The Great Jazz Vinyl Countdown

I counted my records the other day. At least I counted most of them. I didn’t count the 78s and I didn’t count the ones in storage. The ones in storage are all to be sold and the 78s are, well, 78s. No matter. The point is this. I have more records than I want. I have them in four separate rooms in two separate homes. I have records I have owned for more than 25 years and have never put on a turntable. I have records by artists I don’t especially like. I have collected them because I am a collector. It is what I do. That is why my site is called Jazz Collector.

I counted the records because I have made a fairly momentous decision, and that decision is this: I am going to get rid of many of them. This is heresy, is it not? These are my friends, all hand selected personally by me. I have invited them into my home, to share my space, to give me comfort and joy in times of stress or sorrow. And they have served me well, all of them, in whatever way they could.

But the time has come to part ways with many of them. Why?

It is just time.

I want to simplify my life. I don’t have as much time to listen. I don’t have the same passion as I used to have, getting that adrenaline rush of walking into a record store and not knowing what treasures might be awaiting me. I’m still relatively young, but I think of being laden with all of these records as I get older and worrying about whether I would be leaving my kids with a burden. There are other reasons perhaps, but if there are other reasons they are probably a bit more personal than I’d like to get into here.

In any case, I have made the decision to pare down the collection and, just as importantly, I have made the decision to share the process here with my new friends at Jazz Collector. This is the deal. I have in my collection 6,634 records – not counting the 78s, not counting the couple of thousand records in storage. I will deal with those separately. My inventory is as follows: 6,128 are 12-inch LPs; 384 are 10-inch LPs; 112 are boxed sets.

I want to get down to 1,000 records. Why 1,000? Why not? It’s a nice round number, it will enable me to keep enough of my Trane and Bird and Sonny and Monk and Miles and Ella and it is, quite frankly, more records than I will ever listen to over the rest of my life. Within the 6,634 records are some that are duplicates, others that will cause me no angst in getting rid of, others that I will choose to sell because of their value, including some of my nicer Blue Notes and Prestiges that don’t usually make it to the turntable.

This is the plan: Every day (or almost every day) on the Jazz Collector site, I will ponder a different record: Does it stay, or does it go? Will it be among the final 1,000, or will it be sold on eBay or perhaps even offered on the Jazz Collector Web site? I will not bore you with each decision on each record. Does it really matter if I keep one Count Basie on Pablo or five or none? Not really. But Trane on Prestige, or Horace Parlan on Blue Note, or Zoot Sims on Rama? Those are decisions worthy of debate, right?

So when does it all start, this Great Jazz Vinyl Countdown?

Well, if I don’t chicken out completely, it will start tomorrow. Please stay tuned.

25 comments

  • Maybe you should sign something that begins”Being of sound mind and body,I..” and then get that paper notorized. If you do,at least if you do,20 years from now-when the value of those rarities have gone through the roof like the price of my early Spideys-“Meets The Vulture”-yeah,the ones I tossed down the incinerator when I “got too old” to collect comics-at least you will be able to say you knew what you were doing at the time. I sure as hell didn’t(and I KNOW I’m not the only one singing that tune,either!) On the other hand,if I can score an lp from you that I’ve wanted for decades..it’s a GREAT idea!:)

  • Rudolf A. Flinterman

    Bravo Al: you went through the same process as I did. When you have made a calculation which resulted in the outcome, that you can never listen to all the records you own in the rest of your lifetime, you logically should do something: get rid of the extra fat, cut it out without mercy, and keep a nucleus of things you really dig. It may hurt, but clinical surgery bears fruit. Good luck in this excercise. Fyg:
    I went down from 10,000 to 3,000. I am now in the process of slimming down on doubles, triples, quadruples up to sextuples for some. I don’t set a magic number of 1000. I just let things come. I just put a tremendous Rollins for sale, of which I had 5 copies. I sold one, now the 4th is going: Sonny Rollins trio/brass. I will still have 3: one stereo US, one mono US and one mono French. In a couple of years I will be there with one mono and one stereo, deciding whether I will finally keep the mono or the stereo. This is just one example.
    What I like in your site recently is the attention you give to good, solid music not eligible for the 1000 bin. Items like “For Lady” on Prestige. There is so much good stuff around which merits our attention.

  • Al, I feel your pain. I don’t have as many records as you, but I value each and every one of them. But I don’t value them equally, in terms of needing to have a permanent “relationship” with them. I had the same decision to make a few years back on the thousands of books in my collection (my wife was the catalyst for that decision, not me). Good luck in finding good homes for the ones you select to part with.

  • Good time to sell. I was in LA today, and visited that mecca of high price jazz auctions: Atomic Records in Burbank.

    Nice enough guys. Said the value of these collectibles keeps on rising. Of course none of the really good stuff was available to buy at the store. Must keep it locked in the safe in the back.

    As we’ve discussed, they pay people to scrounge around the more disadvantaged neighborhoods in LA looking for jazz and R&B collections. Every now and then they definitely hit gold, but after seeing alot of what they get in the door, a lot of 50 cent rubbish.

  • Al, I think your decision is wise. You want to definitely play and enjoy your records. I don’t quite know where the enjoyment is if you can’t play them. Dave’s comment above is interesting and I agree; I live in the SF Bay Area, but my kids live in LA. So, when we are down there, I have been picking up 70’s and 80’s jazz records for $1 at thrift stores and garage sales, and stores like Record Surplus. There are never any 60’s jazz to be found, except in very poor condition. But like you, I really enjoy the hunt. I did get a Mose Allison Prestigue for $1 at a thrift store up here, and it played great. Anyhow, I really appreciate your sharing your experiences with us. It’s very helpful. On last thing, the last time I was at Atomic Records (about 5 months ago) I did pick up 10+ ECM’s including some Keith Jarrett’s that all play great. They were all promo copies, so by all means look through their front cheap piles at the front door.

  • Jean Baudrillard wrote about collecting as did Susan Stewart…both note that the system – the cataloguing and the ordering- takes precedence over the items themselves, their history, their use. Hence the interest in collectors of seriality -numbered editions- as opposed to, say, content. Owning triples (+) of anything points to this.

    Nonetheless… I also believe that most of us here are genuine fans of Jazz. I own about 1000 records, a nice manageable ikea shelf’s worth and would like to get rid of half – Doobie brothers’ Minute by Minute anyone? (didn’t think so).

    Nice work Al. I hope it feels like a good…well, *purge*.

  • I’m not sure that owning triples(+) points to an interest in seriality over content, as having more than 3 might imply a quest for better playability (& would (does!) also interfere with neat ordering of a collection).
    Having said that, I have to confess that many of my duplicates are, say, a VG original & an NM reissue and/or Stereo/Mono copies!
    I would say I was a genuine Jazz (& other music) fan, but also a victim(?) of the collector’s bug (much worse since I turned 40!) and own copies of records I think are terrible & will probably never play again but keep because they complete a collection: for instance I have all the 4000 series Blue Notes, even though quite a few of the later ones are awful.
    As my collection approaches the 2000 mark, I certainly feel overwhelmed by it at times, and vow to have a good winnowing soon – watch the price of Blue Notes crash as we all divest our collections of excess!

  • JB also writes about the increase in the activity among men 40+.

    It was a frustrating chapter to read… being told your passion was actually a neurosis. I’m still not convinced either. I was just putting it out there.

  • Which book contains the Baudrillard essay (& the Stewart)?
    Whenever I feel a bit disturbed that my record buying is getting out of hand, I do remind myself I could be doing a lot worse (e.g. online poker) in terms of pursuits & might also be adding nicely to my pension pot – or at least be wonderfully occupied once I retire.
    It can be overwhelming too, to think of all the music out there I’ve yet to hear, but the joy of discovery is pretty hard to match.
    Someone else mentioned setting a monthly budget, which I do, and stick to (mostly!).
    I’ve also been meaning to ask JC readers what cataloguing method/software they use? Less than a quarter of my collection is catalogued in terms of pressing & condition (& then only as an Excel file).

  • Baudrillard “The System of Objects”
    Susan Stewart “On Longing”

    Each devote only a chapter to collecting specifically.

    For a more positive look, and one that is much less Psychoanalytical / theoretical I strongly recommend Walter Benjamin’s “Unpacking My Library.” It’s a personal musing on his book collection, written as he sits among recently opened crates. Very similar to what Al is going through… reconnecting with old items. (Published in either “Illuminations” or “Reflections” – I can’t remember).

  • I did a quick search on Google and found this: Baudrillard, J. 1994. ‘The System of Collecting’. In: Elsner, J. and Cardinal, R. [eds] The Cultures of Collecting. Reaktion Books Ltd.

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