THE SINGLE RELEASE of Blinded By The Light / The Angel (Columbia 4-48405) may not have been a big hit in 1973 with record-buyers, but it has been a big deal with record-collectors ever since! It is among the rarest and most sought-after of Bruce’s collectable records and record-related artifacts.
In the third edition of Goldmine’s Rock ‘n Roll 45RPM Price Guide (the last singles and picture sleeves price guide that I authored and that was published way back in 1994), I assigned near mint (NM) values of $50 to the white label promo and a whopping $500 to the stock copy.
The hard-to-find-in-anything-resembling-mint-condition picture sleeve was assigned a more reasonable $150. These were accurate then but certainly need adjustment twenty years later …
This is part 4 in a series of essays on Springsteen’s first commercially issued single, Blinded By The Light, from 1973.
Promotional copies with white labels
The white label promotional pressing is the most common of the three items listed above. As major record companies often press several thousand copies of promos for a record that they may believe in and want to support, 4-48405 as a promo is not impossible to find. To get an idea of its value, I used the following prices that were reached on eBay and recorded on Popsike:
• In 2014, a white label promo copy graded VG++ sold for $101.
• In 2013, a white label promo copy graded NM sold for $124.
• In 2013, a white label promo copy graded VG- sold for $100.
• In 2012, a white label promo copy graded E/E- sold for $76. (The use of “E” for excellent as a grade may have confused bidders and caused the rathe low sale price.)
Based on these and similar sales in the past, I am not uncomfortable assigning a value of $125-150 to NM and $75-100 to VG+ copies of the white label promo. So, it has nearly tripled in value since my last 45 RPM singles price guide.
Promotional picture sleeves
Apparently, a minuscule printing of 500 picture sleeves was done, more as a favor than as a commercial venture (see below). Shame, really, as it is a very attractive sleeve: a broad black border frames a full-color close-up of the youthful Bruce with longish, curly-ish hair and a scruffy beard (you know, the kind that so many young men who can’t grow their beard out fully seem to sport) in a denim shirt/jacket. The back of the sleeve features the lyrics of the song. This sleeve is considerably harder to find in truly Mint condition than the price guides indicate:
• In 2013, a picture sleeve graded VG/VG+ sold for $282.
• In 2013, a picture sleeve graded M- with a white label promotional record also graded M- sold for $679; subtracting $135 for the record, that leaves a rounded value of $550 for the sleeve in M- condition.
• In 2012, a picture sleeve graded E+ with a white label promotional record also graded E+ sold for $465; subtracting $90 for the record, that leaves value of $375 for the sleeve in VG+ condition.
Based on these and similar sales, I am not uncomfortable assigning a value of $500-600 to NM and $350 to VG+ copies of the picture sleeve. Basically, it has retained its value over the past twenty years.
Stock copies with red-orange labels
As major record companies rarely waste time and money on pressing and promoting stock copies of a record that bombed as a promo—as did Blinded By The Light—the commercial pressings are often considerably rarer than the promos, as with Blinded By The Light. While a stock copy is not impossible to find, it is not easy and we may be approaching the day when it will be nigh on impossible:
With anything resembling a hit single, the stock copies always outnumber the promotional copies. The bigger the hit, the greater the ratio of stock copies to promos: assuming a pressing of 5,000 promotional copies—which is probably high for most records—for a hit single that sells 500,000 (a ‘modern’ RIAA Gold Record) gives us a ratio of 100/1 in favor of the stock copies.
That means, for at least every 100 copies of the commercial pressing of the record, only one promo copy was manufactured. Again, this is probably a generous ratio: 200/1 or more is not uncommon for a best-seller. The more records sold, the greater the ratio, therefore the relative rarity of the promo increases (as, usually, does its value).
I arrived at these values using the records of completed eBay auctions of records in excess of $25 on Popsike.com. These prices were leavened with personal knowledge, experience, and common sense. Private transactions of this record remain just that, private, and therefore cannot be used in these evaluations.
So, using Popsike, we find that there have been a total of four (identifiable) stock copies of 48405 sold in the past six years! And there have been no sales on eBay in the past sixteen months! The four sales are:
• In 2013, a stock copy with a promo sticker on one side and graded VG+ sold for $1,500.
• In 2010, the most recent sale on Popsike of 48405 was one in less-than-collectible condition: The seller described it as “only Fair to Good condition [with] many scratches, and couple of deep ones that do make noise.… Some label wear as well.” He added that “I will be nervy and audio-grade it at least a solid VG- to VG.” This seller got $810 for this less-than-collectible copy; that is, a copy that most collectors would normally scoff at for its condition. But, condition, that most important of markers in this field, can be sent a-blowin’ in the wind when a record is this rare because it is rare in any condition, period!
• In 2009, a copy of 48405 was offered for sale by another minimalist seller. The sole description for the grading was merely “excellent condition.” The current photo included looks fine but is too small to assess a condition. Nonetheless, it sold for $611.
• In 2008, a copy with picture sleeve was offered by a seller that admitted to having “no experience in grading records.” He describes them in a manner that would lead me to conclude the record to be VG+ and the sleeve also VG+. Yet the pair sold for $2,025. Perhaps this high price was paid because this was the first copy offered on eBay in three years.
• In 2005, a copy was offered for sale by a minimally descriptive seller that said “the vinyl is Mint-minus [with] two light scuffs on the B-side [and] the label is Near Mint.” The current photo included merely displays the label, which looks fine but cannot be used to assess a condition. Nonetheless, it sold for $621.
For our purposes here, the four transactions above have little relevance, as they do not tell give us much information on what a NM copy of the commercial pressing of Columbia 48405 would sell for right now. The most relevant transaction took place in 2008 when a copy was auctioned with the following description:
“I am not a collector and have no experience in grading records. I will do my best to describe the condition.… This record has some visible-to-the-eye scratches on both sides of the record. There are multiple on each side (unknown how deep). The inner label looks very good. There is a white sticker on The Angel side that states ‘Promotional Record For Broadcast & Review – NOT FOR SALE’.”
A picture sleeve was also a part of the package: “The picture sleeve itself has some wear with some wrinkles/crinkles noted. Wearing noted where the record fits into the sleeve and around the outer edges of the sleeve.” The photo included looks fine but is too small to assess a condition, although both the record and the sleeve look much better than the description provided. The set went for $2,025!
The Playback “Blinded By The Light”
Oddly, the most common version of Blinded By The Light as a single is a promotional pressing, Play:Back AS-45. Play:Back was a Columbia special product imprint; the records were 7 inches and played at 33⅓ rpm with a small spindle hole and had blue labels. Play:Back records featured new track by a different artist on each side: here it was Andy Pratt’s Avenging Annie—which is actually the featured side while Springsteen’s track is side 2.
Each record was issued in an omnibus title sleeve that had “PLAY:BACK” (with the “BACK” printed backward) in blue print on a white sleeve. These have little value. Each was accompanied by an omnibus booklet/questionnaire. According to the (now-defunct) Lost in the Flood website:
“Play:Back was an interesting experimental project initiated by Columbia/Epic Records in the early ’70s
as an attempt to draw feedback from the US record buying public on the label’s lesser-known acts, and thus fathoming what artists were potentially worth a more widespread promotional boost.
Advertised via the inner sleeves of various popular CBS albums at the time, the Play:Back club could be joined for a $3 fee, which covered the subscription of at least ten 7-inch singles/EP’s featuring newly-released (or, in some cases, even unreleased) tracks. These discs were shipped with info booklets and special questionnaires on the music contained, to be filled out and returned to the label by the subscribers.”
I am not certain of the time of the release of the Play:Back record: whether it was before or after the promotional copies were shipped to radio stations appears in question. Some sources state that this was made available in January 1973, although this is plainly not so. The A-side of Columbia AS-45 is Andy Pratt’s Avenging Annie, meaning that the record could have been released no earlier than May/June 1973.
Blinded By The Light was tacked on as the B-side to give his first album a little exposure months after its release and commercial failure.
Eight copies are listed on Popsike as having sold on eBay in 2013, with and without the sleeve. Prices paid were between $27 and $31 at the low end and $105 and $126 at the high. A reasonable NM value seems to be about $50.
A very rare white label pressing of AS-45 exists with “PLAYBACK” at the top as one word in a completely different font. It was issued with a different booklet with a picture of Bruce and the band on the front. I can find no documentation of any sales of this rarity …