Monday, August 24, 2009

Collectors are Weird, Part 1

Ok, we're done, we're finally done with all the records!!

Well, the 10-inch 78's at least. Everything is paid for and shipped, and I'm free! I'm free!

There's still a couple of hundred 12-inch 78s, vinyl 45s and vinyl 33s to go through. That's for another month, because I'm damn tired and going to take some time off.

We ended up selling about 450 10-inch 78s in around 7 weeks. Most were on eBay, quite a few were private sales to collectors from around the world.

Now mind you, for those who haven't been following this---my step-dad collected records for most of his life. He left a collection that numbered around 700 records when he passed away several years ago. My mom hung on to them for awhile and waffled about how to dispose of them. Pops had several large collections---along with the records, there were stamps and antique photography equipment. And other miscellaneous crap---er stuff.

Through a member of her church, she was steered towards a "reputable" dealer (apparently a relative of the member) who looked the collection over and told her they were worth a dime a piece and offered her 70 bucks for the whole shebang. I protested, and ended up with the entire collection (30+ boxes) in my living room.

Well, although it was a lot of work, I'm freaking glad I did.

The grand total on about 450 records that were "supposedly" worth a dime a piece, ie: 45 bucks?

Drumroll please...

Over eleven thousand dollars.

Isn't that amazing?

It's like those stories you read where somebody finds an undiscovered Picasso in their attic. My mom is quickly spreading the word throughout her senior citizen community not to automatically trust a "trusted relative" of someone to give an accurate assessment of their belongings. Especially when they offer to buy them at that price.

I thought originally maybe we could get a couple of thousand. I knew nothing about records, but did some internet research and recognized some of the artists. Like Charlie Parker and Martha Copeland. Thought they might be worth well more than a dime.

And of course, there was a ton of artists I'd never heard of, but were apparently quite collectible. Tub thumping, jug blowing, doctor syncopating, jazz flowing, skillet-licking, plaza orchestrating stuff. Who knew Pops was so hip in his younger years?

So back to the "Collectors Are Weird" part.

About the third week in, I listed a bunch of country records on eBay early one evening.

Hubby was at a late meeting, was due home about 6pm, the boys were otherwise occupied until late (domino's pizza and the late show), I figured we could have an intimate dinner for two with some serious nooky included. I had a seafood dinner ready to stick under the broiler, had showered and smoothed and foofed (and consumed a couple of glasses of wine in the meantime).

Hey, you gotta steal those moments when you can!

The Love of My Life wasn't home yet after all the preparations, so I went downstairs to the office to check on the auctions.

I had a message in my ebay "inbox".

A very lovely man named George wrote to me and said, "I've been following your auctions and I just wanted to let you know that this particular record you just listed for a 6.99 starting price is very collectable. I'm not trying to buy it from you, because I happen to have an outstanding copy of it, but I think that soon you will have several people writing to you and asking you to end the auction for their offer. If it's in the condition you have described, this record is worth between 100-300 dollars."

There was more, and he was very friendly, so I wrote him a thankful note back (not thinking that anything was going to really come from it). When I exited out, I noticed that my inbox has increased by 3 emails.

One offered 70 dollars if I ended the auction and sold to them. The next offered 100 dollars. The final one said, "if you end the auction, I'll make you a very good offer".

Now I was intrigued. Hmmm. I wrote back and coyly asked, "How good is a very good offer?" He responded with "Call me. Now." And left his number.

If this sounds all cloak and daggery, I have to explain something about eBay. If you're not familiar with the rules it goes like this: When you list an item for sale, you can pretty much do what you want with it (pull it off and sell it on the side, change the terms of the auction etc) UNTIL you get a first bid. Then you are contractually obligated to follow through to the end. Unless of course, the item breaks or something and you can't sell it. Otherwise, you have to follow through.

Obviously eBay frowns on people using their site to hook up and sell off of it, because they don't get their fees. So if someone makes you an offer, and you don't already have bids on the item, you can manually go in, add a "Buy it Now for xxxxx (the agreed price)" to the auction, the collector then can swoop in and purchase it through eBay and everybody is happy.

But time is of the essence and you have to do it fast before someone realizes what a treasure you have there and makes the first bid. ;-)

So I call the guy, and he offers 80 bucks for the record. I said, no thanks, I've already got an offer for 100.00.

Interested Buyer: "You say in your listing that there's only one small wear spot on the record. Could you describe it to me?"

Me: Wha? Describe it?

Interested Buyer: "Is it gray? Is it dull and black? Is it black and shiny?"

Me: Hang on a sec. I have to go look. After cleaning and grading a couple of hundred records they all tend to be one big blur after awhile.

So I took phone and wine glass and toddle up to the first floor to find the record.

Pulled the record, had the phone between my shoulder and ear and held the record up to the light. I couldn't find the wear mark. So I took off my glasses and looked close.

The guy kept telling me to hurry, and I was a LITTLE tipsy. I kept up a running commentary.

Oh! I found it! Well, it's not gray, it's not dull and black or even shiny and black.

Interested Buyer: (impatiently) "What does it look like?"

It looks like a sparkly fingerprint.

Interested buyer: "A what?"

A sparkly fingerprint. And there's another. How weird.

Interested Buyer (who is at this point quite bewildered): "What in the world are you talking about?"

Suddenly it dawned on me. Those were MY sparkly fingerprints. Oh my God, it must be my lotion!

I started babbling. It's my lotion. My hubby is due home and my kids are gone, and I was hoping to get lucky tonight so I put on sparkly lotion. It must be on my hands. Nevermind---I found the wear spot. It's smaller than the head of an eraser and it's shiny and black.

So he made me a generous offer, I ran downstairs and amended my auction to his offer, he purchased and I sent him an email promising to ship immediately and thanked him. Then hubby came home, I crowed about the incident, and I thought that was the end of it.

The very next day, Interested Buyer called ME. Several times while I was out. I guess he took my number off his caller ID from the night before. That kind of annoyed me, because I certainly didn't extend to him an invitation to call me after our transaction.

I called him back. "Do you have a pen and paper?" was the first thing he said after I identified myself. And proceeded to abruptly rattle off a bunch of record numbers and label names.

"Do you have Okeh?"






"You sound awfully sure."

I AM sure. I might not know of the top of my head the artists' names, but I'm sure on the labels.


Yes, I had a couple, but I sold them.

"What were they?"

I told him.

He made a little whimpering sound. Yes folks, he actually whimpered.

At this point I was a getting a bit impatient. I'm just about to walk out the door to go to the post office to mail your records, I informed him.

"Ok Bye." He hung up. Just like that.

He called me the next day. And the next. Did I have a chance to go through the rest of the records? Did I mail his parcel priority mail? Oh, he has more numbers to put on his wish list.

WTF is up with this guy? I asked my husband.

"Maybe he's hoping for more sparkly lotion talk," he snickered.

I finally went through all the records and found a few that were potentially on his wish list. I called him and asked him if he was interested. They weren't artists he collected.

He thanked me politely and that was the end of that. He got his record and left me wonderful feedback on eBay.

I wrote to George, the eBayer who had originally wrote to me about the value of the record. I thanked him for his "head's up" and described the whole encounter.

He wrote back and said, "Is his name xxxxxxx?"

Why yes. Yes it was!

Turns out, the collecting world is pretty small. Many of the serious collectors know each other, because they go after the same stuff. And my buyer was a rather eccentric man known for once dropping 5 figures for an obscure record.

Before he signed off on that email, George added a final line.

"Collectors are weird".

'nuff said. LOL


ntsc said...

Think I need to go through my father in laws 78s.

Although I will not sell the original cast recording of Kiss Me Kate in multi disk album. That was the first musical I did lighting for and there is a limit. I also have it in 33, CD, the movie soundtrack both ways, and the recent revival on CD.

Beth said...

You have me wondering what a mint collection of G.I. Joes would go for on eBay. (Okay, some arms and legs are missing from battle.) Guess my boys would have my head if I tried.
Well done with the record collection!

Charlie said...

You're doing great, Mom. The pain in the patootie part is packaging and shipping, and PayPal fees on shipping.

You're right about collectors: I got to know the same people when I was doing stamps on eBay.

Green-Eyed Momster said...

Over Eleven Thousand Dollars? Good for you for not taking, what was the first offer, like $70.00? Way to go!

I wonder if my albums from the '80s are worth anything.... LOL!!

Congrats! No more sparkly lotion when handling priceless collectors items, okay? ;)


Brenda said...

Oh wow, that's quite a chunk of change for those old records.

I'd have charged extra for the sparkly lotion prints. :-)

Rootietoot said...

Awesome! i have several 78's made by my great grandfather, and a turntable thing that will convert them to music cds. My family is harping at me to do it. I wonder what a collector would give me for them, tho my family would draw and quarter me if i sold them.

Pete said...

11k? wow!!

LB @Wait, She Said What? said...

It's amazing how well they sold! You did a awesome job.

Here's a tip for the future though. If you ever call someone and don't want them to see your number on their caller ID, dial *67 before dialing their phone number. You'll come up blocked on their caller ID.

I know this would have been more helpful BEFORE you met Mr. Crazy but now you know. :)

Kim said...

I have been trying to find time to do my parents 33lp records...this is giving me renewed incentive lol

We had a similar odd experience with a coin collector on ebay... those collectors are an interesting lot for sure!

Stinkypaw said...

Wow... and to think I sold my parents' at a garage sale...

Star said...

That really is like something you would see on TV. Hopefully your Mom's boasting won't net you a living room full of junk to ebay courtesy of the folks at the retiremwnt community.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

What an amazing story. But I'm not surprised at this subset of people--I used to serve beer to ice fishermen on the river in the winter...another subculture totally fascinating.
Yay for you and your 11,000 smackers!!!
This was a great read--sparkle lotion and all!

Anonymous said...

Eleven grand????
How much sparkly lotion could you get with that?

Clippy Mat said...

wow. great story. what an experience and you made a whole loada money to boot. great stuff. :-)

Tricia said...

That's an amazing story and told in your own inimitable way - such a great read - and profit!!!

Jennifer McKenzie said...

LMAO!!! You are so awesome and George sounds like an angel.
I'm going to pass this onto my mom since she has a huge collection of my Grandma's vinyl.

Kim Ayres said...


Ellen Lyn said...

That's the best eBay story I've heard in a long time!! I have one of my own, involving a short stack of some little pieces of flannel I purchased at a yard sale for $10--just on a hunch. They turned out to be tobacco "blankets" that came in bags of rolling tobacco in the early 1900s. I sold them all immediately on eBay, the highest going for over $500 (that was Shoeless Joe Jackson!)....WHO KNEW??!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Don't know how I missed this post-- Glad I caught up.

$11,000 WOW-- That's AWE-SOME! I am so happy for you and your Mom.

The whole sparkly lotion part is a hoot. I can just imagine the eccentric guy's face on the other end of the phone. And it''s great to know there are kind and decent people out there like George. That's totally cool.

As always, I love your writing! More please.

lisleman said...

first time here - great story

Just one question - WTF is sparkly lotion? Don't the sparkles scratch?

carmachu said...

yes yes collectors are weird, but then again, they will buy the items if you got what their loking for.....

Yeah, $45 for the collection you sold for $11k, of course he was trying to steal it. That happens all teh time....


Valerie Marie said...

Congratuations! $11k!!!!! ((hugs))