fighting over jutta hipp at a record collectors convention

WAY BACK IN THE HOARY ’90s, I at­tended a couple of record col­lec­tors con­ven­tions on the East Coast. One was in New York, one in Vir­ginia, both within days of each other in 1996. Set­ting up as a dealer at an East Coast show was some­thing that I hadn’t done since leaving Penn­syl­vania eigh­teen years ear­lier! I’d sold at one Rock of Ages show in New York be­fore Barbie (and yes, she was a doll!) and I pointed our over­bur­dened ’73 Comet west­ward and didn’t look back. 1

The first show in ’96 was in a large hotel ball­room in New York City, where I knew a few of the people. Jeff Tamarkin, my ed­itor at Gold­mine mag­a­zine, was set up with his own table close by. We had al­ways been friendly out­side of our pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship but rarely saw one an­other. He clued me in on a few of the local scene’s more ‘col­orful’ col­lec­tors.

 

Being in­tro­duced to the mi­cro­cosm of any field of col­lecting can feel like drop­ping down a rabbit hole or walking through a looking glass for a novice.

 

Jeff also served as grounding in re­ality for Jen, a role nei­ther he nor I were aware of at the time. But he was a rea­son­ably well-rounded person who wasn’t emo­tion­ally bonded to his in­ven­tory.

He was also mar­ried and had a re­laxed sense of humor. He seemed more like one of Jen’s cus­tomers at her bar than a vinyl junkie obliv­ious to the world out­side his hobby.

At the time of these shows, I was still the-guy-who-wrote-the-price-guides and there­fore had a rep pre­ceding me. And by a “rep” I mean that most dealers and col­lec­tors knew my work; some loved it, some loathed it.

I was used to both.

Jen was not.

We were in the be­gin­ning stages of a re­la­tion­ship that had a built-in ob­stacle: she lived on the East Coast while I lived on the West. This was easily over­come by reg­ular long-distance flights.

Which of course re­quires large sums of money.

Which of course nei­ther of us had.

 

Hipp_swap

This photo was taken at the col­lec­tors con­ven­tion held in Ar­butus, Mary­land, and gives a feel for a local show. The bigger cities that have long-running shows will often have wall-to-wall buyers, which can make it both claus­tro­phobic and prof­itable for sellers who have to be be­hind their ta­bles for 8-12 hours.

Jen meets the world of collecting

For the sake of pro­tecting her un­sul­lied rep, I will refer to my girl­friend as Jen Bot­tlebinder. She was tall, wil­lowy, and lovely, with sen­su­ality to her gait and de­meanor usually—and, oh so, unfortunately—lacking in most Amer­ican women.

And smart. 2

She lived in Wash­ington, DC, while I lived in Wash­ington State and it was my turn to fly back there to be with her. To mix busi­ness with plea­sure (and par­tially pay for the flight), I leased a deal­er’s table at the shows and Krause Pub­li­ca­tions shipped sev­eral car­tons of my books to Jen’s ad­dress. So I was able to at­tend both as a minor celebrity sit­ting be­hind a huck­ster’s table with the hottest woman in the building at my side.

Things looked great from my side of those ta­bles.

I am al­most tempted to try to write this from the per­spec­tive of a woman who had never known anyone in any one of the sub-worlds of col­lec­tordom. When I tried to catch her up to speed on some as­pects of the denizens found there, I spoke more like a psy­chol­o­gist than a col­lector.

She was a bar­tender at a chichi wa­tering hole off the beltway pop­ular with De­moc­rats. She reg­u­larly served Teddy Kennedy and Tip O’Neill. She was rea­son­ably grounded in con­sen­sual re­ality and rea­son­ably fa­miliar with the op­po­site sex. All in all, a rea­son­ably well-rounded woman in late 20th cen­tury America.

What most as­tounded this rea­son­ably well-rounded woman was two things: the rude­ness of some of the col­lec­tors to a person that they had never met (me), and once she learned a little, how many of the men had never been around the block.

Even once. 3

In fact, she thought I was joshing her at first about the rel­a­tively high rate among adult males who were record col­lec­tors. I as­sured her it was also common among all sorts of male col­lec­tors, in­cluding comic books and base­ball cards. This was years be­fore The 40-Year Old Virgin made the issue a topic of con­ver­sa­tion among the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

 

Hipp_1

Hipp_2

The values that I as­signed to the three Jutta Hipp al­bums on Blue Note Records in the second edi­tion of my Gold­mine’s Price Guide To Col­lectible Jazz Al­bums were the bones of con­tention at the New York record col­lec­tors con­ven­tion that I at­tended in 1996. These LPs com­prise the bulk of the recording ca­reer of German-born pi­anist Jutta Hipp. Blue Note 1515 and 1516 were is­sued con­cur­rently, as two-record album sets were un­heard of out­side of the clas­sical music field. In 2020, both of these ti­tles cur­rently have a sug­gested NM value of $1,500-2,000.

At the New York show with Jutta Hipp

I should note that it the na­ture of the beast that I hail from to enjoy a good ar­gu­ment. A verbal spar­ring de­void of anger and hos­tility is a way in which I en­gage the world and my fellow-man and ac­tu­ally learn new things! 4

At any given show, the ma­jority of my in­ter­ac­tions with readers and users of my books were pos­i­tive. While this felt good, I learned little from my ad­mirers. It was the pissed-off de­trac­tors who I looked for­ward to meeting!

Why? There were two basic types of pissed-off-ness for me to ad­dress:

1. The most common buyer was the person who thought that the values that I had as­signed to the rather rare records too high. While the values in my books were often dra­mat­i­cally higher than in those books done my pre­de­cessor or by my com­petitor, I knew that they weren’t high enough.

I knew that rare records were rarer than most buyers be­lieved and there­fore sold for more than they knew. As this was be­fore sales prices were avail­able on the In­ternet, these buyers had to rely on price guides far more than they do today, and my system of as­signing values just seemed ar­bi­trarily steep to them.

That is, these col­lec­tors tended to argue from ig­no­rance. Ex­cept for at­tempting to set these people right, I de­rived little of ben­efit from con­ver­sa­tions with people who ar­gued, “Your prices are too high!”

Be­cause there was a no­tice­able pat­tern to the con­fronta­tions: people who ar­gued with me that I had valued rare records too high were in­vari­ably wrong. They didn’t have the records in their col­lec­tion, had never bought the records, so re­ally had no ex­pe­ri­ence other than what a price guide told them.

 

There was a no­tice­able pat­tern to the con­fronta­tions at con­ven­tions: Those people who ar­gued that I had valued rare records too high gen­er­ally turned out to be wrong; those who in­sisted the values were too low were al­most al­ways cor­rect.

 

2. On the other hand, there were those col­lec­tors who ar­gued, “Your prices are too low!” These were the people I looked for­ward to en­gaging, as such an ac­cu­sa­tion usu­ally meant that they knew more than I knew and had a right to be angry at me for not get­ting it right.

People who in­sisted that I had set the values too low were al­most uni­formly cor­rect. They usu­ally had the records and had paid market price for them—and since they had the items they had no reason to lie, an ac­cu­sa­tion that could be lev­eled at dealers.

And if I could con­vince them of my will­ing­ness to change the error of my ways, I might re­cruit them as con­trib­u­tors to fu­ture guides!

When ap­proached by an angry col­lector, I en­cour­aged him to vent his spleen: tell me every­thing that was wrong with my books! Most of them ad­dressed me in var­ious de­grees of an­tag­o­nism and ex­pected an­tag­o­nism in re­turn, or at least some hos­tile de­fense. Being met with open arms and an in­vi­ta­tion to rant usu­ally dis­armed them, which was not what I sought.

But this was all new to Jen, who was taken aback at the con­tempt that some strangers showed me. 5

 

Hipp_Sims

Shortly after the first two Hipp live al­bums (above), she recorded a studio set with Zoot Sims. Blue Note 1530 is a highly sought after record today with sug­gested NM value of $3,000-4,000. Shortly after her stint with Blue Note, Hipp stopped recording, re­tired from the jazz scene, and pur­sued painting in­stead.

I have a problem with the prices in your book!

We had been at the show for sev­eral hours when a col­lector ap­proached the table and asked, “Are these your books? Are you the au­thor?”

Yes I am.

“Well, I got a problem with some of the prices.” She sounded miffed.

Jen was im­me­di­ately de­fen­sive, thinking this person rude for her at­ti­tude to a stranger. But I asked her name.

“Claudia.”

And we shook hands and then I asked if she though them too high or too low.

“Way too high!”

And I asked for a frin­stance. (Look it up!)

“The Jutta Hipp al­bums.”

Be­fore I could say any­thing, the man be­hind her chimed in with, “Yeah, about the Jutta Hipp albums—I have a problem with your prices.” His tone bor­dered on bel­liger­ence.

I just asked if he thought them too high or too low.

“Way too high!”

Claudia turned to stare at the guy. Jen was star­tled again; she later told me she thought there was going to be some kind of al­ter­ca­tion.

So, I asked him his name.

“Stuart.”

And I turned to the young lady and said, Claudia, this is Stuart.

I turned back to him and said, Stuart, this is Claudia. Now, there’ll be no fighting over Jutta Hipp, but it does seem like you two have a lot to talk about … 6

 

HippSims600

FEATURED IMAGE: This shot of Zoot Sims and Hutta Hipp from 1956 was my first choice for a header image for this ar­ticle. Un­for­tu­nately, all of the copies of this image that I found on the In­ternet were too small and could not be en­larged to suit­able size without blur­ring. So I used the cover art from their sole album in­stead.

PS: I don’t in­tend for this to make Jen sound neu­rotic; she was any­thing but. She was not a suc­cessful bar­tender be­cause she was easily cowed by strangers! And most of the people she met were pleasant and made her wel­come. Still, being in­tro­duced to the mi­cro­cosm of any field of col­lecting can feel like drop­ping down a rabbit hole or walking through a looking glass for a novice.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   Barbie and I left Penn­syl­vania in June 1978, me­an­dered across the country, made our way through Yosemite Na­tional Park, headed to­wards Mon­terey, and were swim­ming in the Pa­cific Ocean five days later!

2   I likes ’em smart!

3   I am using the idiom “around the block” to ref­er­ence one’s sexual experience—the way that I had al­ways heard that phrase used. The way that I have used that phrase for more than forty years. But looking it up on the In­ternet I find that has a broader meaning: “to have had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence of a par­tic­ular sit­u­a­tion” and “to have had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence of life, es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult or un­pleasant ex­pe­ri­ence.” Most of the de­f­i­n­i­tions are specif­i­cally not sexual, meaning ei­ther I have been using the phrase in­cor­rectly for decades, or it has changed with the times and I haven’t.

4   My ex­pe­ri­ence is that few people can sep­a­rate their feel­ings and their per­sonal, po­lit­ical, or re­li­gious ide­ology from their ar­gu­ments and hence they tend to fight rather that de­bate. They ap­pear to do this out of de­fen­sive­ness, per­ceiving any and all ques­tions as as­saults on the core of their being. But that’s an­other con­ver­sa­tion!

5   She was also taken aback if very pleased with the re­sponse of many of the men at the show, who rarely saw a beau­tiful woman with taste in clothing and a sen­sual de­meanor at a record show. Think of the first time that Penny vis­ited the comic book store in The Big Bang Theory and then mul­tiply it by sev­eral fac­tors and you might get an idea. And re­member, Ms. B knew nothing about col­lecting and the world of col­lec­tors be­fore she met me. This was brand spanking new to her! Talk about your grok­less stranger in a strange land!

6   Re­garding the Hipp al­bums: in the first edi­tion of Gold­mine’s Price Guide To Col­lectible Jazz Al­bums (1992), I had as­signed a NM value of $90 to each of the three Blue Note 12-inch ti­tles. I knew this was too low, so in the second edi­tion (1994) I had raised those values to $250 each. I be­lieved these still too low but in the ball­park, so I knew this person didn’t know what she was talking about here.

After Claudia and Stuart duked it out briefly, Stuart and I talked. He plainly knew more than I did and as­sured me that if I dou­bled the values that I had given those records and walked around this show of­fering $500 for any one of the three Hipp twelve-inchers, every knowl­edge­able seller would laugh at me!

 

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neal, the pic of the mary­land record show al­most per­fectly matches the al­bu­querque one, a smaller room than the shows in the big cities have. ty for an­other in­for­ma­tive ar­ticle, i al­ways learn some­thing from your posts.

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