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Record Weirdo: Binge and Purge - Selling records at the Greater Orange County Record Show
September 28, 2003

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Greater Orange County Record Show

It was time to thin the herd, separate the wheat from the chaff, and about four hundred other bad analogies. About once a year, I like to get a table at a record show and sell some of the stuff I have accumulated. For some collectors this might be comparable to pulling teeth or amputating a limb, but for me it gets easier each time. I am now able to do it completely without anesthesia.
What makes it easier is the realization that I have hundreds of records that I will never, ever listen to. The space that they occupy would be much more useful as empty space – not just in my house, but also in my life.

Selling at one record show a year is plenty for me. I don’t want to lose my amateur status.

Why do I accumulate such useless junk in the first place? I don't know. Maybe I am not fully evolved and haven't quite gotten over the hunting and gathering instinct. Why do cats kill things and leave them on the doorstep instead of eating them? Same reason - they probably don't know either.

Actually my surplus of records can be easily explained. It was an accident. It was a series of accidents. I’m sick.
When buying stuff at yard sales, flea markets, or other outlets on the bottom rung of the ladder of capitalism, I will sometimes buy in bulk. If I find a few interesting records in a box for a buck each, I’ll ask how much they want for the whole lot. Usually it's just a couple of bucks more. It's sometimes a good way of discovering unknown (to me) music. I'm also a sucker for a bargain.

Sometimes I get free stuff. When people find out that I collect records, they offer to give me the records that have been gathering cobwebs since they bought a CD player in the 80's or, in some extreme cases, since they bought a cassette deck during the Tony Orlando and Dawn Administration. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes this is not good.

I tell people that I sometimes sell records at collector's shows and that their once-cherished possessions might get sold to any unwashed reprobate with a buck in his pocket. Most people don't care; they just want to get rid of their old junk. There's a word for those people - normal.

Sometimes I buy stuff that I don’t like, but I know it’s valuable and I can re-sell it. This is morally wrong but I do it anyway. Here are two examples: I bought a Mother Love Bone album at a yard sale. I knew it was worth a few bucks to somebody, so I hauled it to a record show to sell. It got stolen. I chalked it up to Karma. Greed is bad. I wasn't very upset, though. At least I didn't have to take that shitty record home.

Quiet Riot IIExample two - same situation and motivation with the album "Quiet Riot II". If you've seen their story on "Behind the Music" you will know that they made two albums with Randy Rhoads, who later became famous for playing with Ozzy Osbourne. Heavy metal guys hold Randy Rhoads in high regard, not just because he was a good guitar player, but also because he died before making any horrible, self-indulgent solo albums. This Quiet Riot album, as bad as it is, is collectible because it was only released in Japan. On the cover, the band is shown primping and posing in a locker room with several partially clothed athletes. This may have made some early 80’s heavy metal fans uncomfortable and the record didn’t sell. In fact, the Village People would have probably rejected this cover as being "too gay". Anyway, I've already hauled this clunker to a couple shows without success. Obviously, I'm not very bright.

Getting a table at a record show is fairly easy. There is no secret language or code, at least that I know of. You find a record show, find out who’s in charge, and just tell them that you want to reserve a table at the next show. Some will want money up front and I don't blame them. Then the work starts.

Pricing. Pricing is an art. There are several price guides available, but they should not be taken literally. They can be informative but most of the prices listed do not represent real life. Okay, pricing is pure guesswork. If you price too high you won't sell anything. If you price too low you will run out of stuff and have nothing to show for it, which is what I try to do.

On to the show. I brought about 1000 combined items to sell - 12”albums, 7" singles, CD's, DVD's, and books. I also brought 63 8-track tapes. Exactly one small truckload.

Load-in was 7:00 am. As I pulled in, there were several informal sales already going on in the parking lot. Inside was busy too. There is an early admission thing at this show where the serious geeks pay a bunch of money to get in early and get the best stuff. I will never be one of those guys.

It took me several trips to move all my stuff inside, but as soon as it was plopped on the table, they were on me like piranhas on a clumsy wet cow. I made enough to cover my gas in the first twelve seconds. I paid for the table in the first ten minutes.
I expected the initial feeding frenzy but knew it wouldn’t last. As soon as the early bird rush was over, the other dealers came sniffing around. I was a first-time seller at this show and they could smell fresh meat. I'm certain that a large percentage of the records sold at any of these shows are sold exclusively to other dealers and never actually make it to the hands of an actual consumer. A record will make several rounds of all the regional shows in the hands of several different dealers, each time with a slight mark-up. This will give the impression that the record is going up in value and will be noted in the next edition of someone's price guide. Eventually, someone will have a half-price sale and it will start all over again.

I made twice as much money before the show officially started than I did the rest of the day.
Much to my relief, one of the first records to go was the Quiet Riot. I was asking ten dollars but I said, "yes" before they could say, "will you take eight?"

I had four boxes full of about one hundred 45's each that I marked at 25 cents a pop. Most were beat up old cast-offs that had just magically accumulated over time. Some records seem to reproduce when left alone. Anyway, these consistently went like hotcakes throughout the day. I should sell them by weight. They didn't bring in a lot of money, but they brought people to the table and kept it active. There is nothing that attracts collectors like other collectors - if they see a crowd then they want to be part of it.
When the action started to slow down, I got a chance to observe and write down a few notes.

A dealer sitting behind me with his table facing in the opposite direction kept farting.
One of the early bird guys looked just like Bruce Dern and smelled like he just finished an all-night shift as a waiter in a Dutch hashish bar.
“Portable Record Player Guys” annoy me. They carry these toy battery operated turntables from the 60’s and have to listen to every stinking record that they look at. One guy spent an hour blocking up my table listening to the first couple seconds of almost every one of my 45’s. He spent a grand total of fifty cents and scared away thousands of potential customers.

“Price Guide Guys” annoy me. They have to look up everything to see what it’s worth before they consider buying it. Case in point – a Jerry Lewis look-a-like in his fifties or sixties. He had a price guide attached to him like a conjoined twin. Every page had been laminated, punched, and put in a three-ring binder for quicker looker-upping. What did he buy? The Dave Clark Five, David Bowie, two solo efforts by members of Kiss, and “Ca Plane Pour Moi” by Plastic Bertrand. Of course. Don’t be too scared, he was only a dealer planning on reselling them. He’s not loose on the streets.

Diane Renay I don’t know why, but this reminded me of a line from the funniest movie of the last decade – “Twister”. There’s a scene where the lovable misfit tornado guys come in contact with a rival group of tornado guys that have a bunch of spiffy equipment and matching outfits. One of the misfit guys says something like “they’re only in it for the fame and fortune and not the science.” I’m not sure what that has to do with anything, but it still makes me laugh.

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