Saturday, August 08, 2009

Valuable Vinyl

I've had John Marshall, the King of Collectible Records, on my radio shows many times in the last 20 years. He has appraised hundreds of old vinyl albums on air for listeners. Considering that these records were just sitting around gathering dust, and were probably bought for less than $10 originally, people were happy to hear that some were worth five to ten times that. Occasionally we've had someone call who had something with real value (worth over $1,000), and we once hit on a record John said was worth over $2,500.

Each time he was on, John and I had a running bet on whether we'd get a call from someone with a copy of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Street Survivors" with the burning cover, the last album the whole band recorded before the fatal plane crash. As John would patiently point out each time, that album sold far too many copies for any one of them to be collectible. The value in collecting anything comes from the rarity of the item, not just because someone died.

One of John's tips for making money in the record collecting hobby is to buy up collections of old albums and singles that people sell in garage sales, yard sales, and estate sales. They'll usually sell you a whole box for pennies per record.

Tim Schloe did just that, buying a collection of 10,000 records for a quarter apiece from the estate of a record collector. Tim hasn't gone through all that vinyl, but he did find at least one that made his purchase worthwhile -- "Greyhound Blues," a 1953 single by obscure Alabama bluesman D.A. Hunt that was one of the first singles from Sun Records (Sam Phillips' label in Memphis that launched the careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison).

Schloe knew he had something special, but didn't know how much it was worth until he put it up on eBay. On Wednesday, that 7-inch piece of vinyl sold for $10,323 to another collector who loves the blues. Now Schloe says he's going to keep searching through the stack to see if he can find something else worth a few bucks.

As for John, he's still doing online appraisals and offering price guides and record collecting kits on his website.