the stupidest way to price a record album I ever saw!

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 minutes.

WHAT IS THE STUPIDEST WAY to put a price on a record album that I ever saw? It hap­pened forty years ago in a thrift shop in San Fran­cisco and I still shudder thinking about it. And it didn’t in­volve those impossible-to-remove-without-lighter-fluid stickers that record store owners who don’t trust their cus­tomers affix to the front covers of LPs!

When I moved into the Bay Area in 1978, I im­me­di­ately sought out all of the new and used record stores in the area along with the many thrift shops. While I had found “thrifting” for records in Penn­syl­vania to be a time-wasting pro­ce­dure, I needed to learn if the same held true in my new home area.

But “normal” for record col­lec­tors changed in the ’70s with the pub­li­ca­tion of the first record col­lec­tors’ price guides.

On my first day scouting out San Fran­cisco, I looked specif­i­cally for thrift shops run by or­ga­ni­za­tions like Good­will, the Sal­va­tion Army, and St. Vin­cent de Paul’s. This led me to a shop in one of the older sec­tions of the city and the two em­ployees were pricing sev­eral boxes of re­cently do­nated LP albums.

Nor­mally, such shops didn’t waste their time as­sessing the “value” of in­di­vidual records but simply placed them in boxes on the floor in the back of the store and priced them at a dollar each. But “normal” had changed a few years ago with the pub­li­ca­tion of the first record col­lec­tors’ price guides for albums.

The books were pub­lished by O’Sullivan-Woodside, a small com­pany in Phoenix, Ari­zona. While the hobby and busi­ness of record col­lecting needed price guides, they needed ac­cu­rate price guides. This was not what these books gave their readers. But that’s an­other story.

I de­cided to post this story here rather than in my record col­lec­tors blog as it tran­scends the hobby and busi­ness of buying and selling used records (and as a way to steer you to­wards that other bog, Rather Rare Records).


Stupidest Way: front cover of Nancy Sinatra's SUGAR album from 1966.

Nancy Sina­tra’s “fif­teen min­utes of fame” on the pop charts lasted from early 1966 into early ’68. During that time, she scored four Top 10 hits. After that, she couldn’t get a single any­where near the na­tional Top 40. Re­leased in early 1967, SUGAR (Reprise 6239) was only her second album to reach the Top 20 on Bill­board’s LP chart.

They had a routine

When I walked into that shop in the older sec­tion of the city, there were two em­ployees being busy pricing a few hun­dred newly do­nated al­bums at the front of the store. There was a fe­male ten years older than me and a male ten years younger. They had a routine:

1.  Guy pulls an LP out of the box and says the name of the artist.
2.  Gal looks up the artist in the price guide.
3.  Guy says the name of the album.
4.  Gal looks up the album and reads a price from the book.
5.  Guy uses half the number she reads as the price for the album.

As rou­tines go, this wasn’t a bad way to price records. But—and, need­less to say—the gal al­ways se­lected the highest “price” in the book: the value for records with near mint la­bels on near mint vinyl in near mint jackets of first pressing records.


Stupidest Way: role of circular white removable labels/stickers.

A role of white la­bels, each about the size of a US nickel. These la­bels have an af­fix­a­tive on the back that does not stick per­ma­nently to most sur­faces, al­lowing them to be easily re­moved from the covers of record al­bums or books. 

The stupidest way I ever saw

The guy did not bother to slide the records out of the jackets for even a cur­sory vi­sual in­spec­tion. This meant that:

•  They did not check that the record in the jacket was the cor­rect record.
  They did not check that the record had first pressing labels.
  They did not check that the record was in near-mint condition.

So, first pressing or later pressing, cor­rect record or wrong record, near mint record or trashed record, each al­bum’s price was based on the NM value of the first pressing in the price guide!

Which is a stupid way to go about selling used and col­lectible records. Now here’s where it gets “better”: In­stead of writing the price on a re­mov­able sticker and af­fixing it to the jacket, they wrote that price in large num­bers on the front cover of the album! And, of course, they used a per­ma­nent black marker.

This has to be the stu­pidest way to price a record album that I ever saw!

I walked around until I found the record sec­tion in the back of the store and—sure enough—every album cover was de­faced with a black marker.


Stupidest Way: front cover of Nancy Sinatra's SUGAR album from 1966 with price.

Un­for­tu­nately, I wasn’t hip enough in 1980 to buy one of the de­faced al­bums and save it for some fu­ture use—like telling this story. I cre­ated this mock-up by run­ning an image of the SUGAR album cover through the Imgflip meme gen­er­ator and adding the price there.

Permanently damaged

I headed to the door, gri­maced slightly as I nodded goodbye to gal and guy, and headed for the next thrift store in the older sec­tions of Baghdad by the Bay. I have seen many weird ways of “pricing” a record but nothing like this.

In one of my Gold­mine books, I com­pared it to a used car dealer painting the price on the hood of a car. But as ex­treme an image as that is, you can al­ways paint over the price on the car. Once the cover of an album has been de­faced by a per­ma­nent marker, it’s per­ma­nently damaged.

In hind­sight, I should have bought one of the de­faced al­bums and taken it home as a souvenir . . . 

But ‘normal’ for record col­lec­tors hoping to score at thrift shops changed in the ’70s with the pub­li­ca­tion of the first record col­lec­tors’ price guides. Click To Tweet

Stupidest Way: photo of Nancy Sinatra in pink bikini with guitar from 1966

FEATURED IMAGE: I could have used any album re­leased prior to 1980 for this ar­ticle. While she re­leased sev­eral al­bums with lovely cover photos in the ’60s, the pink bikini photo cer­tainly caught the at­ten­tion of many 15-year-old boys at the time of its re­lease, in­cluding me. So, I se­lected the mono ver­sion of Nan­cy’s SUGAR album (Reprise R-6239) as my ex­ample for this article.

Fi­nally, the ar­ticle was “in­spired” by reading Steven Hale’s “More Afro­cen­tric Jazz” on his “Ad­ven­tures In Vinyl” column on Medium. But I just went back to the column to write this ref­er­ence and I’ll be ding­danged if I can re­member why his piece made me write this piece!


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NYC wasn’t any dif­ferent! There are ass­holes from one corner of the world to the other. In the US in this day and age, they’re re­ferred to as No Vaxx/No Mask Trumpers.