The Rise of the Second Pressings?????

Sorry, again, for the paucity of posts and thanks, again, to Clifford for pitching in. There’s a lot to catch up on so let’s begin, starting with Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus, Prestige 7079. I think we may be seen a new paradigm taking shape in our Jazz Collector world. This copy was in extremely nice condition, graded M- for both the cover and the vinyl. It sold for $1,002.99, which some might think would be a bargain price for an original of Saxophone Colossus, and, of course, that would be accurate. But this was not an original pressing, but instead was a yellow label New Jersey pressing. I think we’re starting to see the rise of the second — and later — pressings because the originals are so expensive and so hard to come by, particularly in near mint condition. Makes me regret that I sold so many of my Liberty Blue Notes for $20 or so when I was selling regularly on eBay in the first part of the 2000s. Then again, the reason I was able to sell those Liberties was because I had acquired original pressings and no longer needed them, so nothing really to complain too strenuously about.

The Saxophone Colossus sale came on the heels of an email I received from a reader asking what I thought about what he described as “the exponential surge of some Blue Note represses.” He then included the following links:

Sonny Rollins, A Night at the Village Vanguard, Blue Note 1581. This was a Liberty pressing with the Liberty cover (ugh!) and it was probably in VG++ condition for the record and the cover. It sold for $294.99. Amazing. But then I noticed that the seller was the redoubtable bobdjukic, so it’s a bit less amazing and an aberration of the type that is not atypical of this seller.

But then there was Paul Chambers Quintet, Blue Note 1564. This was a United Artists pressing (with a corner cut to boot). The record was VG++ and the cover was VG+. The final price was $154.50.

Jutta Hipp at the Hickory House Volume One, Blue Note 1516. This was also a United Artists pressing, also with a corner clipped. It was sealed. It sold for $190.50.

Originally, I wasn’t going to post this note or the listings, because I encouraged the writer to put it in a comment on the site. But when I saw the Saxophone Colossus, and then looked at these in detail, and I thought it was something we should all be aware of, buyers, sellers and collectors. I still have a bunch of United Artists and Liberty Blue Notes, as well as New Jersey Prestiges. I have to rethink what to do with them. Perhaps it’s time to sell, or perhaps just hold onto them and see if the market demand goes even higher. I could lie to you and say I’m baffled by these prices, but the reality is that this seems to be the extension of a pattern that has been taking place during the past decade or so. Will it continue? Will it accelerate?

This is the question that was posed to me, and I will turn it around and pose it to all of you:

“I’m curious if you think these bidders/buyers are making uneducated bets or do you think the demand is really rising this quickly? Are there any figures available on how many records were pressed during the re-issue years of the late 60’s early 70’s? I’d imagine the existing supply to be significantly higher than records from the 50’s, yet they’re driving some of the same price points.  In full disclosure I’ve only been collecting Blue Notes for a few years so maybe these are just outliers that you guys are used to seeing?”

28 comments

  • I would imagine that any ’66 or ’67 Liberty Blue Notes would be increasing in value/price as they are now 50 years old. Liberty online catalogs are available for view to see which albums were pressed when, sadly without quantities. I know that the LOC has many of the original log books, so perhaps volumes could be found there.

  • Around ten years ago I bought a stack of pristine still sealed Libertys for $20 apiece and had some buyer’s remorse at that price. But I have been pleased with the sound quality of them and feel better about my purchase with the passing years. However I can’t really see Liberty reissue values going through the roof, so put me in the aberration column when considering some of these quoted results.

  • That might be a new trend or just an outlier. That’s a great classic record for the music, so maybe some of these major works by legendary players will spawn the next feeding frenzy of Blue Note vinyl titles.

  • These are almost certainly outliers. There are tons of second press Blue Notes in the wild, and very few can be relied on to bring ‘good’ prices. Those uninformed buyers tend to disappear when they start to realize they’ve been burned.

  • I think these are outliers. Tons of second press and Liberty Blue Notes in the wild, and very few of them can be relied upon to bring ‘good’ prices. These inexperienced buyers tend to disappear after they start to realize that they’ve been burned.

  • Just wondering…… how many legitimate 1st editions are really out there for sale? How many were issued in the original run? How many people are looking for a great record? How many are just speculating and investing? Get a record to listen? Get a record to put on your shelf?

  • the N.J. Saxophone Colossus you are referring to, apparently, was in an exceptional condition. I started selling second pressings a while ago, but this market only now takes momentum. I think the phenomenon is here to stay. For a first entrant in the market it is a terrible financial burden to aim for first pressings, so a decent second is a good solution.

  • I’m not so surprised – the Bergenfields are great. They look almost the same as NY pressings and sound just as good. Very early pressings. IMO the obesession with absolute 1st pressings is sometimes tiresome.

    Will the prices go up – yes I think so.

  • I think this is a mixed picture and I wouldn’t conflate the situation with regard to Prestige NY/Bergenfield pressings with that of Liberty re-issues of earlier Blue Notes or even Blues Notes that got their first releases under Liberty ownership.

    I think there is definitely a case to argue that the prices of Prestige Bergenfield second pressings of records first released as NY pressings will rise. Saxophone Colossus is a prime example of why I think this is likely to happen. The NY pressings are (currently) much more expensive than the Bergenfields, harder to find and even harder to find in high quality condition. In such circumstances, we should expect that the demand for the less expensive more widely option would grow – and thus prices would rise. Especially, as Anders has already said, from an audiophile viewpoint, the Bergenfields are sonically almost indistinguishable from from the NYs because they used the same metalwork. Here’s an example from my own experience: Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet – NY copies are far more expensive than the Bergenfield ones, so I’m perfectly content with the latter in my collection.

    Liberty re-issues of earlier Blue Notes are a different but nonetheless interesting case. Where original Blue Note pressings are out of reach, I would expect people to start pursuing the Liberty pressings but I don’t think this will have such an immediate impact on prices.

    However, I can foresee rising prices for early Liberty releases – i.e. of sessions recorded under Lion/Wolff ownership but not release until after Liberty took over (many of which have New York labels). The quality of these, both musically and in pressing terms, is under-appreciated and it won’t be too long before the market realises that.

  • I feel like Liberty-era classics are and will remain high-dollar items — Cool Struttin’, for example, seems to have taken on a life of its own no matter what the pressing is. I’d imagine if there were mid-60s issues of 1568 or 4041 we’d see them holding out at four-figure or near-four-figure sums. Saxophone Colossus is probably one of the great small-group hard bop performances of the 1950s and it’s understandable why it commands heavy prices, but $1K for a crisp second pressing is still a chunk of change.

  • I’ve been thinking about this issue for some time. I believe that vintage record prices, particularly for first pressings are on the rise, and have been for some time. The trend also appears to be increasing in rate rapidly. This seems to be true for most, if not all, genres. A quick look at the auction result aggregators can confirm the trend. Doubly unfortunate for readers here is that jazz, and mostly jazz of the 50s to the 70s, is super trendy today, be it bop, post-bop, free, spiritual or soul. Swing and trad, in contrast, seem on the outs for most/many lps (but super hot for some 78s). I attribute the vinyl price surge, at least in part, to the renewed interest in vinyl, which I hope against hope ends in a quick and fiery death. I also think that the ease of the internet has raised prices, and more so for impulse buys like eBay. Anyone out there miss passing around want lists at record shows, record stores and flea markets? Frankly, I miss the days of the early digital when everyone-and-their-mother were selling their records. I also miss the days when finding out about great records was about word-of-mouth and listening and not about clicking on BUY on line. I don’t see the trend slowing any time soon, which sucks big time, dude!, for those of us without very deep pockets. My only hope now is for a winning lottery number in my future. Or I can always give up listen to music and pick up a less expensive hobby like knitting.

  • I believe that NJ copy of saxophone colossus was an outlier. Can be attributed to the very nice shape of the item, and the reputation of the dealer.

    There are several inferior NJ copies in Buy It Now format on eBay for half that that don’t seem to attract buyers, and a lesser copy (VG+ disc / VG cover) just sold for $180.50 (http://www.ebay.com/itm/132085100128), which seems to be the fair market price for a nice, enjoyable, non-pristine NJ copy.

    No surprise either with the fact that a record that looks like it just came off of the press with a cover you could use as a mirror, coming from a reputable source, would be command 5x that! Pretty sure a Mint NYC copy could fetch close to $5K.

  • I hope the trend continues. I’m buying up every decent first pressing deal I come across. The values of these records will only go up as humans become more digitized.

  • I don’t think it is an aberration either, and the NY v. NJ commentary being different from the Liberty one makes a lot of sense to me. A different question is are these buyers rabid collectors or are they one-off guys looking for a cool 50 year old record to show their friends? In other words, are they content to build a 500+ jazz record collection comprised of 2nd and 3rd pressings or are they people moving in and out of the jazz market, having a few hundred disposable dollars in their pocket and having done a singular purchase of 1 record, are unikely to come back for more.

  • “Hmm. This $1,000 investment just might put me over 200 Instagram likes…”

  • I think they are people like me who love music, have money, and love the experience of vinyl. Lastly, it seems to be a good investment.

  • I say that all 10 ” first issues should become the NEW top price . After all they are the 2nd appearance of many early sessions, hail the mighty 78!!! The real 1st.

  • Art’s questions from above are what I’m also most curious about:

    “how many legitimate 1st editions are really out there for sale? How many were issued in the original run? … How many are just speculating and investing? Get a record to listen? Get a record to put on your shelf?”

    Are there any figures or sources worth looking into about how many copies were pressed by Plastylite during the 60’s? And were the Liberty/UA reruns small or large by today’s standards?

    We can all rationalize spending this type of money as investment in the sense that a price floor exists based on scarcity alone, but I think the tedious reality and risk involved with liquidating a large collection makes it far less realistic to treat collecting vinyl as a sound investment.

    Al, thanks for following up on my questions!

  • Karel, I frankly find that response insulting. Music is not the domain of the rich: it never was, it never should be and, G*D willing, it never will be. Ridiculously rising live music ticket prices, much like the obscene commodification of record collecting, does nobody any good, including the vulgarians who say things like “people like me who love music, (and) have money.” I’ve been collecting records for over 30 years and there have always been records outside of my price range. This will no doubt continue because of simple Allen Marshall-esque economics. It is a golden calf to espouse that the entire market should explode in a glut of “it seems to be a good investment.” The trends we see now are accelerating, but to whom go the benefits from this trend with records in particular, and music in general? I argue nobody, with no exception given to those vulgarians. The first record collectors were crazy for race 78s and canvassed to get their shellac fix. By the time of punk record hoarding became the sometimes-subject of many the era’s zines. The whole scene has mostly gone downhill since. Henry Rollins has discussed music and record commodification ad nauseam over the years, including in RE:search and, most recently, I believe, Stereophile. Following Henry’s example, record collecting has clearly lost its way when second and third pressings become retirement-and-college-savings-plans for the 1%. If you want a good investment go stock up on 1978 Montrachet or find yourself a nice little 250 GT SWB California; leave record collectors alone to drei over orgasmic second-pressing solos in Blue Train and Orange was the Color of Her Dress Then Blue Silk. Carthago Delenda Est.

  • Greetings:

    I write as one with a modest collection of Jazz Albums looking to connect with the serious collector community. It is my hope that I can get a short list of those who actively seek vinyl from the major instrumentalists and vocalists. Much thanks for your attention as I await a reply.

  • @david j The great thing about our country is we have the right to our opinions. I wish I was as rich as you perceive me to be. I’m just a regular guy who loves music and thinks this is a great investment.

  • There are many young(er) folks entering the vinyl market with the rise of turntable sales. They tend to be interested first in the perceived differences in audio quality between analogue and digital. So for them buying a second pressing, if it sounds as good, or almost as good, as a first, but is considerably cheaper, is the route they will go, particularly if later pressing sound like garbage. These are the same folks who are snapping up “audiophile” contemporary reissues. Some of these folks will morph into full-on lunatics like us (!). Particularly if a second issue has the same visual and “hand-feel” of a first, then it has for this community a lot of value.

  • Karel, I don’t want to get too troll-y here, but, while you are entitled to your opinion, you are wrong. This site is largely about jazz record collectors and their love of the discovery of music that moves them. While I can’t speak for the site or the readers, the site’s posts and responses are also frequently about how we are often shocked, and in a few cases horrified, about what has become the entry fee to that love and discovery. I don’t recall any previous post replies saying anything to the effect of your recent comments: “people like me who … have money, … (and), it seems to be a good investment.” I’m not questioning if you like jazz records or not, but being a cheerleader to the ever-raising barrier to entry in this hobby is, in my opinion and apparently that of the site and its readers, bad. Gregory the fish, another reader of the site and a frequent replier, and I had a brief email exchange about this once when we were trying to arrange a record swap. I have little doubt that none of this site’s readers are upset that their records have increased in value, but I suspect that all would rather have more access to wonderful music, whatever their stylistic preferences, than less, at least according to each reader’s means. This is not to say that we should expect to buy pristine copies of Overseas or True Blue for $0.78, but when late 4000 series Blue Note second pressings and yellow NJ Prestige second pressings sell for hundreds in vg condition, this is a problem. Before the rise of eBay collectors needed to visit shows, become buddies with record store clerks and hoard mail-in auction result sheets (or at least read Goldmine) to get the kinds of records featured on this site. The beaters and second pressings never made those mail-in auctions, were frequently relegated to the dollar bins, and became the gateway drug for many record collector diehards. How many of us picked up an inexpensive lp not knowing about what was in the grooves, and without knowing or caring anything about Plastylite ears, blood-red Savoys, Lexington Avenue, or Transition booklets only to walk through a door that could never be closed again and into a much larger and more wonderful world? How many of us listening to our parent’s records, not know or caring about first pressing minutiae, first found jazz? Will our kids have any chance? And I’m not even going to step on my soap box about the commodification of art…. If jazz record collecting, and jazz music or record collecting, in general, will shortly require an Amex Black to get that first hit of the great things about this hobby then the king is already dead and the investors have helped burry him. Long live the king!

    “And Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites used to invade the land at the coming in of the year.”

  • david j, many wise words there 😉
    Please don’t be “put off” if you can’t find a first, early or decent pressing. One of the benefits of today is that we can listen to almost all music at very little cost and effort. Online etc.

    What we are talking about here is “COLLECTING” not listening and finding new music. You can listen to Saxophone Colossus almost for free online and the CD is dirt cheap and IMO sound good enough to enjoy the masterpiece!

    Sorry for ranting you know and we all know this ofcourse. I collect too (why would I else be here), and it’s fun to find those early pressings, but I also love the convenience of having the music at my fingertips. Anyone agree?

  • I tend to agree with Anders.

    The records are very nice to have, but I think that if you are really “only in it for the music”, then surely the reissue or the CD will suffice. While I appreciate that certain records are only available in their original guise, this is certainly not true for just about any Blue Note / Prestige / Riverside / whatever.

    Most original, first-press records (in many genres, not just jazz) certainly are trophies these days IMO. Sad, maybe, but true. I have a few nice jazz and classical LPs, and I wouldn’t be without them, but if someone wanted to pay me silly money for them, then so be it.

  • DavidJ,

    I do have to agree with you on a lot of the things you point out. This of course is not an issue just with jazz but with a lot of other genres. Northern Soul Anyone ? 60’s Garage/Punk ? Psych ? UK Classical Pressings ? etc etc etc…..

    Sorry to Al and all the other Jazz readers of this great and informative site mentioning other interests.

  • I have a theory about why the (today) most valuable Blue notes, Prestige etc. will not increase as much in value as second pressings and other (today) less valuable labels.

    This is because of the impact of digital sound quality. As new and increasingly better technologies are introduced (like MQA, DSS etc.) the tendency is to introduce these improvements by reissuing the “top 100” jazz records which includes many of the same LP’s which are most valued in vinyl and where even first vs. second pressing are an issue. This is naturally so because this gives the new technology the chance to sell the most for the least cost.

    This means of course that all of the “second tier” stuff (which mostly never had anything beyond a first pressing) does not enjoy the same benefits of technology improvements that the most collected jazz repertoire enjoys. Of course the vinyl issues of this stuff do not suffer the same digital assaults.

    P.S. Before anyone accuses me of being a “digital troll” I should disclose that I have some 1700 jazz LP’s 5, many of which are first issues and an analogue system that I would match against anyone else out there but I also stream Tidal high res through a Musicvault server and a PSAudio Directstream DAC.

  • A lot to ponder.

    Nature abhors a vacuum and whenever a market moves to an extreme end of the bell curve, there is generally a reaction to fill the void. In the case of collectible LPs, the market begins to embrace non first pressings that have many of the characteristics of their pricier cousins. My experience is that Mint or Near Mint 2nd pressings sound better than mediocre condition first pressings. In fact the sonic quality of a 2nd pressing is often indistinguishable from the sonic quality of a first pressing, given equal condition. If the 2nd pressing costs less, then the decision is easier for many. Prestige NY vs NJ, Impulse. Blue Note. Clef-Norgran-Verve. Riverside white vs blue label and so on. There are exceptions. For Blue Note my argument is supportable when examining Lexington vs 47th st and into NY pressings. My argument can be challenged when moving through the Liberty era. Early Liberty is essentially late NY with Liberty labels. However there is an almost precipitous decline in quality when moving from Liberty RVG pressings to other remasters, and west coast sourced pressings.

    Market extremes also bring emotion into the decision making process. When a buyer is priced out of the higher end of the market, they look for alternative ways to participate, partly due to “trendy” pressure, partly in an attempt to buy something “undervalued”. In automobiles, for a long time prices for the Ferrari 250GTE and early Ferrari 308 models lagged other models. Both could be purchased for less than $30k as recently as 10yrs ago. As the market for more desirable models took off, many were priced out. Then attention began to turn to the “bargains”….prices for the 2 models listed above now start in the low 6 figures…. We are seeing the same phenomena in LPs. As buyers are priced out of 4 figure markets, they turn to the 2 and 3 figure markets so they can participate. $20 Liberty and NJ Prestige pressings become $50-$100, when 1st pressing Blue Notes and NY Prestige pressings are $500+.

    My wife and I moved into a new house about 1yr ago. I moved my record collection (about 2k LPs) and associated equipment. I took the time to go through every LP and segregate, alphabetize etc. I re-discovered several LPs that I had forgotten about, and I began to think about the value of my collection. In going through everything, I was forced to realize how many valuable LPs I had. On the one hand I am happy that what I have purchased over the years has appreciated in value, on the other hand, I realize that I would be unable to replace this collection given current price points. I am contemplating an insurance policy for my collection.

    I don’t think prices will come down in the future. In fact I expect prices to continue to rise. Collecting LPs is now an “acceptable” pursuit. 5yrs ago, I was viewed as a Luddite for continuing to own LPs, now people start conversations with me because they heard I have a “record collection”. I have been asked to recommend “valuable” or “collectible” records for a casual buyer to look for. Many of the hipsters and millenials will eventually leave the market, but there will be a substantial number of them who will become collectors (as we know the term). New overseas buyers will continue to enter the market due to improved standards of living, and sustained creation of substantial new wealth. For many outside of the “West” acquisition of classic LPs is a status symbol….many purchase, immediately rip to digital, then display the LP on the wall like art. And then there is the rest of us….consigned to chasing our holy grails.

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