Insanity Check

Monk2 copyHaving taken note of what I considered to be the pretty high price on that stereo copy of Giant Steps, and having taken note that it was a listing by the seller bobdjukic, I wandered over to eBay to look at some of the other completed listings of his recent auctions because I am always impressed and somewhat taken aback by the prices he is able to get on most of his jazz vinyl listings. And, while there wasn’t that much jazz in these latest auctions, the prices continue to rise to the occasion, so to speak. Here are a few examples:

Thelonious Monk, Monk’s Dream, Columbia 1965. This is a two-eye pressing that is listed in VG++ condition for the record and VG++ for the cover, although upon close examination of the pictures of the cover it would seem more like a VG+ on my grading system. This one was only listed as “very rare,” but it sold for $127.50, which is significantly more than we typically see for this album.

Duke Ellington at Newport, Columbia 934. This is an original six-eye mono pressing that is in shrink wrap, although, to be fair, they were not actually shrink wrapping records when this came out in 1957.

The record was listed in M- condition and the cover was probably VG++. The record sold for $123.50. This is a fairly common record, and it’s by Duke, and I can’t recall it ever getting that kind of price. Those of you who have knowledge of, and interest in, other genres should do what I did and take a look at the completed listings. There are a lot of insanely rare records getting insanely high prices. As a seller, I’m sure it would be nice to duplicate what this seller is able to accomplish, but I don’t think other sellers have quite discovered the key. Or, perhaps, there is an imagined ethical line they are unwilling to cross?






  • think about how much the Monk would of went for if it was INSANELY rather than VERY rare….

  • Guess there’s a lot of suckers being born each minute.

  • it’s the last one, AL.

  • Wow! There’s visible mold on the back of the jacket and somebody still paid $123 for an insanely unrare record. The strange thing is that the seller is notorious on the net on other collector forums for loose definitions of original and his slippery responses to queries. He raises eyebrows in the psych and rock market too. E Bay has him as a Top Rated Seller. Somehow his information overload technique for listing on E Bay works.

  • Ellington at Newport is in every dollar bin in the country, often in NM. That result is astounding!!!

  • “WE GRADE THE VINYL AS NEAR MINT. Some VERY LIGHT AND SUPERFICIAL abrasions – mostly sleeve scuffs – are (barely) visible, but are probably inaudible, and do not affect visual integrity or beauty of the vinyl.” But look at all those scratches in the dead wax in the listing photos. Oh well.

  • In all fairness, I find that the vast majority of sellers are victims of the ‘mention-the-imperfection-but-downplay-it’ syndrome. Think about how many times a seller has written something like, ‘light marks THAT DO NOT AFFECT PLAY’, or, ‘EXTREMELY LIGHT pops and ticks that can BARELY be heard’, or, ‘VG, marks and scuffs BUT STILL PLAYS GREAT!’.
    My theory is if they’re mentioning it, it’s a big enough deal to mention it in the first place, so I always ebb on the side of caution and assume the worst. Also, anytime a grade is split (ex. VG/VG+) I *always* assume the lower grade.
    My last pet peeve is grades like ‘strong VG++’…isn’t VG++ strong VG+??? Also not a fan of NM-, cuz NM is basically M-, so NM- should just be VG++….amiright or amiright?? πŸ˜‰

  • Rich, how about this one? I recently purchased a copy of Sonny Rollins Plus 4 with vinyl graded NM+ (?) which turned out to be VG+ at best. The stated grade should have turned me away, but thought it would be EX at worst. Sound quality was sub-par.

    I wonder how many eBay sellers actually inspect their LPs under halogen lamps, much less play grade them? Not many I suspect.

    So is NM+ equal to M- … or maybe M with non-feelable scratches?

    Seller was cool and offered a full refund … so I returned it, but it’s an inconvenience just the same. Another seller for my “no bid” list.

  • I too collect Psych and Garage and yes, this seller had some stellar stuff as of late and the prices were crazy. As to condition could not say as I never bought off the guy.
    But I saw unbelievably high prices on some LP’s that I have seen go for much less on a consistent basis in grade.

  • As someone who occasionally sells I don’t think you can expect every record to be play graded. It’s just too time consuming especially if they bought a large collection. I think a visual grade under light is not too much to ask though.

  • I’ve started to ask sellers specifically if the records have any playing problem:

    Dear sir,
    I’m looking for a pressing of this record that plays without background noise, such as repeated tics, loud pops and/or groove distortion (damage from old stylus or Heavy tracking). Will this LP fit the description?
    Best Regards

  • Always ask for a play grade, because it’s impossible to determine the condition of the vinyl otherwise. A record could look pristine but still play with surface noise, tics etc. A visual grade isn’t worth much in my eyes. Another thing to take into consideration is the system on which the seller plays his stuff on, contra the equipment you are using. It can sound great on the sellers equipment but maybe on your own stuff it will reveal more surface noise, and of course the other way around. My grading scale consists of M-/NM/VG++/VG+/VG/G.
    Maybe I will go into the details of that scale on my site soon.

  • Fredrik, please do share your grading scale.

    As for Bob here’s a recent post about his e-bay sales on Soul Strut:

  • If it’s a record I’m paying more than $100 for, sure, I’ll ask for a play grade. Under that… nah. Not worth anyone’s time.

  • Jeff: I have returned so many records from eBay as a result of them not being what I expected that now when I win a record I don’t even get excited, as that’s only half the battle. As for M-, to me M- means NM…NM+ is silly cuz to me that just means M…which to me should not be used unless the record is unbelievably perfect in every single way, from centering of the print on the labels and the jacket to centering of the pressing.
    Although I never ever look at Goldmine anymore, IMHO everybody should just accept that Goldmine was the first popular grading system and that most people use it as a rough guide, and so sellers should just stick to the script: NM or M- > VG++ or EX > VG+ > VG…of course this will never happen! ;P

  • Shaft: That is *exactly* what I do. I write the seller saying, ‘Hello, I’m an experienced collector and I’m pretty particular. I can tolerate light, continuous surface noise (on a VG+ record) but I cannot tolerate repetitive loud pops/ticks and I cannot tolerate distortion from groove wear. So do you think I’ll be happy with this record?” The idea is to send the message to the seller that I’m not effing around, and if *they are*, they should probably just be honest and tell me to keep it moving.
    But there is all kinds of red flags, such as sellers who mention imperfections but then go way overboard hyping how amazing the record is…actually any seller who is way too excited about their record I avoid. If you have a solid, clean LP, let the photos and the grade speak for itself. Other red flags are incomplete pictures (front and back of jacket and both labels are baseline for me for LPs over $50), bad pictures, weird grades (EX++), no returns, etc. etc.

  • Good one Rich! I forgot to say but if the seller does not reply the auction is dead to me.

    I personally find it strange that sellers can list LPs for hundreds of dollars and not bother to testplay it before listing….

  • I usually undergrade. Not only does it protect me but it leaves the buyer feeling great when they get an Lp in better condition than they thought it would be. The problem with grading as a whole is it’s subjective. What may be VG+ to some may be VG to others. Slippery world.

  • Nobby: If I wasn’t on a budget, I wouldn’t even touch VG+ records, I’d only mess with records that are EX, VG++, NM, M- etc. When I started collecting I thought I’d be safe with VG+ but the truth is VG+ is a gigantic grey area. Sometimes I simply cannot afford to bid on a VG++ copy of a certain title, so in those instances if the record looks clean, the seller has no specific imperfections to report and returns are accepted I might take a chance on it knowing that it may need to go back (I’ll also email the seller asking them what they think). But I usually avoid these situations because it’s just as much of an inconvenience to me to return a record as it is to the seller I think.

  • Nobby: I won the “Dinah Jams” album from you. I have a copy now but have been looking for a better copy for awhile and yours fit the bill. That’s a tough lp to find in really clean shape. I think with Clifford Brown, its a great lp and those blue back Emarcy’s are on the rise…

  • Almost nobody can grade a record properly in my experience. Caveat emptor. The question is, can you deal with imperfections?

  • Ahhhhh the timeless discussion about record grading.

    I mentioned in a previous post about CGC and 3rd party grading system. That could possibly be the answer , if not, the conversation will continue on Bad/Good grading of records forever.

    But my two cents is that I agree with the play test. I have a few Beautiful Mint jazz records by appearance and when you throw them on there is varying degrees of noise due to , Oh so many reasons but none the less it is there.
    Example, I have a Dead Mint copy of Miles Davis and Milt Jackson Quintet Prestige 7034. (By sight) Yet there is still a bit of surface noise, not at all bad but it’s there. If I never played it , I too would call this NM.
    Playing this right now. Another Milt Jackson LP I like.

  • Opps sorry, I should add that I know that even if there was a 3rd party grading system for records the conversation would still continue. As someone who has been in the Comic Book market in the past, and even though there is CGC and PGX to smooth things out not everyone agrees on their grading. It just seems to be more readily excepted in that area of collecting. The problem with grading as a whole is it’s too subjective and open to interpretation.

  • May wanna get a new hobby if you cant deal with imperfection

  • /\ /\ /\

  • I don’t think I’m personally seeking some unrealistic ideal of ‘perfection’. If we really want to dissect it, no recording ever was 100% free of noise, analog or digital. But so long as a record doesn’t have those overpowering ticks or distortion from groove wear it has a place in my collection. My earlier point was simply that on occasion I may take a chance on a VG+ record but I like to ask the seller if it’s been play graded and if they have any comment regarding the *significant* imperfections mentioned.

  • PS – The reality of it is I have quite a few records in my collection with both of the dreaded aforementioned imperfections. πŸ˜›

  • Absolutely,

    I too have stated in past posts here , that having some of these gems in even VG-VG+ condition, (depending on your point of view) is better then having nothing at all , and luckily I have some of them.

  • Just because the subject of grading and condition is up for conversation again, I happened upon this copy of Zoot Sims’ “Stretching Out” on United Artists – usually a record that fetches a decent price. Yet this one ends soon and has no bids at $29.99. Curious, I took a look, and the seller gives it an unequivocal NM grade. Check that picture – you can’t see anything BUT scuffs and marks all over it! Can you imagine having bid if there wasn’t the picture and you receive that “NM” record? Some of these sellers are just plain loopy!

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