In the past year the media has been filled with stories on the return of the vinyl record. Even the old Columba Record Club is making a comeback. Yes, new vinyl is back. The real valuable collectibles are the vintage vinyl record albums from the Golden Age (1960-1980). Younger collectors are visiting flea markets, yard sales, second hand stores to search the bins for the older vinyl records.
There are several reasons for a generation that did not live through those wonderful days of the 1960’s and part of the 70’s would want to secure and play old albums. Many want to hear the music including all the scratches, background noise of the recording in its original state. Secondly many of those fantastic artists of that period have recently passed away.
Prior to the development of the vinyl record it was the heavy shellac short playing 78’s that were played on phonographs. The old 78’s besides being heavy did not have enough grooves to allow a long playing song. In addition, it was impossible to play more than one record at a time. In 1941 the Columbia Record Company had begun to work with the new light vinyl material. Sadly, when World War II began the development was put on hold until the end of the war.
With the end of World War II and the beginning of a time of prosperity the various record companies went back to their prewar research on the development of a vinyl record. On June 18,1948, the Columbia Record Company held a press conference at the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The purpose was to unveil and introduce the new 331/3 long playing album record. The new record was able to have 20 minutes of recorded music on each side. The market was opened to more music on one long playing record, better quality and a lower price for the purchaser.
Shortly afterward the RCA Company issued not a 331/3 vinyl record, but a 45 vinyl record. Until the mid 1950’s the largest selling vinyl record was the 45RPM. It had one song on each side - the A side and B side. The vinyl 45’s were cheaper and were marketed as "at one cheap price one could have that hit song." The S.S. Kresge stores ran ads "The Friendly Store With The Latest Hits." Many 45’s are valuable depending on the artist and the image on the paper cover that contained the record. A special phonograph was developed that only played 45RPM records. These record players have become hot collectible items over the years.
As the 331/3 long playing album became the largest selling record type in the mid 1950’s no family living could be without a large, enclosed record player. The record player became the center of the home entertainment. Today those Mid-Century modern furniture pieces have become a collectible in themselves. Many of the new vinyl record collectors are decorating their homes with Mid-Century modern furniture and the walls with album covers.
The amount of vintage vinyl long playing records is endless. Some collectors focus on collecting certain categories; Christmas, rock and roll, groups, children’s, movies, Broadway shows, Western, single artists, collections of the all-time hits, albums that were given as premiums for purchasing a certain product. The list is endless many collectors focus on crossover items. One example is a Western group that was formed in the 1930’s and continues on into the present The Sons of the Pioneers. The group’s singer was Roy Rogers and featured Canadian Bob Nolan, Pat Brady and Ken Curtis. The group became called the "Icons of Western Music". Bob Nolan wrote the famous song Cool, Clear Water. Roy Rogers became famous in the movies and on his television show in the 1950’s with his wife Dale Evans. Pat Brady who was a member of the group became a regular on the television show along with his jeep Nellie Bell. Ken Curtis became a star on the Gunsmoke show which ran for twenty years. Record collectors search for the early LP’s of the group and pop culture collectors for the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans connection.
Two albums from the 1960’s which introduced folk rock/psychedelic music from San Francisco Haight Ashbury District. Jefferson Airplane made their debut on August 13, 1965 at the Matrix Club in San Francisco. Their first two albums have become hot collectibles. Usually the first album is the most valuable, but there is a story behind the first two which makes each a sought after collectible. The first album released on August 15, 1966 entitled, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off did not have Gracie Slick as the female singer. It was Signe Anderson. She left the group after having her first child and did not want to travel on the road with a baby. The baby was named Ladybug. Signe died in Portland, Oregon on January 28, 2016. The second album Surrealistic Pillow was released on February 1, 1967 and features Gracie Slick. Gracie Slick belts out the two songs White Rabbit and Go Tell Alice which became immediate hits and put the Flower Power Generation on the airwaves. The albums are becoming even more collectible since Paul Kantner another member of the group passed away on the same day as Signe Anderson.
Andy Warhol material is hot. Tina my wife purchased the famous Andy Warhol produced The Velvet Underground and Nico. The album was released in New York City on March 12, 1967. The album’s songs were the first to deal with drug abuse, sadism, and other taboo social topics of the day. One reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle described it as "The electronic music, loud enough to make the room and the mind vibrate in unison." Other critics described the album as "A savage series of atonal thrusts, the whole sound seems be the product of a secret marriage between Bob Dylan and the Marquis de Sade." Lou Reed who died almost three years ago was a member of the group. Collectors seek out the album not just for its connection to Andy Warhol, Nico and the group, but crossover album cover collectors want it to. The album cover features Andy Warhol and a giant yellow banana. Next to the banana are the words "Peel Slowly and See". I won’t reveal what is underneath and of course the value is much more if unpeeled, but many could not resist. As a side note my experiences with that wonderful time of the 1960’s is that I met Andy Warhol at the University of Alabama and then later when I lived in New York City. Sorry I did not buy more of his paintings.
The Golden Age coincided with the Golden Age of the music from Hollywood movies. In that period unlike now it seemed every movie was on a giant screen with a magnificent musical score. Collectors search for albums by Roger Miller, Henry Mancini, Ferranti & Teicher.
The other crossover collector are the ones searching for album covers. The Monkees from the late 1960’s had some great covers. Peter, Paul and Mary had one appearing as gangsters. When I was at the University of Alabama hours were spent studying the Beatles - Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. We attempted to identify everyone on the cover and then attempt to discover why were they on the cover in the first place. Looking at the inside cover tonight I came to the realization that I had never noticed the Ontario Provincial Police patch on Paul’s band jacket. The search for vintage vinyl records brings home the old saying "Don’t Throw Anything Out - What Is Old Becomes New Again."