they’re crazy: collector stories

by Art Chantry:

i refuse to be a collector. even though i’m surrounded by clutter and crap, i much prefer to call myself a “gatherer” or even a “hoarder” rather than a “collector.” collectors are nuts.

i recently found a great little book at half price books called “45 RPM, the history, heroes and villians of a pop music revolution” by jim dawson & steve proper. (backbeat books, 2003.) it’s maybe the best book on the history and trivia of the 45 i’ve yet read (i highly recommend it). it’s not a picture book, but a history book. it’s not very artfully crafted or written. but, it’s full of hardcare history and development and good old stories and lotsa trivia. this is the stuff i love.


for instance, in my ‘gathering’ i found this copy of a 45 sleeve for eddie fisher (above). now, eddie fisher was the teeny bop heartthrob of the the early fifties, he filled the gap for screaming sweaty little girls between “frankie” sinatra and elvis ‘the pelvis’ presley. eddie fisher put out a zillion best selling shmaltzy singles back when the 45 first began it’s existence and even had his own TV show when TV was still an infant. so, it’s no wonder in 1953, they’d create a special 45 sleeve for him to help promote his record (and tv show AND coca cola). this little book i found pointed out that this little item was the very first FULL COLOR PICTURE SLEEVE ever made for a 45 rpm record!

yes, there are those cardboard record covers made prior to this for EP’s and the like (created to be minature albums). they also had generic and even star photos on picture sleeves (with multiple colors) before this sleeve. but this thing really was the first full-bore full color BAGGIE (even though it’s has a the center-cut). imagine that! i had no idea.

so, turns out this thing is actually historical and therefore collectible. go figger. i guess now i need to get rid of it. i try and try to destroy instrinsic value in my gathering (for fear of being caught by that collector bug). if i have anything actually worthwhile in my crap, i’m afraid i’d just get all crazy about it and want more and more and MORE…

let me tell you a story to illustrate why i really don’t want to be a collector (that is also told in that little 45rpm book.) they have a whole chapter called “the 50 most expensive 45’s”. they list the usual do-wop, r&b, jazz, rockablilly, blues, elvis, beatles and sex pistols stuff. all of them obscure and twisted (they tell the ‘story’ of each record and why it’s so collectible.) some of these have sold for over $20,000! so, we’re talking RARE here.

the story i’m interested in is the 45 they list as “#50″ on that list. it concerns a copy of an obscure hispanic vocal group called “the royal chessmen”- a tune called “beggin’ you” (on custom fidelity records). the son of the guy who ran the label used to grab first test pressings of the label releases and take them to his buddies’ houses to smoke dope and listen to these first pressings. that was why steve parent was visiting his buddy william garretson – to sell him some hot stereo equipment, listen to this cool new record and smoke a little dope. hey, it was 1969. the fact that garretson lived in the caretaker shack on the roman polanski estate was only gravy, right?

well, steve got killed by the manson family creepy crawlers as he arrived. the 45 by the royal chessmen was left on the back seat of his death car when it was impounded as a crime scene. after that it disappeared. it may still be in some evidence locker somewhere. it was never released otherwise. it has been bootlegged on other weird illegal labels. but this one copy is gone into the limbo fantasy collector world. it’s now worth $2-5,000. maybe more.

here’s another fucked-up collector story. one of the most valuable horror novels in existence is not by poe or lovecraft or even stephen king. it’s a common mass market paperback copy of a book by horror fiction writer poppy z. brite. it was a review copy dropped for posting into a corner mailbox. as fate would have it, a person burned to death right next to that mailbox (i forget whether it was accidental of otherwise). when that book arrived at it’s

ination, it reeked of burned human flesh. it sold at auction for something like $20,000.

that’s why i refuse to be a collector. they’re crazy.

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