As hard as it may seem to believe, there once was a time when Bowie fans didn’t take advantage of each other. In 25 years of collecting, I have seen a lot of crazy things. However, nothing like some of the seriously unjustifiable prices that are being asked for certain releases over the past few years. Today, it feels as though there is only an interest in buying as many copies as you can, keeping them sealed so they can be sold on for amounts that are nothing short of extortionate prices. It wasn’t always like this.
In 1994, I bought a copy of The David Bowie World 7″ Discography book to help me in my search for elusive singles. Soon after, I began writing to the author, Marshall Jarman and he would send me letters and catalogues. His prices were always incredibly reasonable and he was always a thoughtful dealer to buy from. He specialised in Prince as well as Bowie. If an item had sold out, he would let me know when it was back in stock. There were in fact, other dealers of a similar ilk, though Marshall became my favourite and I bought a good deal from him over a number of years.
In 1993, Bowie released the soundtrack to The Buddha of Surbubia which sold out not long after release and then became a deleted item. There was little to no promotion for the release. It came out a few months after Black Tie, White Noise. In today’s collecting climate, copies would be selling for £300 plus due to the “supply and demand” line todays rip off merchants try to tell you. With Marshall, the price didn’t change. £14 before being deleted and well, £14 after. This is why so many collectors hold Marshall in such high regard.
The Let’s Dance yellow vinyl that came out in 2015 is a prime example of collecting in 2017. It sold for $25 upon release and now sells for anything between $400 and $900 depending where you look. People argue these prices are fair and reasonable because the release was limited to 550 copies. I call bullshit! Firstly, it wasn’t numbered so there is no genuine proof that it was limited to just that amount and secondly, I know of a number of collectors who managed to buy upwards of 20 copies each. So why do people pay $900 for a 7″ single that sold for $25 upon release? Desperation? The need to own everything? Keeping up with other collectors? It’s not that scarce. Only three days ago, I found no less than 13 copies available to buy online. Copies turn up on a weekly basis. Still, if people are prepared to pay 36 times the price for a 7″ single that is readily available from multiple sites then who am I to complain?
I guess I am a bit old school in collecting Bowie. And I don’t have much time for the selfish and greedy collectors out there who do in fact buy up multiple copies to only sell on for highly inflated prices. And why buy records with no intention of enjoying them? Why stick them in a cupboard for six years because you only want to make a profit? It’s utter madness. In times like these, I thank my lucky stars I was a serious collector during the 1990’s when Marshall Jarman ruled the roost. He even put me onto fabulous fanzines like the sorely missed Crank’n Out, published by Steve Pafford, who has since become a dear friend who I admire greatly.
Every few months, Marshall would send out his latest catalogue whilst in between, there would be regular envelopes containing his latest bootleg releases that were available. This was a time where there were no downloads available and not that many shows were available to hear outside of the infamous inner circle. I’ve met a handful of serious European fans who have played me soundboard recordings of concerts that very few had copies of. I’d never be allowed to listen to full shows but it was still a privilege.
Over the coming days, I’ll share copies of Marshall’s catalogues. They make for a fabulous reference point on prices for multiple items and they give you an indication of just how mental Bowie collecting has become in 2017. I know one thing. Like fuck I will be forking out $900 for a yellow vinyl of Let’s Dance any time soon…..