Rock & Roll Record Albums Price Guide (book)

WAY BACK IN THE 1990s, a se­ries of price guides for record col­lec­tors was pub­lished by Gold­mine mag­a­zine. These books com­pletely changed the way that col­lec­table records were bought, sold, and col­lected around the world. Those changes re­main in ef­fect today, a quarter of a cen­tury later.

Those books af­fected every price guide that fol­lowed, re­gard­less of the au­thor or even the country in which the book was pub­lished.

Those books af­fected how col­lec­table vinyl is bought and sold on the in­ternet, the great lev­eler of re­gional vari­a­tions in supply and de­mand.

I wrote those books.

But my first book was not for Gold­mine—my first book was the 1985-1986 Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide. Pub­lished by O’­Sul­livan Wood­side in 1985, it was the sixth edi­tion in a se­ries of guides that the com­pany had launched in the 1970s.

The first five edi­tions were more generic in terms of genres in­cluded and were pub­lished as part of the Record Album Price Guide se­ries. Those books had been com­piled by dif­ferent au­thors.

Those ear­lier OW guides had de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion among the cognoscenti for their ex­tra­or­di­narily in­ac­cu­rate prices or values. And this ap­plied both to common, used records as well as rare and valu­able records.

 

NU OW LP Guide300

The cover for the 1985-1986 Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide is my fa­vorite of my four­teen books. It is a staged garage sale set up at John and Am­icia O’­Sul­li­van’s house in Phoenix, Ari­zona. I pro­vided the records; the O’­Sul­li­vans pro­vided every­thing and everyone else.

Recommended reading

The se­ries of ar­ti­cles about the books I have pub­lished have a loose chronology and nar­ra­tive that makes the most sense if read in this order:

1.  Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide (1985)

2.  Elvis Presley Record Price Guide (1985)

3.  A Touch Of Gold – The Elvis Presley Record & Mem­o­ra­bilia Price Guide (1990)

4.  Gold­mine’s Price Guide to Col­lectible Record Al­bums – 1st edi­tion (1991)

5.  Gold­mine’s Price Guide to Col­lectible Jazz Al­bums (1992)

6.  Gold­mine’s Rock’n Roll 45RPM Record Price Guide (1994) 

7.  Gold­mine’s Price Guide to Col­lectible Record Al­bums – 5th edi­tion (1996)

8.  Blues And Rhythm & Blues 45s Of The ’50s (2000)

 

NU Elvis OW 300

The cover for the 1985-1986 Elvis Presley Record Price Guide is my second fa­vorite of my four­teen books. It was set up by a pho­tog­ra­pher in Phoenix and the field is ac­tu­ally quite large, being ap­prox­i­mately ten feet high and ten feet deep.

Bible for record collectors

Nonethe­less, from the be­gin­ning, the OW books were the un­of­fi­cial bibles for record col­lec­tors, if only by de­fault, as there was al­most no com­pe­ti­tion. Aside from the O’­Sul­livan Wood­side books, there was also an an­nual guide from House of Col­lectibles. This book was so bad that it made the lack­luster OW books shine in com­par­ison!

While the title of my book was Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide, out­side of the walls of the pub­lisher it picked up other names. It was often re­ferred to as the “Umphred price guide,” or just the “Umphred book,” for two dif­ferent rea­sons:

  It was the only book by me at the time.
•  It was very dif­ferent from the other price guides.

And every­body who knew any­thing about wheeling and dealing col­lec­table records knew it!

Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide upset the system: the values that I as­signed to thou­sands of records were dras­ti­cally at odds with what had been the norm in the pre­vious edi­tions. Be­cause of this, my book ac­quired other nick­names: one of the more col­orful was “that f*cking Umphred book.”

 

Turtles BattleOfTheBands cover 600

THE BATTLE OF THE BANDS was a fab­u­lous con­cept: the Tur­tles recorded a dozen tracks in a dozen dif­ferent styles under a dozen fic­tional group names! Hence, twelve dif­ferent bands bat­tling it out on one record! De­spite the pres­ence of the de­light­fully goofy Top 10 hit Elenore, the album sold little and could be found in cut-out bins for years.

My first BIG problem

In 1985, I was hired by John O’­Sul­livan and Don Wood­side to take over their line of record col­lec­tors price guides. During my in­ter­view for the po­si­tion, I made it known that I thought their books all but use­less. That, in fact, they did a grave dis­ser­vice to the buying and selling of records with stag­ger­ingly in­ac­cu­rate values and count­less point­less discogra­phies.

I made it clear that if hired I would make sweeping changes that would dis­rupt the flow of information—or, as I ar­gued, the flow of misinformation—of the ear­lier edi­tions of the OW books. The one con­ces­sion I would make was to keep their ex­isting format; that way the books would at least look fa­miliar to long­time readers.

Amaz­ingly, I got the gig!

My first project was OW’s best selling books, a new edi­tion of their Record Album Price Guide. Due to pre­vious ed­i­to­rial de­ci­sions, many im­por­tant and highly col­lec­table artists had been pulled from re­cent edi­tions. This in­cluded major fig­ures such as Fats Domino, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Neil Di­a­mond.

In their place, hun­dreds of ’70s artists were sub­sti­tuted! With very few ex­cep­tions, the records of most con­tem­po­rary artists had no col­lec­table value. The book suf­fered mightily from these de­ci­sions and it was my job to rec­tify the mis­takes.

So my first BIG problem was that I had to re­place thou­sands of list­ings of junk records with thou­sands of list­ings of money records!

 

Soundtrack RiotOnSunsetStrip s 600

After Tower and Side­walk went under in 1969, their en­tire LP cat­alog was dumped on the market for pen­nies on the dollar! I bought stacks of rock & roll sound­track al­bums like RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP, PSYCH-OUT, and THE WILD ANGELS for 50¢ apiece and traded them to my friends for al­bums that I couldn’t find in the cut-out bins.

My solution to the first problem

My goal with the Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide was to focus on rock & roll and rhythm & blues of the ’50s and ’60s. I took three steps to im­prove the disco­graph­ical con­tent:

1.  I deleted thou­sands of list­ings of LPs with little or no col­lec­table value, pri­marily the ’70s list­ings men­tioned above.

2.  I re­turned thou­sands of list­ings of LPs that had been dropped from re­cent edi­tions of the book.

3.  I added thous­ands of list­ings of LPs that had never ap­peared in a price guide before—notably ‘pri­vate pressing’ al­bums in such genres as frat, garage, psych, prog, and early Chris­tian rock. 

With these changes, I had a rad­i­cally dif­ferent book, at least disco­graph­i­cally. But I still had do ad­dress the re­ally BIG problem.

But be­fore I do, I want to give some back­ground on a topic that was im­por­tant at the time of pub­li­ca­tion of the orig­inal edi­tions of the Record Album Price Guides in the 1970s and ’80s.

 

MamasPapas PapasMamas 600

Few people re­member that for a brief pe­riod (1966−1967), The Mamas & The Papas ranked with the Bea­tles, the Mon­kees, and Herb Alpert & The Ti­juana Brass for sales of LPs in the US. Their fourth studio album PAPAS & MAMAS sold well but nothing like its pre­de­ces­sors. Con­se­quently, this title was a staple of cut-out bins for years after it was deleted from the Dun­hill cat­alog.

The era of the cut-out album

After the Amer­ican record in­dustry stopped man­u­fac­turing al­bums in both mono and stereo in 1968, they dumped mil­lions of un­wanted LPs into de­part­ment stores such as Mc­Cro­ry’s and Wool­worths across the country. These chains, in turn, sold these al­bums for as little as 49¢, al­though $1.99 was a more common price.

Need­less to say, these prices met with great suc­cess with cus­tomers! It was a win­ning sit­u­a­tion for the record com­pa­nies, for the stores, and for the record buyers. And it was the birth of the cut-out bin, as this type of mar­keting was rare prior to the ex­plo­sion of album sales in the late ’60s.

Along with the old mono LPs, the record com­pa­nies also un­loaded large stock­piles of stereo al­bums that had no com­mer­cial vi­a­bility. These in­cluded count­less no-longer hip psy­che­delic and flower-power al­bums.

Con­se­quently, thou­sands of ’60s ti­tles were avail­able into the ’70s as bargain-priced cut-outs. These ti­tles were all brand new and factory-sealed. You could not be a record col­lector and be un­aware of their pres­ence on the market.

Yet these records were listed in edi­tion after edi­tion of the OW books with values be­tween $10 and $20 as used records! How could used records on the col­lec­tors market be worth more than their brand new coun­ter­parts on the re­tail market?

Some­thing was def­i­nitely not right with the price guides, and every­body knew it.

 

RollingStones BetweenTheButtons s 600

Given how well BETWEEN THE BUTTONS sold in 1967, it’s hard to be­lieve that there were end­less left­overs to fill the cut-out bins of Amer­ican de­part­ment stores. But there were, pri­marily the deleted mono ver­sion, which could be found for $1.99 or less for years after. Oddly, the follow-up album FLOWERS was nigh on im­pos­sible to find as a cut-out.

My second BIG problem

By the time that I es­tab­lished my­self as a reg­ular seller at record col­lec­tors swaps/conventions/shows in Cal­i­fornia in 1980, there was al­ready a saying about the OW Record Al­bums Price Guides that every seller and buyer with a few ounces of ex­pe­ri­ence knew: “You take the book value, cut it in half, and work down from there.”

This rule re­ferred to the ab­surdly in­flated values as­signed to common, everyday records—which made up the bulk of the list­ings.

There was a reason for high values being as­signed to rel­a­tively val­ue­less records: no one buys a price guide to read that their col­lec­tion is worth less than they paid for it!

People buy price guides to read how smart they are—that their records or comic books or base­ball cards or Beanie Ba­bies were smart buys that have mul­ti­plied in value over and over, like shares of Mi­crosoft stock.

People bought the O’Sullivan-Woodside books and looked up artists like Paul Re­vere & The Raiders, the Tur­tles, Peter & Gordon, the Lovin’ Spoonful, etc., and found their records uni­formly listed at $10 to $15 each.

This made the book’s readers feel good about them­selves and their col­lec­tions, de­spite the fact that many of these LPs were avail­able all over the country as cut-outs for a frac­tion of what the OW book claimed!

At the same time that the OW Record Album Price Guide over­valued common records, it un­der­valued thou­sands of gen­uinely valu­able records!

Con­se­quently, sellers with little real ex­pe­ri­ence with the col­lec­table record market (versus the used record market) who re­lied on the OW books were reg­u­larly selling rare records for far less than their real worth. At the same time, they were left won­dering why they were un­able to sell their Her­man’s Her­mits al­bums for any­thing re­sem­bling book value!

 

Who HappyJack m 600

Be­fore the world­wide suc­cess of TOMMY in 1969-1970, The Who sold few LPs in the States. Their second album, the bril­liant HAPPY JACK, was is­sued in 1967 and deleted by 1969. It was a staple in budget bins in de­part­ment stores in both its mono and stereo ver­sions for years.

My solution to the second problem

So, in 1985 I had a book with more than 20,000 list­ings, al­most every one of them in­cor­rect to some de­gree. I could change every value, but I wanted to main­tain some sense of continuity—aside from the book’s look—from the pre­vious five edi­tions to this sixth edi­tion. (My edi­tion.)

If I ad­justed the values of all the records in the book to re­flect the re­ality of the then-current market, I would have to lower a lot of records that had been con­sis­tently priced at $10-20 to a one-tenth of those values ($1-2).

On the other hand, I would have to raise a lot of records in that same $10-20 range as much as ten times ($100-200).

Any se­rious change was bound to cause some kind of sticker-shock to the readers who de­pended on the book and con­sid­ered the older values to be re­al­istic. So, I set­tled on a com­pro­mise to ease that sticker-shock:

1.  I raised the values of ap­prox­i­mately one-quarter of the un­der­priced records by 100%. That is, I dou­bled their prices.

2.  I low­ered the values of ap­prox­i­mately one-quarter of the over­priced records by 50%. That is, I cut their prices in half.

3.  I left the values of ap­prox­i­mately one-half of the records es­sen­tially in­tact.

So, my book main­tained the value of half of the list­ings from the pre­vious edi­tions, but rather dras­ti­cally ad­justed the values of the other half.

And what was the gen­eral re­sponse to these three moves?

•  No­body no­ticed I had “low­ered the prices.”
•  Every­body no­ticed I had “raised the prices.”

 

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