Springsteen Blinded1974 3

“blinded by the light” and the avid record collector price guide (was bruce springsteen ever blinded by the light? – part 4)

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.

Relevant Transactions

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 33 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 …

 

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Could you rec­om­mend a re­cent book/magazine to help me eval­uate my SPRINGSTEEN col­lec­tion that I’d like to liq­ui­date? Thanks!