Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Vinyl Records Are Worthless, Right?

I can't believe how many vinyl records were stamped out of the presses over the years! You can still find them by the thousands laying on the floor at Goodwill, strewn around in various booths at antique malls, in those cute little carrying cases at yard and garage sales, and at vinyl record shows all over the world. Used record stores are slowly disappearing, but there are still some big ones around that are jam packed with millions of little plastic discs. Vinyl records are one of the biggest selling items on eBay, with millions of them listed for auction or sale at any given time. Entire websites like GEMM and MusicStack are dedicated to the sale of vinyl records. With all those records in circulation, you'd think they'd be nearly worthless, right? Well, many of them are -- but....

I've been a record collector for many years. I actually owned a used record store that had two million records in stock. In that business, I met and got to know many of the biggest record collectors and dealers across America, and a few outside the country as well. One of them is a guy by the name of John Tefteller up in Grant's Pass, Oregon (above photo). John's got a huge collection of blues records dating all the way back to the beginning of recorded music. Record collecting is a very competitive sport, so we each get a little jealous of the others at times. Last month, however, John made me feel pretty good, even though he doesn't know it.

John managed to win a copy of a very rare record on eBay. Well, he didn't just "manage" to win it, he put in the winning bid to take it down for a mere $10,323. Yeah, that's US Dollars. The record is called Lonesome Old Jail backed with Greyhound Blues by D. A. Hunt. It's on the legendary Sun record label out of Memphis, Tennessee, the same label where Elvis Presley cut his first five records. That company was run by Sam Phillips whose magic ears could hear the star potential in Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and a whole slew of others. Anyway, this particular record appears to be quite rare. According to the news, John Tefteller now holds the only copy in the world in his hands! Except, of course, there's also MY copy of that same record...

Sun 183 (left photo) has been found in small quantities on the larger 78 RPM discs, but until recently nobody thought that any 45 RPM pressings had ever been made. In fact, Sam Phillips himself "confirmed" that years ago. Back in the 1950's, a bunch of British record hunters came to America on a Record Safari. They went to Sun Records and met with Sam Phillips and, with his help, documented everything that studio ever produced. They found 78 RPM stampers for Sun 183, but no 45 RPM stampers. Sam told them he never made any, but time has proven otherwise. He must have made a very small quantity and then forgot all about them. It's hard to imagine he only made one or two, so there must be more of them out there waiting for you to find in a dusty bin somewhere! The one John Tefteller has is a "stock" copy, meaning it was made for distribution to record stores. The one I have is a "promo" copy, meaning it was meant for free distribution to radio stations. This record is so rare, both versions are worth a ton of money. Find either one and you can jam ten grand into your bank account!

John won his copy from a dealer in St. Paul, Minnesota named Tim Schloe (left photo). His copy is not in very good condition, and condition really counts for a lot when you're figuring out what an old record is worth. They rate John's copy at VG-, which means it's been used a lot and possibly abused by a previous owner. In fact, the eBay description said that it skipped in the middle and the seller didn't attempt to fix that problem. Hey, John, my copy plays all the way through and sounds really nice on the old record player!

Bootleg copies of this record have been made. There was a guy in Florida who made a whole bunch of copies of rare Sun 45s back in the 1970's after getting his hands on some stampers and blank labels. In fact, I have a copy of Sun 183 that he made as well -- which is fake. There's an obvious difference between the fakes and the original. The printing on the label is not the same, and the fakes do not have the three "push marks" that are easy to spot on the originals. These were three small circular indentations in the plastic just inside the label area where a machine pushed the finished record out of the stamping machine. If you find a Sun 45 and it doesn't have these markings, be careful. Many a sucker has been known to pay thousands of dollars for an original Elvis Sun 45 that wasn't really original!

By the way, D. A. Hunt was a bluesman out of Alabama, and this was his one and only record. While there's a lot of buzz right now among record collectors asking each other if John paid too much for this one, it's certainly not the only record worth this much money. If you should happen to find a nice Robert Johnson 78 RPM on the Vocalion label, call me. I'd probably mortgage my house to buy it from you. Likewise, if someone came along and handed me $50,000 in cold hard cash, I'd be very tempted to turn over my mint copies of all five Elvis Presley 45s on the Sun label!

So I thought you'd enjoy hearing one of the most expensive 45's in the world! Here are both sides of Sun 183 for your listening pleasure! Of course, if you listen to MusicMaster Oldies, you've probably already heard them. Yeah, we play BOTH sides of EVERY song ever pressed on the Sun Records label.

Greyhound Blues by D. A. Hunt:

Lonesome Old Jail by D. A. Hunt:


  1. In other words, all you rare record collectors head to Joe's house!

  2. ow my...this is beautiful! love early 20th century music...

  3. Fabulous pair of songs. Don't know that I'd drop 10 grand for it, but I sure do appreciate you letting me hear it.