THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVE STORIES about interacting with a collector at a convention. For the most part, I learned far more from collectors than they learned from me in these face-to-face exchanges: whatever I heard of value went into my price guides. But there were instances where I was of value to a collector. In this case, I may have—get this!—forever altered the way one collector viewed the hobby and the business of collecting records.
I may have, in fact, changed a life! So, here’s that story—and it’s so perfect you’ll probably think that I made it up!
But first, let me suggest that you read “Fighting Over Jutta Hipp At A Record Collectors Convention.” It provides the background for this story. Briefly, twenty years ago my love life took me back to the East Coast for a few weeks. While there, I not only pursued a woman, Jen Bottlebinder, but also my profession as the Price Guide Guy.
“Well, the 10-inch Peggy Lee BLACK COFFEE on Decca. You have $100 on it. That’s too high for that record. I found one a few years ago for only $25!”
While back there, I booked tables at two record collectors conventions as a seller. My inventory consisted of copies of the latest editions of my three price guides: the fifth edition of Goldmine’s Price Guide To Collectible Record Albums, the second edition of Goldmine’s Price Guide To Collectible Jazz Albums, and the third edition of Goldmine’s Rock ‘n Roll 45RPM Record Price Guide.
The first show had been in New York City; the second was in a Holiday Inn (?) in McLean, Virginia, near where Jen lived. As I stated in the first part, this was all new to Jen, and she was quite taken aback at the contempt that some strangers showed me.
In fact, she was pissed about it, but quickly saw how I handled each situation so she let it ride. Consequently, she was much more relaxed at this Virginia show than she had been in New York.
And this was so much easier a situation for all involved …
Peggy Lee was one of the most successful singers of the ’50s, selling millions of albums and singles. Her first LP album for Decca was BLACK COFFEE, which many fans still consider her best. But like many former big band singers, her position with collectors has dropped precipitously, as few younger collectors are interested in that kind of music. Consequently, Decca DL-5482 has not risen in value as much as it should have and currently has a suggested NM value of only $100-200. 1
Black coffee with a splash of insight
We had been at the McLean show for several hours when a gentleman approached our table. He was nicely dressed and well-groomed and had an almost retiring air about him. He was not the type of person from which I would normally expect any kind of confrontation.
In fact, he looked more like he was ready for church than spending the day flipping through records. But he was carrying a well-used copy of my jazz book, so Jen and I greeted him and he introduced himself as Glenn (not his real name, of course).
Glenn politely asked, “Excuse me, but are you the author of these books?”
Yes, sir! That I am.
“Um, I have a problem with your jazz album guide.”
And what is that?
“Oh, it’s the prices.”
And the problem is?
“They’re much too high!”
We then exchanged a few sentences on what he collected and did he understand that the high values assigned rare records in my book applied to records in nearly mint condition and did he understand the difference between VG+ and EX and NM and he assured me that he got all of that but that the values were still too high.
So I asked him to give me a frinstance so we could make the conversation more concrete.
To which Glenn replied, “Um, well, the 10-inch Peggy Lee BLACK COFFEE on Decca. You have $100 on it. That’s too high for that record.”
I searched for an image of Elmer having an idea bulb pop on above his head but couldn’t find one. I did find this image of Goofy having a great idea—a rather rare occurrence for the ol’ dog. Glenn, the collector that I met in McLean, did not have quite this dramatic a moment, but if light bulbs popped on above our heads in real life, it wouldn’t be that common an occurrence. This moment was revelatory to him, and hopefully made the joy of collecting even greater. 2
Just like in the movies
So, I looked at Glenn and asked him the same question I asked every collector who said the value of a rather rare record in nearly mint condition in one of my books was too high:
Really? Do you have copy of that album?
“Yes, indeed I do! I found one a few years ago for only $25!”
Is it near mint?
“It’s perfect! Like new—like no one ever played it!”
So I stood up, reached into my pocket, and pulled out my money. I slowly counted five crisp, new twenty-dollar bills (just like in the movies!), and offered them to him.
Here, I’ll give you a hundred bucks for it right now!
Without hesitation, Glenn shot back, “Oh! I’d never sell it for that price!”
It was like a scene in a Warner Brothers’ cartoon where a light bulb goes on over the head of a character having a flash of realization! You know, Elmer Fudd realizing that once again Bugs has pulled the wool over his eyes—that the wascally wabbit has outwitted him and escaped—but it’s too late to do anything about it.
Ahhh, this was one of those moments in my life that justified the seemingly endless hours that I have spent arguing with people, always in good faith, even when drunk. The times I have spent debating with people who can’t see that they are looking at things through blinder—always aware that beblindered (sic) I may also be—but when I saw that light bulb above his head it then this moment became a ‘this magic moment.’
As I said, Glenn was obviously intelligent and when that light bulb went on he knew immediately what it meant. And without a trace of anger over being bested in an argument, Glenn exclaimed, “Oh!”
Then he nodded his head and said, “Right. I see. Point taken.”
I was pleased with myself and Jen was beaming with joy at the outcome.
And Glenn smiled and added, “Um, would you sign my copy of your book?”
So I scrawled in felt-tip pen on the inside cover of his book,
A gentleman among collectors—
and an old dog not afraid to learn new tricks!
Keep on keepin’ on, buddy!
If only Al Gore had invented the Internet a decade sooner, it would have been available back then and no doubt I would still have Glenn’s and thousand other collectors’ email addresses in my files. 3
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is … a cuppa coffee. Black, of course.
1 While there is a vast catalog of Peggy Lee 78 rpm singles and albums, 45 rpm singles and EP albums, and long-playing LPs and tapes to collect—enough to keep a completist busy for decades—few have a value above $50. Copies of 5482 graded only VG often sell on eBay for $25-50, so a NM copy sold by an established dealer will easily sell for $100 and up.
2 While the Disney characters are part of the American cultural fabric and a joyous part of my childhood, most of the cartoons do not hold up well for modern viewers in terms of content and intent. Disney was so whitebreadly (sic) wholesome, that many appear almost unintentionally ironic or even satiric. On the other hand, the Warner Brothers’ cartoons are as devilishly (and quite intentionally) ironic, satiric, and loaded with double entendres that kids just don’t get.
3 “Former Vice-President Al Gore never claimed that he ‘invented’ the Internet, nor did he say anything that could reasonably be interpreted that way. The put-downs were misleading, out-of-context distortions of something he said during an interview in 1999. When asked to describe what distinguished him from his challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, Gore replied:
‘During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.’
Although Vice-President Gore’s phrasing might have been a bit clumsy (and perhaps self-serving), he was not claiming that he ‘invented’ the Internet in the sense of having designed or implemented it, but rather that he was responsible, in an economic and legislative sense, for fostering the development the technology that we now know as the Internet.” (Snopes)