Vol. 2, Issue #13 July 20th - August 2nd, 2007

Tiger Bear From Hell at NONzine.com

By: Wilhelm Murg

Meanwhile, Back in the Record Store...

I grew up haunting record stores. I’ve always been fascinated with the art work on the album covers, the record labels, the science of electronic audio, the boldface hype of the posters, the anal retentive bags and mad scientist cleaning solutions aimed at collectors, and, of course, the music. Yet, as esoteric as record collecting can get, there is the bloody killing floor of the used record store, where people bring in their recently deceased (or rest home-destined) Grandmother’s record collection with dollar signs in their eyes only to find out that Granny’s taste was so mundane that their “inheritance “ is totally worthless, or they bring in their old favorites and discover that they were so hard on their collection that what could have been worth a small fortune is now just a pile of worthless, crappy vinyl and bent cardboard.

This last weekend I helped a friend out by manning his record store for three days while he went to the Rocklahoma music festival. It had been seven years since I helped run a record store. I felt like an old retired General going back into battle with the troops one last time.

I had forgotten what zoos record stores can turn into, especially the used ones with the promise that they “buy records” in bright letters across their windows. They should have “We Buy GOOD records” painted there instead. It’s like the comic book argument – a lot of grown men will insist that their mothers threw out a million dollars worth of their comics, when in reality, most comic book collections were so trashed out that they retained very little of their value. Condition is a major part of the value and, of course, having desirable rarities is major factor too. Just because it’s an old record, or comic book doesn’t mean it’s valuable.

It’s the desperation in the people’s voices that seems out of place in such a shop. I used to frequent an antique store whose owner pointed out that she only sold stuff that people didn’t need; her shop was a place you went for luxury. That should be true for a record store, but I still got people showing up and acting like I was their last best hope for a meal. One man brought in stuff that you would find at a thrift store on a bad day, like old K-Tel compilations, scratchy John Denver albums, and some X-mas albums put out by Firestone in the early 1960s. This is stuff that would be valueless in perfect condition, and it was far from perfect.

“Can you give me ten dollars?” I laughed so hard I thought Pepsi was going to come out of my nose. “I need gas money!”

“Then you came to the wrong place, Brother,” I said. I finally offered him a quarter for the stack.

Collectible records change with each generation, a good rule of thumb is whatever was big thirty years ago is big now, as that age group is now trapped in middle-age and desperately trying to hang onto a part of their fading, misspent youth. Classic rock and punk is currently moving way up to the top of the heap. Yet another customer tried to sell me a collection of Lawrence Welk records.

Then there are the guys who bring in thirty CDs and if you mention anything about the discs they have a blank look on their face. The discs probably belonged to their girlfriends, who probably just left them because they were tired of hanging out with silent, witless goobers. One Bubba in particular, with his nametag on his work shirt, just didn’t seem like he would be that big of an Enya fan.

And let’s not forget the people who want to know how much we pay for records: the answer is anywhere from nothing to thousands of dollars, depending on what it is and it’s condition. The majority wants to know what we pay thousands of dollars for, and I always have to explain that those records are so rare that I don’t even bother to memorize their names, but the chances are slim that they have an unknown Robert Johnson recording in their attic.

Of course there are the court jesters in any record store, like the little weasel-faced guy who is usually drunk – it works as self-medication for his twitches. There are the drunks who come in and want to tell you their experiences with each record they remember (“You never heard of Ultimate Spinach? In 1968 I was on acid and a friend came over with two concert tickets...”) and the true problems for society, like a crack-head that showed up and wanted to sell me stakes. As I explained that I don’t eat stake, he started literally pulling meat packages out of his ass, which were obviously stolen from the grocery store down the road. He left before I had a chance to call the police.

Collectors are a strange lot- by definition we are talking about people with an obsession over inanimate objects, for the most part –there are some wind-up toy collectors out there too. They run the gambit from quantity collectors, who want millions of items regardless of condition, through clueless mediocre collectors, they remind me of children who make noises while playing with the steering wheel in their parents’ car, to high-end, no-nonsense investors who aren’t interested in anything that’s not in the three-figure range. Personally, I’m actually a sound collector; I couldn’t care less what color the label is, I just want the music. You would be amazed at how many collector’s items I’ve ended up with, just using such a simple policy.

So if you’re looking at trading records in, do your dealer a favor and throw out the garbage before you take it in. You always get better deals when you trade, rather than sell – this is supposed to be a hobby, not a way to get money for dinner.

Keep in mind that one good record will put more money in your pocket than a thousand worthless titles.

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