Report From the WFMU Record Fair

record fairSorry I haven’t been posting regularly. I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of apologizing for this lately. I do have a lot of real work, but that is no excuse, right? I will try to do better. Last week I was also engaged with preparing for the WFMU Record Fair at the 69th Regiment Armory on 26th Street in Manhattan. I had a table on Friday, and arrived around 2 p.m. for my setup, so I was able to walk around a little. There were a couple of tables that had some nice jazz records, but by the time I got there, several of the dealers from Japan had already swooped in on them and were pulling out the best pieces. I have come to know these dealers over the years and I like them very much and am happy for their success in getting records because I realize they are working on relatively low margins, spending money to come to the States every few months and criss-crossing the country in search of records that may or may not be marked up sufficiently when they return to Japan. So, if they want to sit outside at 8 a.m. waiting for the dealers to show up, more power to them. I heard of a nice copy of Tommy Flanagan Overseas selling for $1,500, and an original Cliff Jordan Blue Note selling for $400. Apparently there was also a Benny Green Back on the Scene somewhere at the show for a $400 price tag. As for me, well, frankly, I thought I had the best jazz records at the show and at the best prices. I had a bunch of 10-inch LPs from the Baltimore collection and I priced them to sell. Needless to say, they all went: Three or four Miles Prestiges, a Max Roach-Clifford Brown on Emarcy, a Clifford Brown-Art Farmer on Prestige, to name just a few. I also had a few Bird Dial 78s that I sold for just $30 each. As for 12-inch LPs, I sold several Horace Silver Blue Notes, a Lou Donaldson Blues Walk (for just $250), Sonny Rollins Plus Four, plus many others. Many of these went to the dealers from Japan. By the time the show actually opened it’s doors at 4 p.m. Friday, I had already sold about half of the records I would sell over the course of the entire day. It was fun, and it was nice chatting with many of the Jazz Collector readers who stopped by. In fact, anyone who mentioned that he read Jazz Collector got a special discount. In the end, I arrived with seven boxes of records and left with five boxes of records. I still have some nice records in those boxes, including a Bud Powell original Blue Note, a Phil Woods original Prestige and a Lou Donaldson Swing and Soul. Next time, I guess.

BTW, discerning readers will note that the picture with this story is a retread from a previous show. When I got home I realized I forgot to take a picture, so . . . .


  • Nice!
    I had family obligations so had to miss this round. Oh well…

  • What am I missing here? The original goes for 5 times less than a latter pressing that appears to be of lesser quality. Same seller and everything. Incredible.

  • Gregory the Fish

    it was a lovely time, al. i can hardly wait for the next one. good to see you as always.

    got some nice things from many different sellers.

    so, you can hang out and wait for the sellers and buy from them before they go in? interesting…

  • I fully intended to catch the Friday night “set”,but ran into a hellish traffic jam on the Cross County Pkwy(south). After an annoying amount of time waiting(that is to say,being stuck)I turned around and came back home. Sometimes the joy of finding one or two “must haves” can be trumped by the pleasure of an iced coffee and some playoff games on the tube. (“I need to sell more and buy less anyway”he thought,wisely.)

  • GST…
    I too am as confused as you. This is the same UK based seller who achieved the MASSIVE Mobley 1568 price recently and the same seller that London Jazz Collector cast some serious doubts over regarding bidding patterns.
    Why would anyone pay $1250 for The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson Vol. 1, second pressing?
    The thing just does not add up…thoughts…
    I smells a rodent

  • Al, today’s post left a bitter feeling. I always enjoyed in the past attending the first hours of the WMFU fair. I was aware that some deals between dealers were completed before the doors open. However, after reading your comments on the japanese dealers, do we have to understand that we have only access to a limited sample of jazz records – even arriving very early? I understand the motivation of the japanese dealers but it’s really frustating to only access “what they don’t want”. I have never been a big fan of record fair – too competitive from my point of view and not relaxing at all. kind regards, cy

  • Cy, I agree that it takes so much of the enjoyment out of attending a record show when the best items are all gone before the show even opens. I have a feeling it has always been this way, to some degree. I remember dealers like Red Carraro and Jack Brown staking out dealers as they would be unloading their cars. I think it was always somewhat rigged in favor of the dealers and others who would invest the time and money in getting there early. The difference is dealers like Red and Jack would often try to resell the items they purchased, many times at the same show. The records that I sold on Friday will be resold, but they will be resold in the Japanese market and will leave these shores forever.

  • Yeah, you can’t really bemoan the grip-and-flip as that is what record fairs have always been.

    I heard there was someone stealing jazz LPs at this year’s WFMU fair but I assume none of Al’s records were affected by such tactics…

  • My take is that dealers can be collectors,too!(duh)Therefore,when they arrive at a site early on-as they must-it makes sense to try to score what you can for yourself-“wheel and deal”- before the doors open. I’d hate missing out on what other dealers might have-I’d want to sell AND buy! The insightful dealer could still set aside a pile for the folks who have to wait for the gates to open(BTW,don’t dealers sometimes stagger how they put out their items,replenishing their goods as they sell off? Everything might not be available when those gates open in the best of circumstances).

  • Every record fair I’ve been too has been the grip and flip mentality. I can’t knock it, because as both a collector and seller, it’s always nice to find the random grail that you can flip. that helps feed my collecting.

  • I went Saturday for the first two and a half hours the show was open. WOW. Very intimidating only in the number of sellers there. I went in with a plan, bought something from most of the dealers I absolutely planned to check out, but I did leave feeling like I had missed out on the LPs I really wanted to have.

    One gentleman was there for only Saturday and specifically mentioned jazz on his listing. I got two things from him, including a Jaki Byard New Jazz that I wish weren’t as marked up as it was, but I feel I got a fair deal.

    I bought from two reputable sellers, both of which sell a lot online. The records I got from them are VERY nice but, trying not to blow all my cash on just one or two LPs, I did not leave the table with their nicest records. Instead I grabbed two things of interest to me, including a Search for the New Land with an ear, something that seems to be scarce.

    I spent a LOT of time looking at one table full of Blue Notes and Prestiges that I never get to see in person. Condition was a little too beat or price was just a little too high, though. There was a stereo copy of Unity with ears for $125 that I wish I had taken a swing at, but I don’t remember if it was in truly nice shape.

    Finally, I doubled the number of LPs I took home visiting a table on a whim where the seller had large batches of Prestige and other labels. He was one of those strange “price as you go” kind of guys who went mainly on condition. I picked up some unplayed but lightly marked up Savoy original pressings, a beat up but playable All Day Long on NY labels, a Mal Waldron on New Jazz that is noisy but was a steal at less than $5, and a few other things, for the price of just one of the other nicer records I had bought. I guess what I’m getting at is that if I had visited a completely different quadrant of the fair earlier on, I bet I would have walked away with completely different records, perhaps a different persepective of the craziness of the whole thing, and probably still would have left with an empty wallet.

  • Gregory the Fish

    phil, that’s the sense I got too.

    by the time i found the euclid records table, with several of the impulses i had been looking for, i only had enough for one of them, as opposed to all 4. but i got nice records that i wanted, either way. you get a different experience going in different directions.

    i wonder if anybody got the $400 copy of cecil taylor’s “jazz advance”? too rich for me. goodness.

  • “but I did leave feeling like I had missed out on the LPs I really wanted to have.” -Phil.
    Now if that doesn’t sum up the “collector experience”,I dont know what does. Why you buy is good,but what you COULD have had-now that would have been GREAT!(lol) BTW,it looks like there were a number of NY locals that attended. It might have been fun to grab a meal afterward to compare “war stories”. Maybe next year?

  • oops-“What you buy is good..”

  • Gregory the Fish

    that’s true. we should do that. i would be interested to see what we all look like, too.

    let’s not forget!

  • Hey:

    You NY guys are blessed. At the local record shows here in the Southeast, dealers won’t even bring jazz records because nobody is interested in looking at them. Of course if any one of you is looking to trade some BNs for some Allman Brothers, I am sure I can arrange a deal 😉

  • Thanks to all for the details on the show. Those of us out here in Iowa flyover land (we do have live jazz every Thursday night) appreciate the vicarious shopping. The more details the better.

  • After hours of morning trunk sales, pre 4 P.M. openings, the anything worthwhile of reselling overseas is long gone. The Japanese and other buyers of any kind of brains buy tables and sell them under cost and attach themselves as “helpers” to get in early. This has been going on for years. A lot of off condition and eBay rejects are of plenty.

  • Would be happy to receive notices
    about upcoming fairs, auctions, etc.

    Thank you, HG

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