Spin it: Glenn Terry in his record shop, Vicious Sloth, with the pop-up album cover of the Twilight's LP Once Upon a Twilight. Photo: Ken Irwin
Prices for old vinyl are sky high and collecting records is now seen as a legitimate investment on a par with stamps and coins.
Experts say rare recordings by ’60s artists such as the Bee Gees and the Missing Links are still desirable but the big growth area among Australian collectors is in home-grown ’70s punk rock singles.
The emerging cult for collecting vinyl records was first explored in this column in 2006. Seven years later, this niche market is a phenomenon around the world.
In December 2010, Britain's Record Collector magazine published a list of the 200 rarest records ''Of All Time'' with market values. They concentrated on British releases but the recording at No. 1 probably applies globally.
In 1958, an unknown band called the Quarry Men recorded a demo single on a 78rpm acetate disc at a home studio in Liverpool. Two songs were cut, a cover of Buddy Holly's That'll be the Day and an original composition, In Spite of All the Danger. It was the first recording by the combination of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
The acetate was kept by the band's pianist, John Duff Lowe, who sold it to McCartney in 1981 for an undisclosed sum.
It is now regarded as the most valuable record in the world, with a starting price of £150,000 (about $A260,000), according to the magazine. That's a conservative estimate, the Record Collector editors add.
Second in the magazine's list are the 50 to 75 private recordings of this acetate commissioned by McCartney in 1981 to give to friends for Christmas.
These are worth £10,000 each.
Others in the top 10 include copies of the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen single released in 1977 on Herb Alpert's A&M label, before the record company changed its mind and terminated the band's contract. Surviving copies sell for £8000, if not more.
According to Glenn Terry from Vicious Sloth Collectables shop in High Street, Malvern, something similar is happening here, although you can delete a zero or two from those British values.
Rare vinyl is now a big business and Terry says some Australian records are becoming what he calls speculative investments.
''Some people are buying them in the assumption that they will increase in value,'' he says, ''and at this point in time this seems to be a reasonable expectation.''
Prices are increasing for records with the trifecta of collectability: condition, rarity and desirability. Condition in this case means mint or close to it. Even the smallest surface wear reduces value considerably, which means the chances of finding treasure in a junk shop are practically zero.
Another factor is the changing definition of what is desirable.
The ultimate prize
In 2006, the top prices were being paid for 1960s Australian music by lesser-known bands such as the Missing Links, the Creatures, the Marksmen, the Pink Finks and the Wild Cherries. Their singles were worth up to $100, depending on condition, and among them was what was considered the ultimate prize of Australian vinyl - the rare, self-titled album by the Missing Links.
There were reports of copies selling for $2000 but Terry says this record is no longer as much in demand, because copies are more common than was previously believed. The current value is about $1000.
What has changed is a new generation of vinyl collectors who are more interested in music of the 1970s, especially in a style known as progressive, or prog rock.
A prime Australian example is the Wide Open LP by Kahvas Jute, (right) worth about $700 in mint condition.
Others in this league are LPs by Extradition, Galadriel and Melissa, in a range of styles described as trippy rock to acid folk. These are worth up to $1000.
Australian jazz prog is also collectable, with the LP by Syrius valued at about $400.
Also in demand are the first recordings by punk bands such as Radio Birdman and the Saints; the latter available only by mail-order and worth around $650.
Another rarity is a single given away at the Crystal Ballroom in St Kilda by the Boys Next Door, later known as the Birthday Party, fronted by a young Nick Cave.
This phenomenon continues despite most of the music having been re-released on CDs. The committed collector seeks the first release in the original sleeve in the same way that philatelists want the first issue of a stamp. This is what is known as the trophy mentality. Serious collectors, and an increasing number of investors, get a kick out of having something few others have.
Know your product
Valuable Australian punk singles include:
- Radio Birdman, Burn my Eye (EP). 1976 Recorded at Trafalgar Studios. $650.
- The Saints, I’m Stranded (Mail-order single). 1976 Fatal Records. $650.
- Boys next Door, Happy Birthday/Riddle House Crystal Ballroom Give-away 7’’ with foldover picture cover. $250.
- The Thought Criminals, Hilton Bomber EP (Doublethink Records DTDT -1) from Sydney 1978, with cover and insert. $1750.
- Victims, No Thanks To The Human Turd EP with hand coloured cover and insert. From Perth 1978. $750.
- Young Identities, EP (Savage Music SM-02 / PRS-3672) from Brisbane 1979, with original fold-over picture cover. $1000.
- Fun Things, EP (EMI Custom PRS-2783) from Brisbane 1980, with original picture cover. $1200.
- The Chosen Few, The Joke’s On Us! EP Self-released by the band on Few Records. From Melbourne 1978. Needs to be complete with original fold-over cover and lyric insert. $850.
Other Australian treasures include:
- Barry Gibb & the Bee Gees, Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb songs. Leedon Records, 1964. $1500.
- Brian de Courcy presents My Favourite Kinda People. W&G compilation LP. $135.
- The Twilights, Once Upon A Twilight. Rare Pop-up Cover. $400.
- Extradition, Hush. Sweet Peach. $1000 plus.
- Madden and Harris, Fool’s Paradise. Jasmine Records. $1000 plus.
- Lobby Loyde and the Coloured Balls, Ball Power. $200.
- Syrius, self-titled. Spin Records. $400
- Kahvas Jute, Wide Open. Infinity. $700
List courtesy of Vicious Sloth records, 1309 High Street, Malvern. vicioussloth.com.au.
Prices quoted are for records in excellent to near mint condition.