I was sitting at work yesterday, taking a little break and browsing on eBay, when my friend Dan Axelrod called.
“Are you watching eBay?”
I told him I was.
“Did you see the Monk record?”
I did a quick search and there it was: A copy of Monk’s Music, Riverside 242, by Thelonious Monk. It was an original white label pressing in near mint condition being sold by Atomic Records. What was unusual about the listing was not the record itself, but the bidding. When Dan called the bidding had passed $2,000. When the record finally sold, the price was $3,061.50. It looked like a bidding war among four buyers.
Dan and I weren’t the only ones intrigued – amazed – by the bidding: This record was viewed 1,215 times, which is more than I recall for any other jazz record.
“I didn’t even realize this was one of the heavy hitters,” Dan said.
Neither did I.
I did a quick search of the price guide at Jazzcollector.com. We had one copy listed with the white label. It was in VG++/VG+ condition and sold for $366 in March. Inflation? Rising prices? Condition? Is there any rational reason why this record would sell for more than $3,000?
If you have an explanation, send a note to us. We’ll explore this one in greater detail next week when we send out our next newsletter.
We’re not watching eBay as closely as usual. From the prices we’re seeing, we’re not aware if things are slowing down this summer, as they often do. Here are a couple of high-ticket items that would seem to indicate there’s not a slowdown. What about you out there: Are you noticing any changes in the market?
Miles Davis, Walkin’, Prestige 7076. This was an original New York pressing in near ming condition. Price: $261
Ben Webster, Music With Feeling, Norgran 1035. This was an original pressing with a beautiful cover illustration by David Stone Martin. Price: $285
I don’t normally watch Nat Cole LPs because they don’t really fetch collectible prices. So I was surprised, while skimming through eBay, to see this LP with a high price tag: Nat Cole, The Very Thought of You. Price: $113.50. Turns out this was not an original, but an audiophile reissue on the DCC label. This was a sealed copy.
You don’t see too many Japanese pressings selling for more than $100, but this one did: Jackie McLean, Street Singer, Blue Note GXK 8161. Price: $117.50. The music is made up of a session that took place on Sept. 1, 1960, under the leadership of McLean and Tina Brooks. McLean led four of the tracks, three of which were issued on Jackie’s Bag while the fourth was issued on this LP for the first time. Brooks was the leader on the other two tracks, including the title cut, which were issued for the first time on this LP. I don’t know exactly when this LP was issued, but I think I recall purchasing my copy in the early 1980s.
You also don’t see too many Commodore LPs selling for more than $100. Here’s one: Billie Holiday, Commodore 30,008. Price: $102.50. This one has a real nice cover, which was used as a blow-up by Billy Crystal in his recent one-man show on Broadway. Crystal’s uncle, Milt Gabler, was the founder of Commodore.
Finally, here’s one from a friend on Long Island: J. R. Monterose, The Message, Jaro 8004. This was an original pressing in very nice condition. Price: $565
I’m entering in the Jazz Collector Price Guide database again and have come across some interesting items. The update will be posted when we send out the next newsletter at the beginning of August. In the meantime, here are some of the items that will be included:
Art Farmer, Art, Argo 678. A few weeks ago a copy in near mint condition sold for more than $120. This copy, in nice condition but not near mint, sold for $24. Is this indicative of a summer slump in prices, or lack of trust in the dealer’s grading?
Louis Smith, Here Comes, Blue Note 1584. This was an original pressing with the West 63rd Street label in VG+/VG+ condition. Price: $417
Here’s a real rare one that we’ve never seen before: Albert Ayler, Ghosts, Debut 144. This was the original Danish pressing in nice condition, not mint. Price: $317
Here’s a New Jersey pressing of John Coltrane, Soultrane, Prestige 7142. This was originally issued with the New York label, so this one is not original. Price: $138.50
Here’s one that sold for less than expected: I should have bid. Cliff Jordan and Sonny Red, A Story Tale, Jazzland 40. This was in M-/VG+ condition and sold for $46.51
We took an unexpected break for a couple of days. Sorry about that. Here’s a note from a new subscriber:
“Al: Just discovered you site tonight and have been happily reading your commentaries and exploring your links for the last couple of hours. I expect to lear a lot from you and your correspondents and will contribute what expertise I can offer. I have been collecting jazz and classical records for 30 years. Am a member of IAJRC and a frequent bidder on eBay and mail order auction lists. I have about 4,000 LPs and 3,500 CDs. Mine is not the largest library, but it’s the one I want to have because the items in it are a picked lot. I specialize in small group Swing, Cool and Hard Bop. Particularly dig mainstream tenor saxophonists active from ’50 to ’70 and their modern successors. In your 7/01/05 Riffs you suggested eBay sellers should buy a professional record cleaner. I don’t plan to auction off my collection, but I would like to get such a machine, in order to clean some of my LPs. Do you or any of your readers know where I can buy one? Best, John Herr.”
I replied that I’m very happy with my VPI cleaner, the HW-16.5, which sells for $500 or so. I recommended he do a Google search on record cleaners and, specifically, VPI. In doing my own search I discovered some record cleaners in the $3,000 and up range. Curious if anyone out there has ever used one of these high-end cleaners and whether they do that much more to clean up the sound than the $500 models. If you have any comments, post them on the site.
We received a note from Anthony Pearson the other day that he’s running another major auction under his anthonypearson2 account. This is the account he uses for the collection of the late Leon Leavitt, which is being sold on eBay in large increments almost every month. This batch includes about 1,200 records and began closing today and will go through Saturday evening West Coast time. Pearson is also giving winning bidders a break this summer: “It is OK to wait 3 to 4 weeks to issue payment during the summer months,” he writes. Anyway, here are some of the items on this list. Read more
Yesterday we offered a quote from an interview by Joe Goldberg with Sonny Rollins from Downbeat August 26, 1965. Here’s a second quote from the same article.
“The thing to do is to work on myself, so I can play me. The audience can tell that. I remember one night, on the first tune, something went wrong with the rhythm section I was working with. They weren’t together at all, not with me, not with each other. We were playing Lover, I think, and there was this shambles behind me, and all I was trying to do was keep things from falling apart. I was playing as hard as I could, but I couldn’t get anything going; I didn’t play a thing. Finally we got through it, and I’ve never heard an audience applaud like that. I thought about it later, and I decided that they felt how hard I was trying, and they responded to that. It’s the same thing when an audience is talking and drinking while you’re playing. It’s a challenge to make them stop and listen. You can do it with tricks, but I’ve learned that it’s better to do it by playing something you really mean. Then they’ll listen. I can usually accomplish that, when I try.”
I must admit, I’m putting a lot of time into my regular gig these days, and not spending too much on eBay. So, this morning, looking for something quick and simple to write, I came upon an old Downbeat from August 26, 1965, with a cover story titled: “The Further Adventures of Sonny Rollins: A revealing conversation with the controversial tenor saxophonist, by Joe Goldberg.”
Without doing major analysis, I will offer a couple of revealing quotes: One today and one tomorrow. Here’s today’s:
“The average Joe knows just as much as I do – he knows more than I do. I’m the average Joe, and I think people recognize that. That’s why I play standards. Everybody knows Stardust. These guys who play only their own tunes, they can cover up a lot of things, but if you play the melody of Stardust, everybody can tell whether you’re doing it right or not. I’ve called tunes like that to guys who didn’t know them. How can you call yourself a professional musician if you don’t know all those songs?”
I was away with hardly any access to the Internet and I wasn’t on eBay all of last week. Just for the fun of it, and to see if I missed anything significant, this morning I did a search through completed jazz auctions for all items that sold for more than $1,000. To my surprise, there wasn’t that much. Here’s what I found:
Tina Brooks, Blue Note 4041. This was an original pressing in what looked like very nice condition. Price: $1,703.30
Fred Astaire, The Astaire Story, Clef 1001. This is the complete boxed set, signed and autographed by Astaire. Price: $1,826. It so happens, I also have a copy of this, in comparable condition. If anyone is interested I’d sell it for $1,750. Contact me email@example.com.
The final $1,000-plus item was this: The Jacques Pelzer Quartet in Italy, on the Italian Centra label. I had never seen or heard of this record and, according to the dealer, there were only 200 or so copies pressed. This one received a top bid of $1,226, but still failed to meet the seller’s reserve price. Perhaps it will appear again.
In our last couple of newsletters we’ve been talking about buying and selling records on eBay. Here’s a response from one of our readers about grading: “As a ‘Dining Room Table’ guy dealing records on eBay, I find grading to be the hardest thing I do. The first issue is that it is very difficult to do anything other than visual grading when you are posting a hundred or so LPs each week. The more critical problem is that condition is in the ear of the beholder. Read more