Is There a “50-Year Rule” for Jazz Vinyl?

Three “victims” of the 50-Year Rule

A few weeks ago I got into an interesting email discussion with one of our loyal readers, Dave Sockel, who sent me an article about the plummeting market value of Elvis Presley collectibles, particularly old Elvis vinyl. Dave’s email came with the subject line: “A cautionary tale for all of us?” This was my reply:

“I remember reading something a few years ago — I think I posted on Jazz Collector — about a “50-year-rule” for artists. Basically, 50 years after the peak of the artist’s popularity and/or death, he or she is all but forgotten and the demand for their stuff starts to really erode. We’ve kind of seen it with the beboppers in Jazz, and a guy like Art Tatum. When I started collecting, Tatum records were collectibles. Not any more.

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24 Hours on Ebay

TatumI spent 24 hours on eBay. Well, not really. What I did was I looked at 24 consecutive hours worth of jazz records listed on eBay. I used to do this every single day, particularly when I was active buying and selling. But it’s not the way I look anymore. It was kind of fun. I put a few records in my watch list, which I will share momentarily, and I even bid on a couple of records, which will be the subject of another post. The thing that was most striking was the staggering percentage of records listed on eBay that just will not sell. This is primarily because there is no market for them, but there are others priced so ridiculously out of sync with the market that the seller is just wasting his time and money listing them. What is it, 90% of the records won’t get any bids? That’s my guess. It would be interesting if someone spent some time and did a study.

Anyway, here are a few that either closed earlier or are closing soon, starting with Art Tatum. Benny Carter, Louis Bellson, Clef 55. This was an original pressing with a nice cover by David Stone Martin. There’s really very little interest in Tatum these days, which I will never understand, so I wanted to watch this and see if it would sell. It did, for $42.12 in Ex condition for the record and the cover, VG+ in my language.

These next two surprised me. They are not records I normally watch because they don’t typically fetch collectible prices. They didn’t here, but they also sold for more money than I would have expected:

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Jazz Vinyl Watch: Setting Some New Records

Here’s some of the jazz vinyl we’ve been watching on eBay:

Art Tatum/Ben Webster Quartet, Verve 8220. This is an original pressing with the trumpeter logo. The record was in M- condition and the cover was VG++. There were four bidders, 15 bids and the ultimate price was $290. My sense is most of the readers here at Jazz Collector tend to prefer post-bop era jazz — I generally do as well — but this is one of those must-have records, in my opinion, that always sounds beautiful and fresh when you put it on the turntable.

Haven’t seen this one sell for such a high price before: Sheila Jordan, Portrait of Sheila, Blue Note 9002. This was described as an original U.S. pressing in “superb” condition. It sold for $405. Our previous high for this record in the Jazz Collector Price Guide was just $123, so that’s quite a leap. Great record, though.

Here’s a perennial for the ever-more-crowded $1,000 bin:

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Jazz Vinyl on eBay: KD for the $1,000 Bin & 2 More

Here’s some more jazz vinyl we’ve been watching on eBay:

Kenny Dorham, Afro-Cuban, Blue Note 1535. This was an original Lexington Avenue pressing with the deep grooves and flat edge. It was in M- condition for the vinyl and VG++ for the cover. It sold for $1,727.

Here’s one we’ve never seen before: Freddie Redd, Session in Stockholm, Nixja Records NJL 14. This one looked to be in VG+ condition for the record and VG++ for the cover. It sold for $531. I always find it thrilling that I’ve been collecting jazz records for more than 40 years and I still come across records I’ve never seen nor heard of. I bet this is a great one, too.

We don’t usually track records that sell for $22, but we were watching this one because it’s symbolic of something: A great record, great cover, great label, great condition, but no real interest from a collectible standpoint, at least not anymore:

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Heroes: Musicians and Their Influences

From our our archives, here’s an interesting item from June 18, 2004.

If you’re looking for a good read, pick up the July issue of Downbeat. It’s being promoted as the “70th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” and the focus is a feature called “Our Heroes” in which more than 70 musicians talk about their primary influences. Here are a few highlights:

 Sonny Rollins on Coleman Hawkins: “I first saw him play on 52nd Street. I used to put eyebrow pencil on my lip to make a fake mustache so I could get in. We’d stand in the back, and it was like looking at a god playing.”

 Joe Zawinul on Art Tatum: “He always sounded like two piano players. The story goes like this:

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Song For My Father

A Jazz Memoir By Al Perlman

Jazz was always in my life. It was my father’s great love. I grew up in a tiny first-floor garden apartment in Bayside, Queens, five of us with one bathroom, a small kitchen, two bedrooms, two closets, a living room and another family living in equally cramped quarters directly above us. There wasn’t much space and my mother made it even smaller by banning us from the living room. This was our “show” room to be kept in pristine condition and used only when we had guests: We weren’t permitted to sit in it or talk in it or eat in it or do anything in it. My mother kept plastic on the furniture and took it off only when there was company. The one exception was when my father was home and wanted to listen to jazz. That’s where he had his great big Fisher console with the hi-fi and radio.  Read more

eBay on A Summer’s Day

I can’t believe it’s July 1 already. I’m definitely in summer mode. I took two days off and haven’t posted since Monday. I think that will happen fairly routinely this summer so keep checking the site to see if we’re up that day and what gems we might find for you on eBay. We’re following the market just as closely and we’ll make sure to keep the Price Guide and Latest Prices up to date regardless of whether we post new entries on the site each day. I hope this makes sense on at least some level.


In any case, we’re up on the web today and here are some of the items we’ve been watching on eBay.  We start off with a nice collectible from the rare Imperial label:


Sonny Criss, Go Man!,  Imperial 920. This was an original pressing in M- condition. It sold for $650. Read more