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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *