the great mispriced record sale

I MOVED FROM PENNSYLVANIA TO CALIFORNIA in 1978, ending up in Napa. It was a nice little city that more or less served as the north­bound gateway to the wine country. I im­me­di­ately made friends with the owner of the city’s only used-record store, who I will call Haitch. I had re­cently dis­cov­ered Gold­mine mag­a­zine, then more or less at its peak of cir­cu­la­tion and im­por­tance in the col­lecting com­mu­nity.

I needed to score an in­ven­tory of records to sell through ads that I in­tended to place in that mag­a­zine. As anyone who has ever at­tempted to set up a busi­ness in col­lec­table items, finding and main­taining an in­ven­tory can be nigh on im­pos­sible. Like so many such shops, Haitch had a bar­gain bin, filled with LPs that ei­ther no one (among record col­lec­tors) wanted or al­bums that were wanted but were in less than de­sir­able con­di­tion. You know, Bea­tles Capitol al­bums in VG- back when the NM copies were worth only $20; that sort of thing. He charged 50¢ apiece for these gems.

I ap­proached Haitch with this deal: after closing his shop on Sat­urday, I would pick up about 1,000 of his bar­gain bin al­bums. I would take them to the Napa Valley Flea Market on Sunday, set up ta­bles, and at­tempt to sell them. I would re­turn the al­bums Sunday af­ter­noon and he would re­ceive his 50¢ for each record sold. A win/win arrange­ment. He agreed and so it was so …

So, that Sunday morning I had two ban­quet ta­bles laid out with al­bums. I had made a huge paper banner that hung across the two ta­bles that read:

 

ALBUMS $3 EACH or 3 FOR $8

 

I had a handful of lookers the first few Sun­days and did not sell enough to cover costs. But then, profit wasn’t my goal: finding people with al­bums of their own who wanted to sell them was!

Need­less to say, I needed to at­tract more at­ten­tion. About the fifth week, in­spi­ra­tion ar­rived and I changed the banner to read:

 

ALBUMS $3 EACH / 3 FOR $10

 

And it worked: I had people at my table all day long! Per­haps they were amused; per­haps they fig­ured if I was too stupid to know basic math then I might be too stupid to know good, valu­able records when I had them and would sell them those $20 Bea­tles al­bums for $3. As the kids say, “What­ever.”

While I scored a few minor col­lec­tions from my cus­tomers, it was not enough to jus­tify the ef­fort. (And for those of you who have never sold at a flea market, the prepa­ra­tion on Sat­urday, the get­ting up at an un­gawdly early hour on Sunday, the set­ting up and the sit­ting around, the cost of the in­ven­tory and the ta­bles and food …

Well, you have to ei­ther love it or make a lot of money to do it more than a few times.) So it was that after a few more weeks—with no fanfare—the “great mis­priced record sale” ex­per­i­ment came to a close.

 

 

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