Needle Screech Blog



It’s a noble gesture (usually) for people to donate for raising money for worthwhile causes. The musicians donating their custom Les Paul Guitars (“art pieces’) to help support the Save The Music Foundation is such a one.

Chris Stapleton, Joe Perry, The Roots Contribute Guitars to Save the Music Auction

However, the prices obtained at such charity auctions often do not square with the reality of the marketplace. People are not just bidding on a rare, desirable artifact; they’re making a donation. A custom guitar may sell for $5,000.00 in a Sotheby’s or Heritage auction, but for charity, who knows. It may sell for $50,000.00 or $100,000.00. The point is these charity auctions don’t reflect the Fair Market Value of the items. If you are trying to guesstimate the potential of your item, using these kinds of charity auctions as your guide are bound to bring disappointment.


Having A Lot Of Records Is Not The Same As Having A Valuable Collection

We’re seeing this sort of article in regional and local presses more often. As Boomers take stock of their lives, they are often confronted with an accumulation of stuff that they need to deal with. Record collecting was easy to do, and relatively cheap, for a long time, particularly since the music was so much a part of the social fabric. But now, what to do, what to do. This man has my sympathy, but there’s probably no way he’s going to get close to a dollar a disc for over a quarter-million records. Given the details in this article, one can infer that this is an accumulation, not a collection. He probably just picked up anything he could get his hands on, and didn’t really concern himself with specific pressing editions (except those colored vinyl discs, apparently). Late 20th Century Western Civilization produced the largest amount of consumer goods in history; and now many people think they’ve got a gold mine. Well, there are a lot of “gold mines” out there. Don’t get your hopes up.

Medford man looking to sell collection of 260,000 records

The 68-year-old Medford resident has 260,000 albums in storage, but he says age and illness is prompting him to part ways with his prized collection that includes everything from Little Richard and Elvis Presley to Brahms and Beethoven.


The Wheel Turns… Elvis Memorabilia Plummets In Value

It’s inevitable that the groups of collectors who bolster specific niche categories tend to “finish” with their collecting at some point in their lives. Or deaths. The collectors of Elvis Presley records and memorabilia may have hit their wall, and as this article details, the value of the material is falling in the marketplace.

Many factors are at play here: The aging of the collector fan base for Elvis; the saturation of the market for Elvis material that is being given up by people who no longer want to collect “The King”; a phase of cultural history is passing into the limelight where the music and artifacts have less relevance to the fickle marketplace. Right now punk music is really hot, and prices are accelerating. Rockabilly has cooled down considerably. “Northern Soul” has plateaued. But for all the categories, including Elvis, the truly rare and the truly iconic material will keep its value. A near mint first original pressing of Elvis’ debut album will still command attention, though “Do The Clam” may pass into trivia territory.

Can’t help falling in price: why Elvis memorabilia is plummeting in value

As the King’s fans die of old age, and their collections hit the second-hand market, vintage Elvis records have never been cheaper





But what to collect is not always obvious. At one time, the thought of collecting comic books was absurd. Same with baseball cards. They were just kid’s stuff, right?

Now, collecting has become a global phenomenon, and, fortunately (or otherwise), civilization has produced a lot – a LOT – of stuff to collect. Some things just pass us by, though, until it’s too late to get in on the ground floor when they’re still cheap.

There are indeed plenty of things to collect right now that have the potential to be worthwhile investments. In terms of recordings and music memorabilia, it’s obvious that we’re on a sharp upward curve in original vinyl records. It’s also obvious that compact discs are on a sharp downward curve. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense to collect CDs, only that a collector needs to be smart about it.

Let’s look briefly at DVDs. In the rush to downloading and streaming, DVDs are on a faster popularity descent than CDs. Like vinyl, there may be a resurgence of interest in physical DVDs at some point in the future. Probably, though, it will not be as large a wave as LPs are enjoying now because DVDs will not have the same kind of nostalgic hook. Still, there are some things a DVD can offer that simple streaming can’t (at least not yet).

Don’t discount the tactile, physical nature of DVDs, with their images and information. And, all that extra stuff probably won’t be ported to the streaming services, either.

Here are some examples pulled at random:

The original Warner Bros. DVD and Blu-Ray combined release of Martin Scorsese’s classic concert footage of “The Last Waltz” went out of print quickly. There is a current Blu-Ray edition, but it lacks extra footage, a couple audio commentaries, and a new documentary, “Revisiting The Last Waltz.”

The excellent U2 concert captured in the documentary, “Under A Blood Red Sky,” is out of print, and prices on Amazon currently range from $25 to $90 for copies in its original deluxe plastic case. There a nice booklet that comes with the DVD, and the director commentary is sure to be missing from the streaming options.

Virtually unknown in the country, Slade were one of Britain’s biggest and best bands of the ‘70s before punk. Their very worthy dramatic film, “Slade In Flame,” was released on DVD in the U.S. by Shout Factory in 2004. It is OOP but still found relatively inexpensively. For now. Streaming, yes, but no poster insert, and no 50-minute interview.

Classical music on DVD is perhaps even more ephemeral than pop music. Three superb versions of Alban Berg’s masterful expressionist opera “Lulu” were all released on DVD around the same time in 2010-2011. Two are still in print, or, rather, you can still buy new copies. The Deutsche Grammophon DVD with Patricia Petibon is cheap at $22.00 new, while Opus Arte’s Royal Opera House performance with Agneta Eichenholz is $32.00. But the ArtHaus Musik release with Laura Aikin is OOP, and there’s currently one copy on Amazon for $88.00. Now, these may or may not be available for downloading or streaming, but the DVDs have very nice cover designs and each has extensive booklets with notes and photographs.

The question is, of course, will the physical media matter? Will nice packaging and photographs and booklets and “extras” matter to someone in the future, someone who will want the actual DVD? That’s what makes collecting such an interesting challenge when gazing into the crystal ball. Who would have thought vinyl would come back? Why, even cassettes are being made again! The DVD may become a dinosaur format, but I’m willing to bet some of these boxes will be highly sought after. And valuable.


British Library Launches Sound Preservation Project To Rescue Half A Million Recordings

The British Library is launching a national preservation network – Unlocking Our Sound Heritage – to save almost half a million rare and unique recordings threatened by physical degradation or those stored on now defunct formats.

Read More Here:


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.