Rock & Roll Record Albums Price Guide

 

 

Rock & Roll Records Al­bums Price Guide
O'Sullivan Wood­side, 1985

 

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.

About that some­one once fa­mous once said, "La-di-da."

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ow_lp_guide250

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.

Record Album Price Guides

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.

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riotstrip_sdtklp

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.

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!


Some­thing was def­i­nitely not right with all the other price guides out there,
and every­body knew it.


While the full ti­tle of my book was The 1985-1986 Edi­tion of the 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:

1. It was the only book by me at the time.

2. It was very dif­fer­ent from the other record col­lec­tors price guides out there—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."

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turtles_battle

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!


All the other price guides out there were caus­ing more harm than good to,
and every­body knew it.


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!

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herman_holdon

Herman's Her­mits had a string of Top 40 hits in the mid-'60s, with four of their LPs cer­ti­fied for RIAA Gold Record Awards. But by 1985, al­most no one wanted any of their records at any price. The bulk of their MGM cat­a­log was avail­able as cut-outs, and col­lec­tors rarely paid more than $2 per ti­tle for sealed al­bums. Nonethe­less, they were listed in the price guides as used records for $8-12 apiece.

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.

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mamaspapas

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 PAPASMAMAS 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 Mc­Cro­rys 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.


In the other price guides, com­mon records were over­priced while rare records were un­der­val­ued,
and every­body knew it.


Along with the old monos, 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.

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who_happyjack

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 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.


The "Umphred book" was dif­fer­ent from all the other price guides out there,
and every­body knew it.


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!

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buttons_london

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 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 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?

3. No one ever re­marked upon this as­pect of the book!

2. A few read­ers no­ticed this, of which I was thank­ful!!

1. Every­body no­ticed I had raised the f*cking prices!!!

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nu_ow_elvis_250

My sec­ond book was a new Elvis price guide, and the in­ter­ested reader can find an ar­ti­cle de­voted to that book by click­ing on the cover of the Elvis Pres­ley Record Price Guide on the home­page of this web­site.

My BIGGEST regret

Due to my rais­ing the val­ues of the rare records, the 1985-86 Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide was known as "that f*cking Umphred book," and I was known as "the guy who raised the f*cking prices."

As the In­ter­net has shown, those records that I had deemed com­mon were even more com­mon than my book im­plied.

Con­versely, those records I deemed rare are far rarer than my book im­plied.

So, my one BIG re­gret with that first book was that I didn't raise those f*cking prices enough . . .

About my other books

There are eight ar­ti­cles on this site ex­plain­ing the var­i­ous books I pub­lished for record col­lec­tors. They are best read in the fol­low­ing or­der, which is roughly chrono­log­i­cal:

1. O’Sullivan Woodside’s Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide
2. O’Sullivan Woodside’s Elvis Pres­ley Record Price Guide
3. Goldmine’s Price Guide to Col­lectible Record Al­bums (1st edi­tion)
4. Goldmine’s Price Guide to Col­lectible Record Al­bums (5th edi­tion)
5. Goldmine’s Rock’n Roll 45RPM Record Price Guide
6. Goldmine’s Price Guide to Col­lectible Jazz Al­bums
7. A Touch Of Gold – Elvis Record & Mem­o­ra­bilia Price Guide
8. Blues and R&B 45s of the ’50s Price Guide

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