Among the many John Lennon vocal performances captured on vinyl, the following may not be the most familiar: “Yeah, I’d like to say hi to all of you … The message is, you know – if you like it sell it, if you don’t, try and sell it anyway cos we’re all in the same business.” Lennon’s laconic pep talk can be heard on a 7in single recorded for EMI salesmen in 1974 to encourage them to push his new album. He can be heard, that is, if you have the £2,000 required to buy one of the handful of copies that were pressed.
The figure is quoted in the latest Rare Record Price Guide 2014, a bi-annual brieze block of musical small-print whose newest edition has just been published by Record Collector magazine. Among its 100,000 entries are details of releases so arcane they make the Lennon single look like a copy of Do They Know It’s Christmas?. Accompanying its release, the magazine is featuring its list of “The 200 Rarest Records Today”. To read it is to enter a world at once entirely recognisable yet utterly abstruse, where the Beatles, David Bowie and Queen rule the roost, but only in the bizarrest of out-takes and mutations. What is clear, however, from the article’s opening line, is that even with “gold on the slide, the price for mega-rare vinyl remains unaffected by the recession”.
“We’re talking about the top end of the market,” says Ian Shirley, editor of the guide. “Top end for a record is anything from £200 to £10,000. Rare means, one, there are not many of those records around, and two, they’re records people want to desperately own. It’s the cachet, the desirability. We have dealers who we talk to about the prices they’re selling records for. We have collectors who give us feedback on what they’ve been paying. And there’s now an open auction market on trading sites and eBay, so you can see what those records sell for.