Needle Screech Blog


How Big Is The Perfect Music Collection?

Among all the problems facing archivists and collection librarians is one of selectivity. While they face issues of preservation, storage, and accessibility, one they may not have expected is the crisis of simply having too much stuff. Stuff is good, but too much can be a burden. A consequence of the Boomer Generation’s acquisitive nature is that now those same collecting Boomers are aging, and getting rid of their stuff. Donations are rising dramatically among libraries, institutions, archives, and other repositories of the cultural artifacts of our civilization.

Music libraries and archives, in particular, confront the dilemma of generous donations of records, CDs, and music memorabilia in – pardon – record numbers. There are a lot of people in their 70s and 80s who just don’t or can’t deal with 10,000 LPs or 5,000 CDs or 12,000 78 rpm discs… And they could probably use the tax deduction for a donation.

But the archive that opens its arms to such donations runs a few risks. Can they manage the volume of material in their existing space? Are the records already cataloged or do they need to do that from scratch? How much cleaning and preservation will they need? What will they do about digitizing the vinyl and providing access to different types of potential users?

As a consultant on these issues, I see one overarching concern about accepting large collections: How does the incoming material match your existing collection?

An archivist should ask if this is really a good thing or a bad thing for their particular needs. How will it alter or shape the essential purpose of your collection? I like to help librarians and archivists take a good, hard look at their collection and answer some of these questions. I love to help focus a collection to make it a better resource, a more impressive resource, and, potentially, a more valuable resource.

After all, there are only so many Mantovani, Monkees, and Madonna records one can handle.


“Stephen M. H. Braitman on the British Invasion, from the Beatles to the Sex Pistols”

Collectors WeeklyFeatured in an Collector’s Weekly article in 2010, Stephen M. H.  Braitman shares his insight on why the first wave of British bands flopped before the Beatles made it big in America in early ’64, how British Invasion impact American music in the long run and 70’s punk genre, key labels at the time and more.

British Music Invasion

In this interview, he discusses the British Invasion from a collector’s perspective, and explores the evolution of the technology behind the tunes—from 78s to 45s to LPs, from mono to stereo to quadrophonic.  Both a music appraiser and collector, Stephen can be reached via his website,

In addition to responses specifically about British music translocating to America’s scene, Stephen was also asked to share his role in today’s world of music as an appraiser.

There are two things that are amusing to me,” said Stephen. “When Michael Jackson died, for weeks after, I would get at least one call a day from people saying they had this really rare, original album by Michael Jackson that was really valuable. The album was called “Thriller.” Or maybe it was a 45 of “Beat It.” “It’s an old record,” they’d say. “It’s 20 years old! It’s really old! It’s really valuable.”

[…] other thing that happens regularly, every month or so, is the call from someone saying that they have found the original signed contract for The Who to play at Woodstock. “This is an amazing artifact. This is the actual contract because their signatures are on it. This was a famous concert. It’s Woodstock. It’s got to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

[…] I have to tell everyone who calls—and they call regularly—that in 1970 in the “Who’s Next” album, the band included a copy of its Woodstock contract, as well as all this other memorabilia, with rare signed photos and posters and postcards. Over the years, all that stuff’s gotten out of those albums and is floating around out there. Every so often, someone finds one and thinks they’ve financed the mortgage on their house.”

Collectors Weekly Music History Expert

The veteran music appraiser also has advice for anyone that is interested in getting started as an appraiser: “Start with a genre or start with one band. If you really like U2 or you’re a really big Replacements fan, just stick with that in terms of what you’re actually going to search and buy. Set some limits.”

For the full interview, visit Collectors Weekly.

If you’re looking for a professional Music Appraiser to evaluate a collection or to appraise a music memorabilia, contact Stephen M.H. Braitman, ASA at 415-897-6999 or to schedule a consultation.


“CPA Finds Buried Treasure in Elton John’s Record Collection”


An 2013 article from Accounting Today reports that Jeanine T. Patrick, of Patrick & Patrick CPAs in Upland, California, recently found some hidden treasures in a Sir Elton John collection that was auctioned to raise money for his AIDS charity 20 years ago. The inventory has revealed that the collection is much larger than expected, originally believed to have 50,000 items, it is  now confirmed to contain more than 70,000 items. This includes singles, albums, 8-track cassettes, compact discs and unique studio tapes– a prolific personal record purchasing, personal gifts and material from Sir Elton John’s record company Rocket Records. Stephen M. H. Braitman was featured in Accounting Today to evaluate the new findings within the collection and how it might change the way we understand Elton John as a musician.

“The richness of the collection clearly reflects a passion and curiosity for all genres of music,” said Stephen M. H. Braitman of, the collection’s appraiser. “It is not only comprehensive, but arguably a definitive portrait of the 50’s through the 80’s and possesses an enduring value and importance.  With the Collection’s rarities, unique editions and historical releases, I can’t imagine there is another collection quite like it in the world.”

Elton John Collection

For the full article, visit Accounting Today.

If you’re looking for a professional Music Appraiser to evaluate a collection or to appraise a music memorabilia, contact Stephen M.H. Braitman, ASA at 415-897-6999 or to schedule a consultation.


We Know About The Vinyl Surge, But What About… Cassettes?

The latest issue of Billboard confirms that the retro revolution continues. The cassette audiotape format grew at the retail level 75 percent in 2016. That means 129,000 new cassette tapes were sold. A relatively small number in the overall scheme of music marketing, but still significant. The biggest seller in the cassette format? The soundtrack album to Guardians of the Galaxy sold 4,000 copies.


By the way, vinyl sales were also up, 10 percent, last year, to 13.1 million



The world of record collecting, music memorabilia, the auction and donation scene, and appraisal are ever-changing. But we can probably expect to see something like these predictions in the coming year:


  • The new Vinyl Resurgence Bubble will burst in 2017. Hipsters will stop paying $35.00 for reissues of classic LPs that can still be bought as used originals for $2.00. There will be a huge markdowns on new vinyl LPs, perhaps approaching the legendary 2-for-$1.00 days of the early ‘70s.


  • A major academic institution will be embarrassed when it is discovered that their sheet music collection, dating back to the late 19th Century, was accidentally sent to recycling when a digital librarian was put in charge during the archivist’s vacation. “Nobody plays music from paper anymore,” was the librarian’s first response.


  • Music memorabilia auction prices go higher and higher, catching the eye of investment firms. Major auction house like Christie’s and Bonham’s are sold to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.


  • A previously unknown Robert Johnson recording is discovered on an 8-track cartridge found at an Indiana Goodwill.


  • A new trend of classical music performance catches on: DJs remix classic symphonic recordings live in concert.



Vinyl Record Sales Overtake Digital Music In the U.K.

More records were sold in early December than digital downloads, a first for the United Kingdom. Details were lacking for a comparable figure of U.S. sales, but U.S. vinyl record sales have also continued to climb. This leads one to conjecture about the future of the collectibles market, as there will certainly be  vinyl releases that will not sell well and will become rare … and valuable?