Ephemera on my Mind

I was watching a recent auction on eBay from the Jazz Record Center focused on books, magazines, programs and other ephemera. I was curious because I have amassed a large collection of this type of stuff over the years, including duplicates, and I’m thinking about scaling back what I have, including the idea of adding a storefront to the Jazz Collector site. Just thinking about it at this stage, and I am not always the best at turning thoughts into action, so don’t anyone get too excited. Anyway, one of the items that caught my eye was this book: Four Lives in the BeBop Business, by A.B. Spellman. This was a first edition and the Jazz Record Center put a start price of $65 on it. And I was thinking, I have a copy of this and if someone offered me $65 I’m pretty sure I would sell it. But there were no bids on this item, so I have no idea at this point what the real market value would be.

Other than one or two items, there wasn’t a lot of action on this auction. I know the market for ephemera and other items isn’t nearly as robust as the market for records, so this was not surprising. Some of the items did sell, some didn’t. A few examples:

A 1985 Japanese edition of Swing Journal devoted to Miles Davis. The sold for $30.

A Tommy Dorsey book called “Love In Swing Time.” I never heard of this and couldn’t imagine anything by Tommy Dorsey fetching big bucks, but this one sold for $100.

Jazz Graphics. This is a Japanese book from 1991 focused on the cover art of David Stone Martin. It’s a pretty cool book. I happen to know because I purchased a copy. This one sold for $150.

Esquire Magazine, The Golden Age of Jazz, January 9, 1959. Fred listed this as “the most famous Esquire issue and perhaps one of the most sought-after magazines related to jazz.” Even with that intro, the item did not sell at a start price of $50.

Billie Holiday, Lady Sings the Blues. This was a first edition. I thought there might be a lot of interest in this one, but there wasn’t. Just one bidder at the $50 start price.

Anyway, I just was looking through my storage unit and found a box labeled “Downbeat Doubles,” so apparently i’ve got ephemera on my mind, which sounds like a nice title for a song — or perhaps for a headline.



  • I have the Spellman book as well. An interesting read, but not worth $ 65. Finally it is the music that counts.
    I think that objects more closely related to a musician, e.g. an autograph, can fetch interesting prices, but not a musician(s)-related book. The distance to revered musicians is too great.

  • I would lay out some cash for the David Stone Martin book, though $150 might be a bit steep for me. I love design/album cover art, I have some interesting books that are on the (Blue Note, mostly) jazz influence on prep/50s culture and fashion.

    I also collect photo stuff in addition to it being a hobby, so any coffee table books on cats that shot the period would be up my alley- Clax, Lee Friedlander, etc. Anyone interested in jazz should check out the Jazz Loft project book of W. Eugene Smith’s work.

  • We have quite a few jazz books, and most are not especially hard to find. A bit of patience is usually what is required more than a lot of $$$.

  • “Jazz Spoken Here” is a collection of 20-something interviews with various jazz musicians circa 1975-1990, I recall enjoying it immensely, particularly the Blakey, Szabo, Mercer Ellington, and Anthony Braxton interviews. Wayne Enstice is the interviewer and compiler.

  • Gregory the Fish

    i remember i was looking for the history of the aacm: “a power stronger than itself” and i couldn’t find it for less than $40, even used, and then a week later i was at a random shop and found it for $20. i second what joe L said for sure.

    i LOVE reading about jazz.

  • I second the idea of a marketplace for books and magazines; then again, it’s times like these when I think to myself that the problem of accumulating these items is that I rarely have the chance to read them anymore myself…

  • I’m still looking for a cheap copy of that Paul Desmond book by Doug Ramsey!

  • As far as books are concerned , here is today’s ? How many of you 1st read about a jazz song , a jazz musician or a jazz record before actually hearing it? As far as collecting has taken us thus far, the written word has been a remarkable teacher. Keep swinging. Art

  • Yeah, I’m still of that mindset. Rarely do I listen to things first before seeking them out.

  • My copy of the Spellman book (UK hardback 1st) has nice cover art by Ian Dury.

  • @Juancho, that Jazz Loft Project book is fantastic! Also seek out the original NPR series about it, if it’s archived somewhere.

  • I think the concept is beyond books and magazines and goes to anything that’s paper. This includes posters, flyers, handbills, etc. This is a whole new market and can be really interesting.

  • geoffrey wheeler

    $150.00 for the David Stone Martin book is cheap! I sold my two copies (the are two books on Martin’s cover art) several years ago for $400.00 each. Further back in time, they were selling for much more than that.

  • @Japhy

    I know, man! The archive at WNYC doesn’t seem to have it anymore, which is a shame. That’s where I first heard about it as a jazz fan, before I got into Smith’s other work.

  • @sidewinder, hope that they use Blockhead type… yuk yuk

  • Clifford – Yep, same Ian Dury, when he was an unknown. During his art school phase pre Kilburns and Blockheads. That book is from the mid to late 1960s. When I bought it the same seller had the CO Simpkins Coltrane book 1st Edition for about 5 pounds and like an idiot I passed.

  • wow — yeah, picked up a more recent issue of the Simpkins from a fellow organissimo-ite a few weeks ago.

  • Several of the Jazz photographer and cover art books have been reprinted. Clicking with Clax, Jazz West Coast (most Claxton Pacific Jazz centric), Blue Note cover art, NY Scene, etc. The various Swing Journal titles focusing on artists and genres show up from time to time on Ebay- usually from Japanese sellers. HiFido is a Japanese consignment company that has a searchable website, and they do sell print material.

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