Collectors Handbook For Building a Collection Of Vinyl LP’s
The Collectors market for LP’s from the 50’s up to the 90’s can be explained only by what was available then, and what we have today. Many people wonder why it is so hard to find things they are looking for.
This guide will show why some vinyl records are considered valuable and others are less so. All music is collectable, depending on each collectors interests. This guide will show the market as it appears today. Rating the music style of the past up to the present.
Categories of Music and Their Collectiblity
Rock Music Vinyl Records Are Ranked As Excellent For Their Collectability and Demand
I start with this category since it is by far the most collected field of music among LP collectors. However it doesn’t mean it is the most valuable category. With out a doubt, Jazz is and that will be explained later.
Music in the 50s produced more Adult oriented music. Rock and Roll attracted the younger crowd. For that reason LPs were not bought by younger people. The 45 rpm single was more affordable to them. For that reason many Rock and Rollers had very few LPs produced by them. For that reason only, they are more scarce and as compared to the 60s and as a consequence are of the most valuable. Elvis changed all that in the 60s. He almost single handily sold more LPs than any other Rock group, prior to the British invasion. Soon the younger generation was now buying more LPs.
The Adult listening crowd stopped going to the music stores, since stores were now being populated by teenagers, as opposed to the 50s, teens went there maybe once or twice a month.
Finally in the 70s, the Rock LPs dominated the market and that is why it represents one of the most overstocked and least valuable categories. Then the 80s brought the CD into the market and LP sales gradually began to fade. This was not by popularity. (The record labels pulled the plug on LP’s in order to force people into buying CD’s.)
Because of this, most LP titles during the 80s are harder to find and by the end of the 80s, most releases did not even have a LP (vinyl) version.
The early 90s brought back a small amount of titles yet they are scarce and are considered, instant collectibles. Once they were gone from the retail, the only way to find them is through resale. That almost instantly drives the prices up, within months of issue dates and can in some cases create a false market among collectors. Still if you were not on the band wagon when the record came out, wanting to get it later will be costly.
This has driven the collector to the import market. At least a good amount of vinyl LP’s were still being made around the world. They will cost more to domestic collectors, yet even common titles from the 70s should be picked up when you can find them, since they are often superior pressings.
Doo-wop Vinyl Records Are Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
Early doo-wop is extremely hard to find, yet is highly sought after. Of the best and most desired, such groups as the Five Satins and Five keys. Not to mention Penguins, Del-vikings and many others. These artists can be worth anywhere from hundreds to thousands. Near Mint items will almost always sell for more than book prices since price guides become out dated quickly when it comes to rare Near Mint gems.
Early Rock n Roll Vinyl Records Are Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
Bill Haley is still hot. Elvis and other early Rockabilly stars (Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, some Johnny Cash) are still in big demand, as are other stars such as Johnny Burnette, and Marvin Rainwater.
Rockabilly may be the single most valuable category in the Rock category. Not just because they are scarce, but because they represent a join a mix of Country and R&B; collectors seeking this style of music.
Rock and Rollers such as Buddy Holly and Little Richard are very collectable, and valuable, yet Rockabilly for the very obscure titles and artists can command thousands in the open market. Find them in Near Mint condition will be costly unless you strike a great find in a flea market. That is to say the least, a very rare occurrence. Be prepared for years of searching or else paying top rates for them when they are available from sellers and dealers who know what they have. They just don’t come cheaply and perhaps never will.
Late 50s-early 60s Rock and Roll Are Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Early 60s Teen Idols Are Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
60s Girl groups Are Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
Still very hot and some getting harder to find in decent condition. The Angels, Crystals, Ronnettes, Chiffons, are some very desirable girl groups.
The British invasion is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
The Beatles Are Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
They alone are the single most collectable group of this century. Say what you will about them having made a lot of records, yet finding the Near Mint gems of the fab four has become more difficult than ever before. Still the number 1 group in the market. Plenty of people have Beatles records. Only a handful have a unique collection.
The doors stay open for new finds. Prices are not getting lower. They will be hot for a long time to come. Even the new Anthology issues have become instant collectibles, only because they were limited in pressings. The BBC release is already commanding more than double the original retail price. Sealed copies are already getting 3 times book value. This may be hard to believe, but is quite true!
Elvis Presley Vinyl Records are Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
Whats more is there to say. He is after all ‘The King.’ Collectors (just like those of the Beatles) are all over the world. The demand for Elvis is as high as it ever has been. Value wise, prices vary, yet even after his death, reissues are commanding top rates. Collectors seem to want it all, when it comes to Elvis. Duplicate copies, originals, and rare imports. They just can’t get enough of him.
Mid 60s And Surf Are Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Dick Dale, Astronauts, Surfaris, etc… Still a great investment for the popular ones. some will not be valuable, yet if demand stays high, the market prices will either remain stable or gradually increase over the next few years. Once again the serious collector is looking for Near Mint, so although the Beach Boys sold better than most, they are still valuable if Mono and Near Mint.
Folk Rock Vinyl Records Are Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Apologies to Bob Dylan fanatics. Although Dylan is priced high in most situations, the Folk Rock music overall is not in as big of a demand. Groups like the Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchel, are only so-so collectibles. Value wise, they are still fairly easy to obtain.
Late 60s Early 70s Are Ranked As Very Good For Collectibility and Demand
The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane… They are all still desirable and still in demand. Some are valuable and some not, but still popular in today’s market. Remember, Hendrix only made 5 LPs up until his death. There are over 300 LPs by him, since his death. Originals from his first 5, will command big prices in a serious market pool.
70s Mainstream Are Ranked As Average For Collectibility and Demand
Too many of these titles were produced and so the market is only for the music, not for originals, or rarity.
Soft Rock Is Ranked As Average For Collectibility and Demand
The obvious choice in this area are Carly Simon, America and Bread.
British Progressive Rock Is Ranked As Above Average For Collectability and Demand
Although such groups like Pink Floyd are still a great sound to collect, most Prog rock is not in heavy demand but there are undoubtably bright spots in the marker. Most titles from early Genesis, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Mike Oldfield are growing in demand are becoming harder to find in good shape. Floyd can be increasingly scarce at times, yet there are plenty of their Dark Side of the Moon reissues out there.
Hard Rock Is Ranked As Above Average For Collectability and Demand
Black Sabbath, Scorpions are very strong in this sector with interest unquestionably growing as the stars grow older. Kiss stands out as very collectible.
Heavy Metal Is Ranked As Above Average For Collectability and Demand
Maybe not now but definitely gathering pace.
Speed Metal Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Metallica heads the list. Garage Days being harder to find, and one of the most counterfeited metal LP’s around. Motorhead, Slayer, Possessed, etc… There is a demand for these groups.
Punk Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Ramones, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys… Punk is hot, and getting hotter. Many recorded for obscure record labels and were issued in stores that could handle vaster varieties of music. The pop music stores were turned off by Punk and thus they are a bit more scarce and will command more value in years to come.
There are a lot of punk bands releasing on Vinyl now and who can blame them, it is a strong sector and growing. One to watch for future collectables.
Late 70s-Early 80s
New Wave Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Some good music from these time periods with some huge and obvious bright spots. Elvis Costello, The Clash, Talking Heads, Pretenders, Duran Duran, Culture Club, David Bowie (Bowie (a god in human clothes) cuts across a number of categories), Blondie, Adam and The Ants, Alison Moyet, The Eurythmics, The Police to name but a few. This niche is really gathering pace and discovering new collectors all the time.
Alternative Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
R.E.M, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Red Hot Chilly Peppers, Green Day, Cranberries… Although some alternative can easily be described as folk rock and some as punk, this is hot among younger collectors. What is now is what counts, at least to the Generation-X crowd. Finding titles became more difficult during the late 80s and early 90s.
Some groups have been around since the early 80s with the area only growing in popularity.
Garage and Psychedelic Bands Are Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
These were groups that can vary in interest. Book prices are not up to date when it comes to Garage Bands. Many were only regionally released. Some are impossible to find on LP. Some made it to bigger labels but only sold marginally or were discontinued since there was little interest at the time. Some got no air play assistance from DJ’s or Radio in itself. Some bands wrote their own music and these original scores are highly sought after. The one problem has been, lack of information on these low key (shadowed) groups. People are looking and if you’ve got Garage or Psychedelic rarities you should test the market.
Latest and New Indies Are Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
These are our groups of tomorrow. Many more labels exist for the sole purpose of releasing industrialised sounds and noise. The names of groups are often obscure, since they are mostly regional artists, much like the Garage band era of the 60s. Probably more popular with younger people than those who grew up in the 70s and 80s. Prices almost always start out at collectors prices.
LP’s are even more scarce. Hang on to your hats. If these groups make it to a bigger label, their original indie labels will draw mega bucks in the open market. Nirvana’s Sup-pop indie titles command top rates. Pearl Jam is another star performer.
One of the best categories in collecting is Soul music. Foreign markets are one of the biggest for this style of music. Because of the foreign market, even titles of only a few years ago, are proven harder to find. It appears that most of the people in the United States took Soul for granted over the last 10 to 15 years. Because they feel they are easy to find, they are not valuable to them. This simply is wrong! Original Soul records are selling for 2 to 5 times what price guides quote them as.
50’s Rhythm & Blues Is Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
Lavern baker, Chick Willis, Etta James, Ray Charles, Ruth Brown…
Before the Motown sound there was the very good black R&B; that circled the market. Some are very obscure today since most of them were limited in release either by region or because of the control that white R&B; had on the market. With out a doubt, rare black R&B; will be harder to find than most any LP’s styles from the 50s. Perhaps even more scarce than Rock and Roll.
60s Soul Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Once again Ray Charles, Sam & Dave, Aretha Franklin, The Isley Brothers, Gladys Knight… These are some of the more well known people. There are some very obscure artists on independent labels (regional releases) that will command even more in value than these artists. For the record, if it did not chart in the pop charts, it is probably a good bet that it is wanted today. Songs that sold millions are easier to find. But those non-charted singles and LP’s will be in higher demand, in todays market.
Memphis Sound Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Bar-kays, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding Booker T & the MG’s, Wilson Picket, etc… A good bet on these artists are not their hits, but the songs that just would not make any dent in the pop charts. They may have done well in the R&B; charts, but that was not a basis to tell how well they sold globally. If you find them and don’t recognise the song, you will likely have a winner (if it’s a good song, of course). Although some Soul music which was considered not that good, may be the most valuable items to find! If it did not go anywhere in any chart, it may be a big demand item.
Not all collectable music has to be good. You will learn about this when we discuss Celebrity vocals, later in this guide. Celebrity LP’s have a cult following that will more than surprise you… But that will be later when we discuss them.
Motown Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Temptations, Four seasons, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Miracles, Mary Wells, etc… These are still hot artists. Value wise only the very early material is hard to find. Once the groups started putting out hit after hit, they would then be easier to find. Still if Near Mint, they are a great find. Near Mint soul from 25 to 30 years ago is still the desired interest here.
Chicago Soul Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Impressions, Chi-lites, Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler… Still in good demand, however value wise, they begin to fall once we find them from the 70s. Late 60s are good finds still.
70s Soul Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Phillie Sound Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Fantastic Johnny C., O’Jays, Spinners, Harold Melvin… Yes they are hot as well. Value is not important and whether they are rare or not, makes no difference. They are still in demand.
Funk Is Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
Parliament, Funkadelic, George Clinton, Bootsy, Ohio Players, Sly Stone… Oh yes, with out a doubt, Funk is very hot. They sell well just about anywhere. Got em? Hang on! This music has regained some steam among collectors. Value will increase.
80s Soul Is Ranked As Good For Collectability and Demand
Since Prince death his popularity and collectability has grown. He did however release a huge amount of music so is as yet not considered rare.
The Eighties era is growing in demand with lots of brights spots, cultural embracing of the decade is undoubtably fuelling the market.
Disco Is Ranked As Good For Collectability and Demand
I can’t say this will always be this way. It was laughed off the market during the 80’s but when the word “Dance” replaced “Disco”, it made its slow comeback. It has gained some force in the market, yet most LP titles are rather easy to find, and are not considered valuable at this stage, there are however alway exceptions. It is definitely worth keeping your eye. KC and the Sunshine Band, Donna Summer, Irene Cara, The Village People are certainly ones for the collectors radar.
Rap Is Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Even though rap is definitely a hot category, the volume of people who buy Rap LPs is lower than in other niches. There are though signs this is changing
This is certainly a selected area of interest but one to watch.
The hottest field world wide today is with out any doubt – Jazz. Demand for Jazz LPs from the 50s and 60s has reached unprecedented heights. The values of a lot of the choice titles have escalated and it seems there is no limit to what collectors will pay to get rare LP titles. If you have a large collection of vintage Jazz LP’s, it could be worth thousands.
Probably the biggest reason for the explosion in the market is the unquenchable thirst that the foreign buyers have for this music. This is mostly true of Japan. The buyers from there have been coming into Western markets and are paying top rates and above for wide varieties of Jazz LPs.
They especially like the original recordings on these labels:
Don’t worry if all your Jazz titles are not 1st pressings. Later pressings are still worth money, just not as much. Jazz is a complex field. The mono releases have been said to be more in demand since stereo was generally a later issue and most times was not even true stereo. And also stereo just does not allow all the instruments to be heard to their richest dynamic peek.
There have been many different styles of Jazz. Here I list them and how they rate among collectors.
DixieLand Jazz Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Chicago Style Jazz Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Swing Jazz Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Fats Waller, Ben Webster, Fletcher Henderson… These are not to be mistaken with big band swing music. Swing Jazz is smaller in proportion to Big Band. Big Band were full blown Orchestras, and the Swing bands were more downsized, perhaps as little as 3 to 6 members.
Dance Big Bands Are Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Artie Shaw, Charlie Barnet, Les Brown, etc… Although it’s great to hear the big band sound, they were very popular during the 40s. Most Adult listeners got a chance to trade in their 78 album sets for the 10″ and 12″ LPs. Perhaps 10″ LPs would have some value, yet the sound quality for most is not as good. The demand may though still be there.
Bebop Jazz Is Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
Hard Bop Is Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Donald Byrd, Art Blakely… Once again very good music and very hot in the market!
Free Jazz Is Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, Sun Ra, Carla Bley, Paroah Sanders, etc… Perhaps not as valuable but still good pieces can command top rates.
Fusion Jazz Is Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Weather Report, Billy Cobham, Larry Coryell, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea… More modern style and not as hard to find. There are some new collectors who like this style yet market value is not high. Too many issues can drop the market demand.
New Age Jazz Is Ranked As Below Average For Collectability and Demand
This could be even lower. Not much interest at all. Too much like listening to waves splashing against shores, or seagulls chirping. It’s definitely music, just not many people buy it.
Vocal Jazz Is Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
Some very good Blues and Jazz vocalists. There LP’s are hard to find these days. They are also extremely high in demand. Value for them will with out doubt rise for vintage, premium condition pieces.
We will talk more about Vocal singers in the Easy Listening portion of this Guide.
This is the biggest category and by definition also contains the largest selection of albums. As mentioned in (about Rock) we know that the majority of the 50’s and 60’s LP’s produced were for the adult listening crowd. The young R’N’R’ generation was not loaded with a lot of money so they spent their money on 45 singles (and 78s). The adult crowd bought millions of LPs, mostly in the Classical and Easy Listening fields. (This category does not include Classical however. That is forthcoming.)
In the older days, more adults were seen in record stores than the younger crowd. Seldom were teen’s in them. That’s one reason why the record stores sold more easy listening than anything else.
But by the early 70s the adult easy listening crowd became almost extinct. The mid to late 60s was a dynasty of rock and roll and most adults stopped going to record stores all together.
Male Vocals Within Easy Listening Are Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Many guides have these artists are valuable and collectible and the great news is great copies in excellent condition are available.
Female Vocals: Within Easy Listening Are Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
A bit more interest in female singers than the men. Some of the girls mentioned, should also be noted as performing some great Jazz and their easy listening titles should not be confused with the Jazz LPs they produced. If a big name Jazz artist appeared with them, a Jazz collector would still love to have them.
Vocal Groups: Within Easy Listening Are Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Ames Brothers, Four Aces, The Ink Spots, Lettermen, Mitch Miller and his gang, etc..
Instrumentals: Within Easy Listening Is Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Many of these titles have excellent album covers which can influence their collectability, though there are lots of copies around there are always buyers and collectors in every niche.
Exotica: Within Easy Listening Is Ranked As Below Average For Collectability and Demand
I am not too familiar with the many artists who have been categorised as Exotica performers. A few such as Martin Denny and Esquivel, have proven to be sought after artists. But by definition of value, which this guide is to help you determine, there are very few people who buy them. They may have some real value, but without a strong demand in the global market, very few will be considered strong investments.
The prices for these are generated by those who sell them and those who buy them. Most of the people who wish to buy them, are only going to be willing to pay small amounts. So if we stated here, that most are worthless, that would be false. To say they are worth hundreds, would also be a misleading statement. It is best to shop around for titles you seek. They may not come easy, but you won’t have much competition from other potential buyers seeking the same things. Many of the collectors who seek Exotica are interested in the covers as well. The covers may be the hardest thing to find in good shape. The records should be much easier to find in collectable condition. For that reason, we gave them a middle of the road evaluation.
Country and Western Is Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Country and Western is a select of niche with an ardent following, though not super hot if should not be dismissed. New artists as well as those from the past are in demand. The basic crowd seemed to switch almost entirely to cassette tapes in the 80s. Most serious country collectors wish to have the artists from the 50s and 60s who had the more western sound than a country sound in their music. There are plenty of modern country artists who have abandoned that sound today and some I would not even call Country.
Below is a list of the more collectable artists
Chet Atkins, Ferlin Husky, Marty Robbins, Gene Autry, George Jones, Roy Rogers, The Browns, Brenda Lee, Sons of the Pioneer, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Ernest Tubb, David Allan Coe, Buck Owens, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Web Pierce, Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Horton, Tex Ritter, Hank Williams Jr.
What many people like about todays country is the Honky Tonk sound. Such desired artists with this feel for the music are..
Comedy Is Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Comedy LP’s have a small yet a very loyal following. Not too many titles will have any value. Yet it can be a good category to have around especially if you have the very rare titles.
Most of the rare ones from the 50s and 60s will be the Triple X party humour records. They were played over and over again and to find them in better than VG condition is difficult.
Of course the so called risque records of the 50s and 60s are pretty tame compared to todays “foul mouthed humour”. The real good LP’s to have are those that show nudity or even those that show obscene acts on the covers. Like it has been said before, “Sex sells”. LP covers of any musical category, which shows some form of nudity or obscenity, will be desired by some collectors.
Spoken Word Is Ranked As Below Average For Collectability and Demand
Most Spoken Word records will be mostly Historical recordings which were either speeches, actors reading Shakespeare or poetry and complete boxed sets of Plays. They may have great Scholar value but the financial values can be erratic. They are not really that common which correspondingly increases their rarity and potentially value.
This though is a highly specialised area and should be entered with caution if you are just starting out collecting.
Blues Are Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
No matter who the artist is, whether it be good or bad, all of the Blues are collectible. Next to Jazz, I would say that some very old artists are very rare and highly in demand. Some titles may be worth thousands. Unfortunately for LP collectors, the Blues from the 30s and 40s were not available on vinyl. 78 rpm albums of some of the greats, will still command mega rates. That is if you can find them at all, and if you do, they need to be very very clean copies. Near Mint 78s are almost impossible to find these days.
The 50’s Blues on obscure Chicago and eastern labels will command mega rates as well. When you come across obscure labels and artists, it is wise to pick up on them. They could be worth having around for some time to come. The Blues never went away and more and more people are seeking the older titles. The higher the demand, the higher the cash flow! ;)(Need we say more?)
Celebrities Are Ranked As Below Excellent For Collectability and Demand
Celebrity Records (also called “Personality” records) have become a very popular cult item. A celebrity record is a recording of a person who became famous for doing something OTHER than singing. In many cases they are actors and actresses. Some were noted for both. For instance Debbie Reynolds, Sandy Dee, Ann-Margret, Jane Powell, Marylin Monroe, etc..
But most were done by people who redefined the term “Singing”. Some of these people were so bad, they were good. Some could actually sing but were bad actors. Not many could do both “well” at the same time.
It’s a good bet that many of them will never be released on CD. To this day, I can’t always understand why they were even recorded to begin with. Never the less, they are becoming hot among collectors. Some are very scarce and the prices (value of them) have escalated in the past few years. Many will undoubtedly be bad performances, but if you’re a really hard core collector of celebrity LP recordings, they will not go cheaply. They are a good investment for now as well. But beware, the market for these have gone both ways. That means they once were regarded as unwanted. But since they don’t grow on trees, they should be kept, just in case the market does go back up. As for now it is as high as it has ever been.
Folk Is Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Folk was very popular in the 60s. The majority of people who listened to it were also members of the blue collar working class. But by the late 60s the message that was sent by the artist was that of anti-government and anti-war. The Hippies, Yippies, and Liberal white collar do-gooders, were the main groupies.
Now that people have become desensitised to the world around them, nobody has a cause to fight for.
And for the most part, we now have those who listen to new musical messages through the means of Alternative pop and rock artists. New fears and trends. We don’t hear songs saying “Stop the War”. We now hear songs about “Social injustice”
Children Records Are Ranked As Good For Collectability and Demand
Old Children records bring back fond memories and the nostalgia effect is often in evidence. There are some strong areas in the category. A prime example is Disney vinyl records, the album covers, sleeves and inserts that come with these records speak for themselves as collectible.
CHRISTMAS and RELIGIOUS
Christmas Records Are Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
Very important to remember. Christmas records only get played around the holidays. So when the only time they are being sought for is around Dec. 1st up until New Years day. After that, the records go back into storage. Dealers don’t sell them all year round, so collectors don’t look for them for the first 11 months.
The only reason why we have it listed as average is the seasonality aspect to the market, the records are still wanted.
Religious Records Are Ranked As Below Average For Collectability and Demand
Sandi Patti, Amy Grant, Petra, Mahalia Jackson, etc…
There has always been a strong base for religious recordings. Contemporary Christian music is selling very well right now. But the oldies are going unwanted. Don’t be confused with this category and Southern Gospel which borders on a mix of religion and R&B.; That can be very collectable to an R&B collector.
Still, Older religious music sells to the older crowd but has lower values to collectors.
Classical Records Are Ranked As Excellent For Collectability and Demand
Probably the biggest kept secret is the Classical LP. Some are worth money. A lot of money! When CD’s first hit the market, Classical collectors were the first people to jump out and buy them. Further more, after playing them, they were the first to jump back to vinyl LPs! They thought that when they bought their first CD’s, they would never have to worry about pops skips and surface noise, which is a big turn off to some music listeners. They were right, however they now had to worry about tape hiss, cheap plastic cases, terrible artwork crammed inside much smaller and often blurred because the original artwork was recopied and shrunk down to size. The liner notes all but impossible to read, being so small, was another turn-off.
The true audiophile and sound buffs agree unanimously that the LP, played on a fine stereo system, is the ultimate home listening experience one can have. These people are now buying up the choice titles that are in the market. These people have spent thousands on their systems and think nothing of it to drop a few hundred on choice LPs.
So what are the choice LP titles? They are mainly those from 1958 up to 1964. There was a combination of superior recording techniques, genius sound engineers, expert mastering, and tremendously high quality vinyl. All the money in the world could not reproduce these masterpieces. The prices for Near Mint to Mint recordings from this era, will stand to increase in prices for years to come.
We will start with the 2 most respected labels of the Classical music field RCA and Mercury. Here’s what you should look for in these 2.
RCA LIVING STEREO
In 1958 RCA started to release a series of records on their classical label. RCA Red Seal, under the banner of RCA Living Stereo. They also released Living Stereo in the Pop field, but it’s the Classical Red Seal which commands the top prices. These are recognised by the 1-1/2 inch black strip along the entire top of the front cover, with the words “Living Stereo”. Slightly later releases have the same strip on top but only are 1 inch in width. Later the strip disappeared but the words still remained on top “Living Stereo”.
The original pressings of the first 5 or 6 years are those that are commanding top prices today. The records that are referred to as the most valuable are those known to collectors as the “Shaded Dogs”. This term comes from the label on the record itself. The original pressings of these records have the famous dog listening to his masters voice. A trade symbol for RCA for many years. The original Red Seal label was a dark red, but an even darker red, shaded area appears behind the dog and the phonograph on the label. Some of these titles are more rare than others.
The Mono copies will only get 10% of these prices for the same issues. So one must remember that it is the true “Living Stereo” copies these collectors seek. Prior to 1958, Stereo recordings were taped. As soon as early 1957. However no stereo was issued until 1958. The ones that may have been early stereo experimentation can only be the most wanted, since they became the originals that were issued during 1958. In order to get this information, one may not be able to do so very easily. Thus is a guess at times, as to which stereo issues were in fact recorded in 1957. Perhaps early numbers are the best way to determine this, but some may have came in later numbered issues.
Remember, Stereo was experimental in 1957 and also in 1958. But what we get from them, technically speaking, are some of the best recordings ever produced in analog history!
To read out valuing records read our article: What Vintage Vinyl Records Are Worth Money?
Later, RCA changed the Red Seal label. The shaded dog and deep red were gone. A bright red label replaced the deep red labels and a white dog without the shaded area. These are referred to as the “White Dog’s”.
They don’t have as much value but still can command good prices. The quality of the pressings was still good at this time. Then finally they dropped the dog logo all together from the label. By then the RCA pressings were just ordinary and these records have lower values.
MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE
Equally as valuable are these Mercury recordings. They were available in mono or stereo but to have any value, they must be in stereo. They are easily recognised by the 1-1/2 inch wide strip on top front of the cover with the word “STEREO” in big letters. And the word “Hi-Fi” in small letters super-imposed over the letter T in Stereo. Also the words “Mercury Living Presence” are found in a small banner at a diagonal on the right side of the cover. The earliest and most desirable records have a 3 inch wide colour picture running the entire side of the back of the cover. Some of the later releases have all the logos and slogans in smaller print but they still are collectable.
The most determining factor for the value of the records are the labels. Those that have dark maroon are the best. However, If you see the words, “Vendor: Mercury Record Corporation”, you have a slightly later pressing. If the label is a lighter shade of maroon, it is also a later pressing. And if it’s an orange label, it’s even a much later pressing.
Other Labels On Classical:
This is a brief rundown on other classical labels of importance
A major label with hundreds of releases, but inconsistent pressings have made them oddly enough, not very collectable.
A division of Deutsche Grammophon that specialised in early music. Limited demand for them as well.
This is a Swedish label with high sound quality yet only carry moderate value among collectors.
Contains some very interesting releases along with some exciting covers. Only a small percent of them have any real value.
A fine British label and all titles have some value.
One of the largest with many major artists, but huge pressings and ordinary vinyl quality have made the majority of the titles by them, less than valuable.
Some very unusual repertoire has made this label somewhat valuable.
A German label that has nice pressings but most titles are very common.
A very interesting and very hot label. Many titles sell at medium to
high prices. Not many were imported into the United states, so they
will be scarce here (the US).
A French label which has never really caught on here in the US might be “a sleeper” as known in the collectors market, as a label that is virtually unknown but with a little circulation, can open up the flood gates. Don’t hold your breathe though.
Another sleeper. A budget label that specialised in Historic reissues. Getting harder to find, but has only moderate value today.
Like RCA and Mercury, their 1958-64 releases can be very valuable. Look for Stereo releases that collectors call “Bluebacks” because the back of the cover was a light shade of blue.
This was a mail order company that licensed recordings from other major labels and offered the reissue with cheap boring, black and white covers. Little demand, if any.
Another budget label with strange releases. Very common and not a great deal of interest with these.
A truly high quality Dutch label. They had some of the most consistent quality pressings in recording history. Most titles are not worth much, but will sell.
Since this label was known more for Folk recordings, the classical recordings may be of some interest. Not that many titles, but is now getting some attention.
Another budget label that sells so-so. However the famed VOX-BOX, boxed sets will sell, but only for moderate prices.
A cheaper label that tried to humour us with their funky artwork with classical music.
There are 3 types of soundtrack vinyl recordings:
Movie Soundtracks, TV Soundtracks and Original Cast Recordings
Movie Soundtracks Are Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
This is a strong category but you will note that not all Movie Soundtracks are worth large amounts. With collectors of Soundtracks, these people can be fanatical at times. There are a lot of them around, even though you would think there are only a handful.
A lot of popular movies sold millions of soundtracks. Many even were reissued in the 70s and early 80s.
What we will try to do is help weed out the good from the bad. The ones to go with, more than those that we already know are common. Those that are more common though becoming rarer and collected are mostly from the 70s and 80s.
Most soundtrack collectors build their collections around the composers. So with that in mind, here are a few that are worthy composers to be looking for..
Malcolm Arnold, Bonislau Kaper, Leonard Rosenma, John Barry, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Nino Rota, Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone, Miklos Rozsa, George Delure, Mario Nascimbene, Max Steine, Hugo Friedhofer, Alfre Newman, Dimitri Tiomkin, Jerry Goldsmit, Alex North, Franz Waxman, Bernard Hermann, Andre Previn, Victor Young, Maurice Jarre, David Raskin
These composers did what are known as Orchestral Scores. Which are different than the pop scores that we mentioned above.
Some people will collect soundtracks by different genres of movies. Such as Horror, Sc-Fi, Spy, African Jungle Movies, Fictional thrillers, Westerns, etc… They will want all John Wayne, all Clint Eastwood or all Jack Nicholson movies when they collect based on who the favourite actor is. Especially if the actor is featured on the cover such as almost all of Elvis’s did. Artwork is probably just as important to the soundtrack listener as any other type of collector. Often it is the covers themselves, and not the music which they seek.
One of the best labels to look for obscure titles on Varese Sarabande. There are many movies that were so obscure, and the studios did not wish to create a release. But this label did, and they are very scarce. A lot of Sci-fi and Horror collectors seek these titles and will snap them up when ever they can. Beware however, that this label has done a lot of reissuing, and the reissues, although just as scarce, are not worth as much as the originals.
There are some soundtracks that were foreign release only and are also very scarce. Some soundtracks are considered unauthorised and were not supposed to be released. They look legit but were basically stolen from the private owner of the material. Not bootleg or counterfeits. But like those types of releases, royalties were not paid to the artist or composers. Japan has been noted for reissues and unauthorised releases for years. No laws in their country prevent this from happening.
TV Soundtracks Are Ranked As Average For Collectability and Demand
There has not been many released over the last few years, but those from the 60s and 70s do have some value. Look for those that were from TV series and not TV specials, to have more value. Cartoon TV soundtracks are collectable and so are those that were based around multiple episodes.
Original Cast Recordings Are Ranked As Very Good For Collectability and Demand
This actually falls into 2 categories by itself. The very common titles (those that were from major Broadway hits) and those that are obscure and are mostly forgotten. Here is a list of some of collectibles:
Annie, Hello Dolly, Annie Get Your Get Your Gun, King And I, Belles Are Ringing, Kiss Me Kate, Brigadoon, Mame, Bye Bye Birdie, Man Of La Mancha, Cabaret, Oklahoma, Camalot, Oliver, Can Can, Paint Your Wagon, A Chorus Live, Pajama Game, Sound Of Music, South Pacific, Funny Girl, Sweet Charity, Flower Drum Song, West Side Story, Guy and Dolls.
Thats all for now folks. Though by no means an exhaustive list we’ve covered some of the main areas. Music is labyrinthine and by its nature, ever changing and developing. Whatever your interests, Happy Collecting!