Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Thrill of the Hunt

Last week, Guardian Unlimited (the website of a British newspaper) featured an article on "diggers"--obsessive vinyl fans who scour the shops for prized obscurities. I still like to poke through vinyl myself, especially in antique stores. Unlike some collectors I know, I don't particularly care whether what I find is in mint condition--if I can pick up a song or two to fill out a gap in my library for a couple of bucks, I'm not concerned about a few pops and scratches.

Antique-store record shopping is a perfect illustration of the concept of pricing at whatever the market will bear. Some dealers understand the difference between "collectible" and "old," and some do not. I have seen boxes of well-maintained albums selling for two or three bucks apiece, and I have seen people try to sell dog-eared, beat-to-hell albums, covers scribbled on with ballpoint pen or crayon, at "book" value, nine or 10 bucks apiece or more. I have seen immaculate 45s in paper sleeves selling for a quarter or 50 cents, and unsleeved singles rattling around in cardboard boxes selling for twice that. Caveat emptor, for damn sure.

The Internet has changed record collecting, both by the switch to digital formats and by making it easy to find almost anything a collector might want. But for many collectors--and I count myself among this number--finding records you can hold in your hands and play on your turntable is still worth the effort. One collector, who is searching for a 30-year-old record he could buy online with one click told the Guardian, "I want to find it in the wild." (The Mrs. is the same way about the antique collector plates she likes to buy.) Downloading a song or searching for a record on eBay is convenient, but it's not very sporting.

Recommended Reading: Marathon Packs has some comments on the first volume of DVDs featuring rock-star appearances on the old Dick Cavett Show.The set includes Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane, David Bowie, Sly Stone, and others. Stephen Stills and David Crosby are on the DVD too, doing an interview only hours after their appearance at Woodstock. (A more extensive review of the set is here.)


At 11:01 AM, Blogger Vicious Steve said...

I consider myself a "digger". I'm a collector of Hard Rock & Heavy Metal, mostly CDs & vinyl. Nothing is better than to find that album in the back corner of a record store or pawn shop.

I enjoy the experience of flipping thru stacks of vinyl or CDs, examining the item, and getting a bargain price in many cases.

Even though the Internet has made almost everything available, it has encouraged serious price increases. It's crazy to see a CD that I can find for $5 by "digging" go for $50+.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger The Stepfather of Soul said...

I concur with Vicious & Delicious on this one. Just this past weekend I was in Chicago and I stopped by a local record store and picked up some 45s ... in the 49-cent "cheapo" bin I got my hands on an almost spotless (well, at least on the A-side) copy of "Mother Popcorn" that, when put on my turntable, would put a CD to shame with its rich, full sound.


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