I Broke Even Buying Records
Do you have a buddy who’s a compulsive gambler? They might seem charismatic on the surface but actually they’re just dicks who enjoy lying to people. Compulsive gamblers also tell really boring stories that they think are not boring stories. And they’re usually complete idiots, because anybody with a functioning brain will tell you that the house always wins. Record collectors are like that too. Except maybe if you replace “being a charismatic dick who lies” with “being an uncharismatic fat guy who smells like mildew and judges you first before deciding how much to lie to you.” All the other stuff about being idiots with bad stories is the same.
Warning: I’m about to tell you one of those stories.
Last weekend I dropped just under $200 on records. I went to some places where there was a lot of really good shit for not very much money. Usually I just stay at the (amazing) place by my house that has GREAT shit for the exact correct amount of money. I average about $100 a month there. But this weekend was different because I just got a good deal on a used car that I now own. So far I have only used it to take me more conveniently to places where I spend money on records. Gas plus maintenance plus insurance on it costs like $150 a month. If you’re keeping track, that means over the course of the last month I spent $150 for the privilege of paying $300 for records. I am not a coke dealer or a trust fund baby. That is not chump change to me.
I am an idiot.
According to the internet, the records I’ve bought this month are conservatively “worth” around $450. I put “worth” in quotes, because things are only worth whatever somebody pays for them. If somebody wants to pay me $50 for the Del Shannon record I bought, then A. that record is worth $50, and B. that person is $25 of a bigger idiot than I am. I’d pay $25 for it, tops.
If I owned a record store I’d probably slap a $30 price tag on this one Del Shannon record, and let it chill out in the stacks until somebody put it on the preview turntable and heard “The Big Hurt”. Hopefully this fictitious person in my nonexistent record store would not listen to any of the other songs. They’re duds and covers, mostly. Then this person (the person is basically me on a less good day) would buy into the possibly apocryphal fact this one decent album-opening single was “sampled by Ghostface Killah” (true or not, I would write that on there to help sell the record). And then, through that VERY long series of hypotheticals, this thing would be worth $30 to some poor dupe who’s a lot like me. Regardless, I only paid $15 for this one Del Shannon record.
Did you fall asleep yet?
Let me tell you something: the above development thrilled me at the time. This is the kind of thing that passes for a “story” to a record collector. It’s basically I found ten bucks, plus remember that song "Runaway" with the great spooky organ solo that you hear on oldies radio every once in a while, plus look at a Ghostface YouTube. Me telling any other human being about that is like a compulsive gambler telling you about how they went into a casino with a twenty and won $1,100 but then lost all but $50 of it, and along the way there were three different games, a guy who looked like the bald guy from Princess Bride, and they got a free shrimp cocktail. The story takes 20 minutes and at no point do you give a shit.
Or here’s another “more exciting” one: I got a mail-order copy of the new Ty Segall Band double 10". AND GUESS WHAT. It’s a special clear vinyl edition. In The Red only made 300 of the clear ones. More than 300 people want one. People on the internet are currently hoping to charge other people on the internet $100 for the special clear edition of this record. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? #truestory
That sound you hear is your eyeballs shitting blood because they can’t believe what they just read.
Paying $100 for a record you can get anywhere else for less money is utterly ridiculous. But it does happen. In this case, it’s a known fact that Ty Segall doesn’t do things that suck. More and more people figure this out every day, and a portion of these people have a weird complex about being the very best at liking Ty Segall. They want every Ty Segall record. Not only that, they want the best version of every Ty Segall record. The clear version of this one is the best because it “proves” that the owner “cares” enough about Ty Segall to buy the clear version directly from In The Red as soon as it became available. That’s an honorable enough distinction for some crazy maniacs to pay $100 for.
If I was Ty Segall, this thought would creep me out. A lot.
Also, more charitably, if Ty Segall continues to not suck, he might eventually get to a point where some VERY crazy maniacs would pay $200 or $300 for this fucking thing, in which case even paying $100 for it now is maybe not so crazy. That’s maybe a more reasonable excuse for crazy maniacs to talk themselves into paying $100 for a record you can get for $18 here.
All of this is exactly how the thinking goes in what economists call an “insanity bubble.”
I got the clear version. I was going to buy the album anyway, so might as well get the version that’s $100 to a bunch of coo-coos. It’s kind of like basketball-style shooting your sandwich wrapper into the garbage can. If you miss, you just walk over and put it in the garbage can like how you would if you were an adult in the first place. But if you make your shot: hey look at me, I did that from over here in my chair. Well, guess what. I got a clear one. I just drilled a 30-footer with a hand in my face, you guys. I’m the Ray fucking Allen of sandwich wrappers that are metaphors for records over here.
I spent $18 for a potential “worth” of $100. Did I “make” $82? Only if I actually sell the thing for $100. Right now it’s just a record. I don’t plan on selling it. I plan on listening to it and enjoying it like a normal person, just with a little extra smugness thrown in. Aren’t I great? I bought this clear edition record because I like to listen to the Ty Segall Band. I’m not one of “those” people. It’s not my fault I got a clear one. Except I totally am one of those people and it totally is my fault I got a clear version of this thing. But at least I’m listening to the thing instead of just being all weird and collector-y about it, right? I mean, I’ll listen to it as much as I ever listen to my fucking 10”s. Nice call on that one, Ty.
Story-wise, that’s about as exciting as we’re gonna get. Even for us record collectors, who give a shit more than anybody else alive, our best moments offer an excitement that lasts exactly the amount of time it takes to say “oh good, I got a clear one.”
My point is, using the conservative “I’d pay $__ for it tops” method, accounting for inflation, consumer price index, and fluctuations in the secondary collector’s market, factoring in depreciation over time of records from opening them and listening to them instead of sealing them up in some special records vault, I basically turned $450 of my dollars (car plus records) into $450 of records (records) this month. That $450 of records might eventually become more money worth of records, or (more likely) if I smoke pot and scratch them, drop them, or accidentally slather them with barbecue sauce while they are under my care, that $450 might be less. So after one of the best weekends I’ve ever had buying records, including getting a clear edition Ty Segall Band that’s currently scoring $100 from username: CaptainInsano, I basically broke even.
Eat your heart out with that one, compulsive gamblers. Man, what a story.
Of course that’s just the financial side of it. Pure dollars and cents. There’s also music involved. What the figures don’t tell you is this morning when I woke up I was feeling kind of grumpy, so I put my Leslie Gore “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” 45 on the turntable, and then I started my day not feeling so grumpy. So: there’s that.
I’m not being flippant. It might seem to you like I’m wasting an awful lot of time and money chasing very fleeting moments of “oh good, I got a clear one” or “oh good, now I’m not grumpy.” Maybe you’re right. BUT did you ever think of THIS: I might have been grumpy enough to manslaughter somebody today if it weren’t for the fact that I found “You Don’t Own Me” b/w “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” in the 50¢ bin at a flea market three years ago. You can’t put a price on a life, friends. If you could, it would be somewhere between 50¢and $450.
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