Mar 29, 2014

Collectible Rockabilly Records

Collecting records is easy. Records are widely available and often cheap. But assembling a meaningful record collection requires thought, vigilance and no small investment.

Records have been produced for so long—since 1894—and in so many different musical genres and formats that serious collectors must consider the boundaries and contents of their collections or they will be overwhelmed by the available choices. Will they collect a certain genre of music (rock, jazz, etc.), or type of record (78, 45 or 33 rpm) a certain record label (Sun, Verve) or perhaps just 33-rpm albums with interesting album art?

Some record collectors focus on a particular technological era, collecting not only the records of a period but also the machines that played them. Collectors of 78-rpm records often collect Victrolas, and collectors of Edison-style wax cylinders must, of course, have a cylinder player or two to enjoy their collection.

Other collectors focus on the music of a particular social period or cultural group: the Depression-era protest songs of Woody Guthrie and his contemporaries; the roots music of the Mississippi Delta; the early “hillbilly” music of the Virginia and Kentucky mountains or ’60s psychedelic rock.

Collections that reflect cultural, technological or musical change tend to be well-thought-out collections. Collections that can represent all three of these attributes have the potential to be fine collections, indeed. All three of these attributes exist for collectors of rockabilly records. Read More...

Mar 27, 2014

Muscle Car Music: Collecting 8-Track Tapes

To garage-salers and flea market buffs, they seem to be everywhere. Most folks walk right by boxes full of them with their nose in the air and an attitude of indifference. For collectors, though, boxes of unwanted 8-track tapes are pure gold.

Monthly sales of 8-track tapes number in the thousands on eBay, with prices sometimes exceeding $100 for rare quadrophonic tapes. There is even a brisk market for broken 8-track tapes, because collectors regularly disassemble and repair tapes to gain access to their favorite music format. 8-track enthusiasts claim to love the feel of the tape cartridge in their hand and to crave the full-bodied analog sound of the music contained therein. To collectors, 8-track tapes are the embodiment of the 1970s.

That’s not how I remember them. I remember 8-track tapes as being the most aggravating music format ever invented.

For starters, the tapes were on a continuous loop, which meant I couldn’t fast-forward or reverse to search for a particular song. If I was cruising down the highway listening to “Freebird” on my Lynryd Skynyrd tape (it was the ’70s, after all) and wanted to hear the song again, I’d have to listen to every other song in the set first. As tapes were played repeatedly, the rollers wore away and they would get dirty and fill with grime. The tapes would jam, break, and sometimes change programs in the middle of a song (No! Not on “Freebird!” Not again!). Stretching would cause tapes to lose firm contact with the playback head, and sound quality would suffer. Worst of all, I would occasionally unwrap a brand-new tape only to have it break on the first playing, sending me back to the store for a replacement. Read More...

Mar 25, 2014

How to Open, Price and Sell Residential Safes

One of my “go-to” movies when I’m in the mood for a caper-flick is “The Italian Job” starring Mark Wahlberg. In a clever bit of cinematography, Wahlberg’s gang of thieves steal a safe full of gold bars by using explosives to cut a hole in the floor around the safe causing it to crash through two lower floors and into a Venice canal, where they open the safe and steal the gold.

I’m reminded of that scene every time I appraise an estate that contains one or more of those big, heavy, steel safes. I comment to the executor that I’m glad that I won’t be the person required to move them, because I’ve moved too many already. I’d almost rather blow a hole in the floor and let a safe drop into a big, dark pit than move another one.

Auctioneers and estate-sale operators will admit that one factor affecting the price of some estate property is the difficulty of getting it moved. Pianos, gun safes and concrete yard art sometimes cost more to move than they are worth. When they don’t, their prices are generally lowered to compensate for the difficulty of moving them.

Residential safes are becoming more common with each passing year. Sales are up for residential safe dealers. A 2011 New York Times headline reads: “Sales of Home Safes Surge, Driven by the Recession and Recent Disasters.”  Read More...

Mar 23, 2014

Near Meltdown for $33M Fabergé Egg

What a difference a few minutes of research can make.

If you haven’t heard by now, collectors around the globe are talking about the discovery of the third Imperial Russian Fabergé egg, identified last week by Kieran McCarthy of London’s Wartski jewelers. The Fabergé community is extremely excited about the find, as the egg has been missing for more than 80 years.

I’m intrigued by the discovery as well, but for a different reason than most: I wonder why it took so long to identify it.

The egg sat on a kitchen shelf in a Midwestern U.S. home for more than 10 years. The egg’s owner was a scrap metal dealer who had purchased it at a flea market in 2002. He bought the egg in order to have it melted down for the value of the gold it contained. Dealing in scrap gold has become a popular pastime in post-recession America. Drive through any city and one can see signs nailed to telephone poles: “We buy scrap gold! Highest prices paid!” Even cable TV’s National Geographic channel has jumped on the bandwagon, with its series titled “Meltdown,” which was introduced last summer. The series tells tales of urban treasure hunters who “search for precious metals in unlikely places hoping to turn junk into gold.” According to National Geographic, revenues in the scrap gold business approach $1 billion annually.  Read More...