A Diversion Into the World of 78s

Charlie Parker copyMy eBay watch list is overflowing and there are some interesting items we don’t often see here, including some 78-RPM records. Let’s start with Charlie Parker, The New Sounds in Modern Music, Savoy 510. This is a boxed set of Charlie Parker 78s. Unfortunately, the seller doesn’t say which ones, although if I were interested (as I may be) I would at least attempt to pose the question. The records — can’t call them vinyl — are in VG+ condition and the cover is probably VG or VG+, depending upon the condition. I am probably one of the few among us who still collects 78s. I’ve had the good fortune to run into a few inexpensive collections, and then I was very fortunate with the 78s I purchased in the infamous¬†Baltimore collection. I probably have about 1,000 78s, with probably about 40 Parkers on Savoy, Dial and Mercury, but a Bird Savoy boxed set would make a nice addition to the collection. There is a big concern with buying 78s on eBay, because

they really don’t ship well. I know this first-hand from having sold 78s and doing everything right to ship them carefully, with the right packaging and all. And I’ve still had breakage. This one is sitting at about $35 with a few hours to go. I may be tempted.

Here’s a Blue Note 78 that is getting some surprisingly heavy action: Thelonious Monk, Straight No Chaser/Four in One, Blue Note 1589. This is listed in VG+ condition. There are five bidders and 15 bids and the price is already up to $60. Fortunately, this is one that I own.

A couple more while we’re on the subject: Charlie Parker and Leo Parker, The Parkers, Savoy 509. This is a three-record boxed set with 78s by both of the Parkers. It looks to be in very nice condition and the cover alone makes it quite enticing. The price is less so — starting at about $100. So far there are no bidders. New Sounds in Modern Music, Savoy 508. This is a four-record set of 78s including a potpourri of boppers, including Bird, Fats Navarro, Sonny Stitt, Tadd Dameron and, of course, the famous Izzy Goldberg (need I reveal the real identity of “Izzy?). This one also looks to be in nice shape, but it also carries a hefty start price of about $125. Alas, there are no bidders for this either. It closes later today.

BTW, for those who may be curious, I do listen to my 78s. I have an old Califone record player that they used to use in the public schools. It works great and the sound is just fine. I was able to pick one up pretty inexpensively on eBay and a quick glance tells me there are still many for sale. If you get the 78 itch, that’s an easy way to scratch it. For me, there’s something still thrilling about putting on a Bird 78, or Billie Holiday, or Louis Jordan, and listening to the sound as it was originally meant to be heard. If you do get the itch, you’ll never be the same.


  • …Still looking for a decent 78rpm copy of Blue Note BN2 (Albert Ammons – Boogie Woogie Stomp) with the pink and black label myself if anyone out there in 78 land has an extra copy and is looking to sell !

  • Man, I sure would love to listen to Thelonious Monk or Charlie Parker 78s on a Califone. By the way, the audio clips for the Monk 78s sound stellar–I’d say that record was worth it for 89 bucks.

  • the pink and black label on the first BNs is pretty sick.

  • As a 78 collector I guess I’m almost the opposit of you guys.
    I read this blog because I’m interested in records, what sells and what doesn’t, and while I wouldn’t collect modern jazz lps really I have plenty of the ojc records and it’s not like I don’t love the music.
    I do wonder though, how often do you guys listen to some of the classic stuff, say louis armstrong’s hot 5 or 7 records, a bit of bunny berigan, jelly roll morton etc?
    I got a pretty amazing collection of 78s some years back including a bunch of miles davis on uk esquire, stuff like that, lots of bird in there too but all uk issues.

  • 78 grading is different than LP grading. In descending order, 78 grading is: N, N-, E+, E, E-, V+, V, and V-. Below that means a really scratchy, dirty record. While “V” in LP grading is considered good, in 78 grading, it signifies a less-than-desirable copy. 78 albums are called “book” albums because they have “pages” (leaves or liners) analogous to a book. A few record sets were issued in boxes with covers (example: Bessie Smith on Columbia, 1947). But these proved to be awkward, and unappealing to consumers. The way to pack 78 albums for shipment is to remove the records from the album, sleeve them separately, and pack them well so they won’t shift in the box.

  • With the right playback equipment, a 78 can sound great! In mid-January, I attended a collector bash where in the evening 78s were played round-robin by attendees. Some of the records were astonishing for their sound. Most were from the 1920s. I don’t think there were any Louis because they are too well-known to vintage collectors, especially the OKehs. There some Moten Victors but no Tiny Parham, which surprised me, because he had such a great band.

  • That Tiny Parham stuff is pretty amazing, also mckinney’s cotton pickers. I found a uk copy of milenberg joys once at a carboot sale, I’d never heard of them at the time, that record just amazed me, it was one of the first original jazz 78s I’d found at that time.

  • I’m interested in finding out more about 78s. My father-in-law left a large collection of records–all packed in the books as someone described above. Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby, Art Tatum, Decca, Columbia, Bluebird, Victor, and others I can’t recall at the moment. The records appear to be in very good condition though, as I said, no covers. I’d be interested in finding out more about their values. I’m going to have to go through and index them all, and take photos. They are all in plastic sleeves, and then in paper sleeves. About 10-12 books full. My email is santabgirl@gmail.com, if anyone wants to reach me directly.

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