my first record show as a dealer (rock of ages part 1)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 6 min­utes.

WE HAD BEEN TOGETHER for a year when we fi­nally de­cided to make the move from the sultry sum­mers of the East Coast to the more mod­erate West Coast. It was 1978 and the dreams of ‘the six­ties’ didn’t seem so far off. Working two jobs each, we had saved the equiv­a­lent of $10,000 in to­day’s dol­lars. Our goal was to move from Penn­syl­vania to Cal­i­fornia and never look back.

Then some­thing hap­pened: Elaine and I dis­cov­ered a small mom-and-pop record store in a small town where my sister was at­tending col­lege. The store had thou­sands of al­bums in its base­ment that no one had looked at in years.

Most of these records were from the ’60s!
  Most of these records had pro­mo­tional white labels!
  Most of these records were un­played mint!

The owner sold them to us three for a dollar! At that price, it was al­most im­pos­sible not to make some kind of a profit in re­selling them. Ex­cept, of course, our goal was get­ting off the East Coast as quickly as pos­sible and trans­plant our­selves on the West Coast.


I had these record col­lec­tors price guides that told me that all old records were valuable—and I be­lieved them!


As it was 1978, I had little al­ter­na­tives as to how I would turn these around and make a profit. There was vir­tu­ally no market for “rare and col­lec­table” old records in the US out­side of a few big cities like New York, Philly, Pitts­burgh, and Los Angeles.

Sim­i­larly, record col­lec­tors con­ven­tions were al­most un­known out­side of those big cities. Gold­mine mag­a­zine had started pub­li­ca­tion a few years ear­lier, but my goal at this time was not to es­tab­lish my­self as a mail-order used record dealer, but to turn the records over—perhaps to double my money after expenses—and re­alize my man­i­fest destiny.


Rock of Ages Part 1: cover of Kaleidoscope's BEACON FROM MARS album.

Kalei­do­scope’s BEACON FROM MARS was just be­gin­ning to at­tract at­ten­tion from psych col­lec­tors in the late ’70s. Bleeker Bob was so un­fa­miliar with the record in 1978, that he had to call a fried to see if they were worth buying. He bought all the white label promo copies (Epic LN-24333) that I had. 1

Buying a trunk load of albums

We started dri­ving down to the record store, buying a trunk load of al­bums, then heading back up to the Big Apple. We were selling the records for $2-4 each to the city’s used record stores.

Bleecker Bob bought most of the rock records, in­cluding twenty copies of Kalei­do­scope’s BEACON FROM MARS (Epic LN-24333) for $100. An­other older man who dab­bled in used records out of his an­ti­quarian book store, gave me the same price for twenty-five copies of the BARBARELLA sound­track (DynoVoice DY-1908). 2


Ac­cording to these new-fangled price guides, common records that I could buy in cut-out bins for a buck or two were worth ten times that elsewhere.


Keep in mind that while these records may have been worth $25-35 in New York, I would be lucky to find any col­lector even wanting a copy of these records in my home­town of Wilkes-Barre.

Then someone asked me why I was selling the to stores so cheap when I could be selling them at the Rock of Ages record col­lec­tors show in the same New York City for so much more. Not being one who likes to argue with an­other who is making per­fect sense, I booked a couple of ta­bles at one of the shows later that year.

Which put our mi­gra­tion off, again.

And I had work to do until then.


Rock of Ages Part 1: cover of O'Sullivan Woodside's RECORD ALBUMS 1948-1978 price guide.

Like most price guides for most col­lec­tables, the early O’­Sul­livan Wood­side guides dras­ti­cally over­valued common used records. After all, who wants to buy a book that tells them that their records are worth less than they paid for them?

All old records are valuable records!

See, I had these brand new Record Album Price Guides by Bruce Hamilton and Jerry Os­borne (pub­lished by O’Sullivan Wood­side) and they had taught me one thing: All old records were valuable!


With these books, I dis­cov­ered that common, everyday records that I could buy in cut-out bins all over north­eastern Penn­syl­vania for a buck or two were worth $8-15 else­where in these united states. The OW books told me so.


Elaine and I in­vested our hard-earned moving-to-California money by buying mul­tiple copies of such ‘rar­i­ties’ as:

•  Dave Clark Five, 5 x 5
Herman’s Her­mits, Hold On

  Lovin’ Spoonful, Every­thing Playing
  Rolling Stones, Be­tween The Buttons
Paul Re­vere & The Raiders, Rev­o­lu­tion
The Battle Of The Bands

I placed the word ‘rar­i­ties’ in single quote marks above to in­di­cate irony: these records weren’t rare, de­spite being listed in the afore­men­tioned price guides for about $8-15 each. But we were get­ting them for $1-2 each, so how could we miss? 3


Rock of Ages Part 1: cover of the Turtles' THE BATTLE OF THE BANDS album.

In the ’70s, copies of the Tur­tles’ THE BATTLE OF THE BANDS (White Whale WWS-7118) were easily found in cut-out bins for a few bucks. In the ’80s, the album caught col­lec­tors’ attention—it’s a fine album and loads of fun to listen to—and sealed copies sold for an easy $20. Fifty years after its re­lease de­mand is low but sealed copies are rather rare records.

Rock of Ages, here we come!

We were also buying records via clas­si­fied ads in the local newspapers—ah, for the good old days, when any town of a cer­tain size had two daily and one Sunday paper—and buying used al­bums from pri­vate collections.

We bought Clooney, Day, and London!
We bought Sinatra, Mathis, and Darin!!
We bought Bea­tles, Stones, and Kinks!!!

Most of these used records were less than mint con­di­tion, but col­lec­tors hadn’t started ob­sessing over con­di­tion yet. And the price guides told us that there was a market for these al­bums, that they were worth much more than the records we’d been finding in cut-out bins! 3


We also bought every album we found by artists like Rose­mary Clooney, Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Johnny Mathis.


By the time it was time for the Rock of Ages show, we had enough in­ven­tory to fill the two ta­bles we had re­served. We were stoked! Here was our thinking:

1.  We would use the Hamilton-Osborne price guides that said that our al­bums were worth $8-15 in used condition.

2.  We had boxes of still-sealed copies of those al­bums that we had paid no more than $2 each for.

3.  We would sell these al­bums for half the book price, making cus­tomers happy and making us a profit.

4.  We would sell what­ever was left after the show to the stores in New York for what­ever they’d pay us.

5. We would then take off for Cal­i­fornia be able to re­alize our per­sonal Man­i­fest Des­tiny with a much larger stash than we had ini­tially planned.

That’s the end of “My First Record Show as a Dealer (Rock of Ages Part 1).” Here’s what’s coming in the second part:

We didn’t double our money at our first record show.

We dis­cov­ered those price guides were full of shit

We made it to Cal­i­fornia but found our­selves in Ari­zona a few years later where—Faith and bloody Begorra!—I was hired as the editor/author of the very price guides that had led us astray . . .


Records LPs PopRock 1000 1

FEATURED IMAGE: Most dealers at shows in the 1970s and ’80s just packed their records in plain, used card­board boxes and set them up on what­ever ta­bles the show pro­vided. Sep­a­rating the records with al­pha­bet­ized di­viders was not the from, but we did it from the beginning.



1   Kalei­doscope’s first album, SIDE TRIPS, never had the ca­chet with collectors—especially psych collectors—that BEACON FROM MARS has. Con­se­quently, I only got $2 apiece for the white label promo copies of SIDE TRIPS that I had.

2   Sound­tracks of any kind sold better in New York than any­where else on the planet. One store that car­ried mew and used (Colony Records?) was asking $35 for used copies of BARBARELLA, but of­fered me 50¢ apiece for mine. I didn’t sell. 

3   Most of these al­bums are still fairly common today and are easily found for a nom­inal sum. Mono copies of BETWEEN THE BUTTONS were a staple of the cut-out bins in the ’70s, selling for as little as 99¢.

4   I paid up to $2 for any album that the price guides listed for at least $15, fig­uring if I sold them for a third of that I’d do okay.


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