This change in the market has changed the nature of most record collections:
the valuable items in them now form a disproportionate amount of their
value. Even in a good collection, one I am still eager to buy, I may thumb
through the records and pass ten in a row that I would not pay a dime for.
Then I find the record that is worth several dollars to me. It is this
leavening of really desirable records that makes the collection as a whole
worth buying. And this is where my stern warning comes in: if you are selling
your records, do not let anybody remove selected items. When I buy a collection,
I explain this principle thoroughly. If I take my pick, or if anyone does,
and we know what we are doing, the remaining records left behind will have
virtually no value.
Let me explain. Several years ago, I drove a considerable distance to
look at a collection I had been told included about 10,000 LPs. Before
making the trip, I asked the owners, an elderly couple, if they had sold
any records from the collection to anyone a standard question.
They assured me they had not. On seeing the records, I had no reason initially
to doubt the count. (You can count LP records very quickly by taking an
average of the number per foot. In most US collections, it is about 70,
but UK collections may be denser because of thinner sleeves.) After exchanging
pleasantries, I got to work looking through the collection; and after I
had gone through the first thousand or so, I stopped and addressed the
"You didn't tell me the truth", I said with confidence. "Who
bought records from you?"
They began to sputter. "He didn't take very many", they assured
me. "We felt so sorry for him because of his speech defect."
"Oh, Mel", I said.
"Yes, that was his name. Really, he didn't buy very many records."
"I hope he paid you very well for them," I said, "because
he bought your whole collection." And I left. It would have been a
marginal collection at best but, with the most valuable items removed,
the remainder was simply not worth bothering with.
The only exceptions to this rule occur when someone is permitted to
remove records relating to some special interest, or when the sellers have
some special use for the remaining items. I once bought a wonderful collection
which had been donated to a major orchestra. Its librarian removed the
records by that orchestra. I would have loved to have them but she did
not select records by their value, so the collection remained worthwhile.
If the sellers tell me, "Our cousin wants the records, but we wanted
to sell the valuable ones", I shall agree to buy only the valuable
items. (This happens less and less often now. Most cousins have CD players.)
With permission, I can quote the buying policy of Dave Canfield's Ars
Antiqua business. This company, which issues monthly catalogues, is the
only one I know of that explains its buying policy to customers. Canfield
points out, however, that buying records this way is a special favour he
extends only to his customers; in other words, he is paying more this way
than normally: "Classical or jazz/blues records may be sent to us
for sale or trade credit. We pay what records are worth to us; this is
usually 25 per cent of our selling price if the record is mint and we think
we can sell the record for at least $12.00 (per disc in case of multi-record
sets). Otherwise, we will pay, at most, 10 per cent of our selling price.
If we have unsold copies of the item you're selling us, or it has been
a while since we've had a copy, we might not pay the full 25 per cent.
For material that does not meet the $6.00 minimum price to be put on our
Ars Antiqua or Jazz Antiqua lists, or is in less than A-condition, we likely
cannot pay anything at all. Such material is usually donated to our public
library." Many unsold records at my firm, Parnassus, go the same route,
to our local public library, which sells them for 25 cents each. It seems
like a fair price.