I’ve been an avid collector of David Bowie since 1992. Actually, I have been an avid music collector of many other bands since around the same time. In this time I have seen many changes to the market. When it all began for me in late 1992 I would gather my prized items from record stores, mailing lists or random record fairs which catered specifically to devoted relic finders such as myself.
By mid 1994 I was buying most of my Bowie items direct from a dealer who went by the name of Marshall Jarman in the UK. His prices were respectable, the items themselves were always delivered in A1 condition and he would always set aside something for you should it was on your wish list. Most of all, Marshall would never charge inflated prices.
Fast forward a few years and we find ourselves in a new era of collecting thanks to eBay. No more letter writing, no more international money orders. It’s all online and deals are done fast! Unfortunately, this new wave of dealing in collectables brings with it, a surge of new “dealers” who are able to decide their own gradings on records whilst allowing the the masses to decide the value of said item through the online auction site.
With every positive, we are almost always provided with a negative. With online auction sites like eBay, the negatives have, in time begun to outweigh the benefits. For the rare items, many dealers have taken to setting up fake accounts to help with “phantom” bids for their items. If there is only one or two bidders on an item, the “phantom” bidder can jump in late on to help create a bidding war that, had it not been for the “phantom” involvement may not have arrised, hence the bidding war and increased final sale price of the item.
In recent years we have seen the advent of Record Store Day, an event that gives bands and singers the chance to release picture discs, live albums, re-issues and other such mod cons in somewhat limited numbers to provide collectors with something different to the norm. In theory, this is a brilliant scheme and in its infancy, Record Store Day began with great promise in 2008 though, since its inception the day has become a bit of a farce.
Now it has become a glory hunt where students and dealers pull out what savings they have in order to buy a few rare items which they can re-sell on eBay for five, six or even ten times the original value, often with days. A false economy has been created based on hype and nothing else.
In 2012 Starman was re-issued for RSD for the princely sum of £9.99. Later that day copies began to surface on eBay for a “buy it now” price of of £99! And if you think that is steep, you can pick up a copy now for £250! How does a record increase in value by the ratio of ten times its price within two years? Scarcity? Uniqueness? Demand? Well, despite these options being viable, there is only one answer worth considering.
Yep, pure and simple greed. It has driven out society for thousands of years. So why should it change now you ask? I’m glad you asked.
Record collecting for the best part over the past four decades or more has been saddled with a gentlemen’s agreement of sorts. Rule number one is that you don’t rip other collectors off. Rule two? You don’t rip other collectors off. I’m guessing you have got the idea now?
Take this 1969 copy of Bowie’s Space Oddity single from Sweden. The market value of this 7″ single has been around the £80 mark for a long while now. Finding a copy in good condition is a tough ask. So why then does the value of this scarce 1969 single fail to rise above £80 whilst a copy of a re-issued single, Starman, fetch £250? It’s all down to a false economy. A false economy created by the greed of the wannabe dealer.
Another example of the false economy targeted towards record collectors is the 2014 RSD re-issue of Bowie’s 1984 on picture disc.
The single, released only two months ago, is already fetching £100 on eBay. It sold for a tenth of the asking price on the day of release. And there are plenty of copies floating around which makes one wonder who would pay such an exorbitant price? Sadly, people are paying these prices which only feeds this false collectors economy.
People often ask me why I enjoyed collecting more in the 1990s than I do today. Back then you could deal with other collectors and always know you would be getting a fair and balanced price for the item you desired. Today, you have to deal with a different “shark” dealer around each and every corner. The Marshall Jarman’s of this world are now, sadly, few and far between.
OK, where is that time machine? It’s time for this record collector to head back to the 1990s…….