Guest Column: A Score For the Ages

We haven’t had a guest column in a while, but here’s a good one from a reader who asks that we refer to him simply as Scott. Enjoy.

It started with a broken turntable. The new turntable my wife bought me at the HiFi shop some three years ago sat unused, not properly set up, broken. I know, I know. Just too busy.  High stress military career, moving, a combat tour in Iraq, and two teenage boys got in the way of my budding interest in vinyl. The day finally came and the turntable was fixed.  Off I went to the estate sales as usual. Not to find vinyl, but to search for tube HiFi gear or vintage speakers.

This particular sale — just last week — was in a 1930s Tudor of perhaps 3,500 square feet.  The owners had obviously lived there since the ‘50s. A sweep of the house revealed no tube equipment, no speakers, and nothing much else of interest. I did note several stacks of records against the wall of one of the bedrooms upstairs. I now had a turntable so I went to look.  I sat on the floor next to another fellow and asked him what was good. He talked about the Riverside label and we chatted. He picked out several and cut his stack to ten records, paid, and left. The stacks were almost all ‘50s jazz with hip covers.  I selected ten, paid the lady the two bucks a record, and went home and played one.

The first record I put on was Helen Merrill (yeah that one). I loved it. I put on another. This one a Blue Note. Wow. Cool. Remember, I didn’t know a Blue Note from a blue bird, but I do know what I like. I went back and bought another 18 just because I liked them including 11 first-issue deep-groove, Blue Notes including BNs 1509, 1518, 1537, 1578, 1537, 1540, 1513, 1545, 1560, 1544, 1560, 1562. Remember, I have no idea what these LPs are selling for.

Much later in the day, I luckily plug one of these titles in my computer. Wow again. I’m headed back to the sale, but I’m late.  The sale is over for the day, but they know me and let me in. I go back and buy the wall for about a buck and a half a record. Perhaps 160 records with 90 of them matching items in the Jazz Collector Price Guide.  First issues like Mobley’s Message Prestige 7061, Byrd’s Eye View, Getz, Rollins, Garland, Horace Silver, Kenny Drew, and it goes on and on.  Everything is in lovely shape, first issue, with the majority of the covers in VG+ to VG++ and the vinyl in mostly M- condition.  While I am sitting on the floor at the sale an older man asks me if I like records.  I hesitate. He says he has 2,000 records for fifty cents each, my pick. I get his number and visit. No jazz. I buy some cool stuff, mostly old rock like a double live album from the Dead. I should have bought more. I will go back and buy more classical and rock before his garage sale in April. Any cheaper and it would be free.

I’m hooked now… so I go to my local used record store not expecting to see much and score two more Deep Groove Blue Notes and a Liberty. Not as nice as the others, but hey. Tomorrow I am going back and picking up Prestige 7002, 7146, 7087, and Argo 688. The best part of all this is a whole new world has opened up to me. I am not sure how I missed out on this for so long.

Good hunting!  — Scott

8 comments

  • Scott, welcome to the simply joy of record collecting. For me, the hunt is just a gratifying as the music! Also, these are priceless objects that we are the temporary caretakers of. Take good care of them, so our children’s children can enjoy. Thanks for sharing your journey!!

  • Looks like kharma at work…a hard-working Iraqi War veteran finds ultra-rare Blue Note treasures virtually for free. Great story….Congrats Scott and thank you for your service! And thanks Al for the posting!

  • Scott. Congrats. It was exciting to read you finding old Blue Note records. Both for you finding good deals on good music, and to introduce you to Blue Note. IMHO, the old Blue Note jazz is the best. Good Hunting.

  • I love hearing about scores like this! Estate Sales, garage sales, seller have virtually no idea what they have, they just want it gone and out of their way! Welcome to the world of treasure hunting! And a grateful veteran says thank you for your service!

  • how much did he charge u for the bluenotes bro?

  • Chewy, All the records were priced at two bucks a pop. I paid less because I made a deal for the collection. About 100 of them are first issue 50s Jazz. Another 60 are classical, Christmas, kids albums, etc. Since then I’ve picked up a few additional Prestige Yellow label NY records. Lightning rarely strikes twice, but I can hope.

  • Here is an update… Given the success of my recent find, I ran a little free local ad for jazz records and a fellow around the block sent me an email. It was the fellow who was sitting on the floor at the sale where I made my big score and who had bought the records before me. Well it turned out he had 12 and wanted to sell. A hundred and twenty dollars later and I owned Miles (six eye) Porgy and Bess, Miles Ahead, Collector’s Items, blue note 1539 DG Lex, blue note 1547 DG 47 West, Unique Monk Riverside 12-209, Monk Town Hall 12-300, Parker Verve 8005, Bird and Diz Verve 8006, Cafe Bohemia Savoy 12017, Mulligan California Concerts Pacific Jazz Records, The Quintet jazz at massey hall debut records. He turned 25 bucks into a hundred and twenty and I scored a bunch more great first issue music. Lightning does sometimes strike twice. Good hunting! Scott

  • Superb score 😉
    But what I don’t understand is why the first buyer did only pick 10LPs from the first goldmine sale?? From the second aquintance it seems he knew some about jazz and such?

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