Gimme Gimme Records in Manhattan's East Village, Egon's source for an affordable copy of Charles 'Cha Cha' Shaw's Kingdom Come.
Gimme Gimme Records in Manhattan's East Village, Egon's source for an affordable copy of Charles 'Cha Cha' Shaw's Kingdom Come. Sean O'Sullivan/flickr.com
The recession has wreaked havoc on serious record collectors and the dealers who service them, from those who invested a precious fortune in major-label, early-'90s rap 12"s to those who thought there would always be a market for European sound library albums. Sure, changing trends have something to do with this depreciation — I have boxes of off-brand "deep funk" 45s that I can't unload for anywhere close to what I paid for them a decade ago — but I've found the answer is largely this: neither tight-pocketed nor high rolling collectors are willing to fork out a dime for anything but what the uncouth call "investment grade" wax.
Thus, you're still going to shell out $700+ for a first-press mono issue of The Beatle's iconic Revolver on Parlophone (you know, the one with the alternate mix of "Tomorrow Never Knows"?). But the next time you stumble upon a copy of Edgar Broughton Band's amazing yet cultish Wasa Wasa with a slightly stained cover, you'll probably find it offered for a price not seen since 1995.
This changing market is a shame for those with means, as many of the vinyl-emporiums that used to stock top-shelf pieces shuttered as the floor fell out. But, for the savvy collector looking for great, obscure listens, this is the time for bottom-of-the-barrel to mid-grade purchases. The records are out there, and they're plentiful — a thesis I planned to prove on a recent trip to New York.
I'd been afforded a precious few hours to peruse the bins in what remains of my usual haunts — the dozen or so stores that dot Manhattan's East Village — and I'd made up my mind that I would buy five records for this column for less than $100. Total. There would be no display case purchases. There would be none of that, "Do you have any rare stuff behind the counter?" banter. No, I'd be forced to revisit those mid-'90s days when, as a broke college student, I'd spend the two hours between leaving my summer internship and catching the 9:07 train to New Haven trying to find a $20 bargain.
My first stop was the back room of Academy LPs, where I perused some of the Folkways albums that had found their way from Miles Davis producer Teo Macero's collection, through the New York Public Library, into Academy's stacks. With provenance like that, I knew I wouldn't find any cheapies. So, after some choice listening, I walked out into the brisk air and headed east.