house I was about to vacate.
Stacked along three walls within wood watermelon crates and on rows of steel shelving, the records were so heavy that the walls behind the stacks were cracking and a portion of the floor was beginning to sag concave…
Dreading their relocation, and since the collection had gathered a decade of dust, I contacted OTR through the website. My decades of long-playing debris was heavy with 60s and 70s psychedelia, imports and European progressive rock, fusion jazz, regional garage bands, novelty records and soundtracks from cult movies and TV shows.
Horowitz phoned me the next day, and his first question addressed the topic most vital to all memorabilia collectors – condition.
“[For] the common stuff or ones that have wear and tear, we only pay a quarter each. Records in mint condition, even if they’re recent or common, might be worth a lot more to us, and if something is rare or a key piece, like a Beatles butcher cover [first print Yesterday And Today LP], we’ll pay around fifty percent of whatever we think it’ll sell for. That’s if it’s in good shape. Do you have a ballpark figure in mind for the whole collection?”
I said yes - without divulging the amount - and mentioned my background in record resale. “It sounds like the way to go would be for us to go through the entire lot and make two bids,” he said. “One for the choice pieces, and then what we’d pay for the entire lot.”
Arrangements were made for his two buyers to come by for an appraisal. On their arrival the following week, I set them loose to pull apart the albums while I worked on some overdue artwork in the next room.
A round record cover on an album by The Goggles was called “unimpressive. “We have lots of these. They did the cover this way because they probably had an old cutout template left over and wanted to get more use from it but it gets lost in the rack since its too short and the band pretty much sucks.” Says him, anyways. Me, I really like that album, AND it’s singular packaging.
“…Dr. West, that was an early Norman Greenbaum band…”
…and “It’s a Tommy rip-off, a rock opera - Alice Cooper does a few songs” (Flash Fearless).
On finding a run of over fifty Frank Zappa LPs, one noted “I haven’t seen some of these in a long time. They’ll sell really fast.” About ten of the albums turned up in their $1.00 stack.
After two hours of browsing, one of the buyers called Horowitz. “It’s really an eclectic collection, a little of everything. Definitely some key stuff and stuff we don’t see too often. Hendrix, Beatles, Moody Blues, Miles Davis, blues and jazz and some real obscure progressive [bands] – it’s definitely worth coming out to take a look yourself.” I found this encouraging. Bring on the big dawg ---- he'll know how rare and in-demand some of this stuff is. A rare freak-folk album like Comus' First Utterance was going for $100 and up -----
By the time Horowitz arrived, the front half of my house was overflowing with winding rows of vinyl, stacked upright and covering nearly every inch of floor space. He did his own once-over and inquired about a few items.
“This one, ‘Epitaph,’ what are they like?” I described the German group (with a British singer) as a cross between Pink Floyd and Journey, with space-rock synths and guitars with slick commercial production. Or a hard-edged Wishbone Ash, with a similar multiple-screaming-guitar sound. I still totally diggem, especially their 1974 debut. I'll always be a sucker for good prog rock ---
“Do you know what this goes for?” he asked of a hexagon-shaped LP and jacket featuring the movie soundtrack from “The Andromeda Strain.” I mentioned seeing online auctions for around $75.00, and that my asking price was at least $40.00. “I’ll pass.” I think he was just testing me, to see how up-to-date I was on price guide values.
I flipped through several hundred of the records they were interested in, and pulled about three dozen that I didn’t want to sell at the offered prices.
“The soundtrack to [the film] ‘Candy’ is big with Beatles collectors because Ringo’s in it. I could get twenty bucks on eBay for it.” Horiwitz and I haggled up to five dollars whereupon I offered to include a poster with the album if he’d up the price to ten dollars. He agreed.
“All these Zappa albums are original prints,” I pointed out while pulling “Absolutely Free,” “Freak Out,” “Uncle Meat,” “200 Motels” and a few others from the fifty cent and dollar stacks.
“Yeah, but look at the records themselves. They’re in pretty poor shape.”
Though I had to acknowledge his grading expertise, at least regarding retail sales potential, I knew that none of the albums had scratches or skips bothersome enough to dim my enjoyment of them. Should I ever bring my lonely turntable back to life anyway.
Rather than negotiate, I returned them to my sagging, cracking, climate-controlled back room. Still half-filled with LPs.
I asked what those remaining albums were worth to him, and Horowitz shook his head, smiling with what I interpreted to be a bit of amusement and a bit of pity.
“To be honest, the rest is just junk. The market for common stuff doesn’t even exist anymore, and nobody can sell worn out albums, it isn’t worth the cost to store them. Tell you what, I could give you the number of someone who can haul them away for you and give you a few bucks to recycle them.”
I declined – keeping around 2,000 albums for myself - and we moved on to their bid for the maze of vinyl in my living room. I’d calculated the wholesale value [by OTR’s specs] at just under a thousand dollars.
Their offer was close enough to this figure, and we quickly closed the deal. I got them to toss in a bit more for a couple of concert poster books I had duplicates of, and that brought the number up to an even grand.
Earlier in the day, I’d been worried – would I really be able to do this? Part with a chunk of my collection? I’ve lugged these albums cross-country over six different moves. Twice that many homes.
I swear, once - when I had around 1,500 albums in the car, and we hit tornadoes in Tennessee - the weight of those albums is all that kept us upright and alive, as we cowered in the wheel-wells and watched parked trucks and phone poles topping onto their sides all around us!
Would I really be able to ween myself of my vinyl addiction????
As the three carted out the records, in boxes I’d prepared for my impending move, I felt none of the regret I’d anticipated. Instead, I felt relieved of a longtime burden.
Aside from their physical weight, all those LPs required housing, climate control, square footage of floor and wall space and security, so much so that I was feeling like the records owned me rather than the reverse.
All three OTR reps were grunting and sweating, their spines curving downward as they lifted each 20-30 pound box. I thought to myself, “better them than me.”
The weight I felt lifted from my shoulders was approximately equal to the weight of those departing boxes.
However, the sale had only culled a bit less than half my collection. There were still around 2,000 albums in the Leaning Tower of Vinyl threatening to knock down one or more walls of my house. What to do, what to do???
(to be continued…….)
“I FOUND NIRVANA (NEXT TO THE FOO FIGHTERS)” – A POEM ABOUT RECORD COLLECTING by JAS
Awhile back, after exhausting myself with hours and hours of filing records in a massive album collection, I was inspired to pen this little ode to OCD:
I found Nirvana - next to the Foo Fighters
I saw Asia with ELP
I caught Badfinger pointing at the Beatles
and Velvet Underground burying Lou Reed
I filed Buster Poindexter with the NY Dolls
And placed Ted Nugent with the Amboy Dukes
I mixed Meatloaf with Rocky Horror
and Southside Johnny with the Asbury Jukes
I have Box Car Racer right next to Blink
I placed Yes with Wakeman and Howe
I have Roy Harper mixed in with Pink Floyd
And the Doors with “Apocalypse Now”
I split Fripp with King Crimson and Gabriel
With Bowie, there’s Eno and Pop
Roxy Music includes Manzanera and Ferry
and Texas Jam's there with ZZ Top
Denny Laine's filed with Wings, not the Moodies
Ronnie Wood's with the Stones, not Small Faces
And Cream just goes perfect with Clapton
Like A Night At The Opera goes with A Day At The Races
ELP has Greg Lake, 3 and Carl Palmer
But Emerson’s under the Nice
Bauhaus has Pete, Love & Rockets
(and an audio book read by Anne Rice)
Tommy Bolin’s with Deep Purple and Zephyr
Frampton’s solo, not with Humble Pie
Alan Parsons has Ambrosia AND Pilot
(most of whom played on Eye In The Sky)
I found so many folks with the Dead
they needed their own separate box
a mystery worthy of Behind The Music
given I think that all Dead music sucks
I'm so sick and tired of filing
and remembering where things are filed
but it's better than trying to find things
in a mountainous, long-playing pile.
More like this:
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- Confessions of a Concert Crasher — Feb. 28, 2010
- Painting Rock Stars, plus Behind the Scenes: Overheard in San Diego & Famous Former Neighbors — May 8, 2008
- 25 Local Musicians Reveal “My Favorite Twilight Zone,” plus Local-Produced Zone Comic Books — April 3, 2008
- Frank Zappa Comics And Stories, plus Top 5 Lists, Fallen Pinoy Idol — Nov. 10, 2007