Assessing Classical Vinyl Record Values

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There are many record collectors out there but few are versed in the genre of classical music. There are a couple of price guides (one still in print I believe) but even they don't necessarily give you an item's true value since there are many things to consider such as specific pressings, stampers, reissues, remasterings, limited editions.. etc.

Collectors generally buy classical by 1. labels, 2.  type of music, and 3. specific artists
Let's look at the most popular and collectible labels in order of descending value:

Decca (United Kingdom) SXL-2xxx Series Black/Silver Wide-Band Grooved Label
  First edition Deccas have "Original Recording by" written at the top left arc on the label.
  First edition Covers are identified by a blue border on the rear side.
  Second edition Deccas have "Made in England"  written at the top left arc on the label.
  Third edition Deccas have "Made in England" as above but without the deep groove.
EMI - Columbia (UK) SAX-2xxx Series Silver/Turquoise - crosshatch lines Label
EMI - His Master's Voice (UK) ASD-xxx Cream/Gold Label
Mercury (US) Maroon w/Silver lettering SR-9xxxx Stereo Series
RCA Victor (US) Red color w/"shaded dog" Living Stereo Label
  First edition RCA shaded dogs have "Living Stereo" written at the bottom in small letters.
  Second edition RCA shaded dogs have "Living Stereo" written at the bottom in larger letters.
Sheffield, Crystal Clear, Mobile Fidelity, and other various "Audiophile" Labels

Now let's look at the type of music most wanted by collectors:

String Soloists (unaccompanied violin and cello... i.e. Bach Violin Sonatas, Bach Cello Suites, Kodaly Cello)
String Soloists (with piano accompaniment... i.e. Beethoven, Mozart Sonata for Violin & Piano
String Concertos (solo violin, viola, cello with full orchestral background)
Small Chamber Groups (Usually Trios or String Quartets... i.e. Vienna Konzerthaus)
Symphonies (by full symphony orchestras)
Ballets (complete ballets with full symphony orchestras)
Opera (complete by Mozart, Wagner..few others)
Wind music (chamber to medium sized wind ensembles)
Avant Garde (contemporary, experimental, electronic, etc)
Piano music (much less piano music is collectible than say wind or string music)
Opera Highlights (much less valued than complete sets...there are exceptions)
Operettas (very little value in these)

Finally, Here are some of the most collectible performers (soloists, conductors, etc.)

Female Violinists -  particularly Eastern European...a few names are:
Martzy, Neveu, Morini, Bobesco, Haendel, Auclair, Erlih, DeVito... (Most of these female players have value on just about any label)
Cellists - Starker, Tortelier, Casals, Mainardi, Navarra, Rostropovich (and a few others)
Male Violinists - Kogan, Elman, Spalding, Ricci, Campoli, Schniederhan, Szigeti, Milstein... and several others
Barilli, Vienna Konzerthaus, Budapest, Juilliard, and Hollywood String Quartets
Vienna Wind Players, notably E. Wlach, Clarinet
Orchestra conductors Furtwaengler, Isserstedt, Reiner, Ansermet, Argenta, Fistoulari, Knappertbusch, and several others

Now, with all that said, keep in mind that just because something is listed here doesn't necessarily mean it has value.  By the same token, many rarities by virtually unknown labels, composers, and artists have enormous value, most likely owing to the greatness (or historic significance) of a specific performance, or in many cases the rareness of a certain issue or edition, and in a few cases,  the sonic attributes of a recording.

Now for the Grand Finale, I'll end the discussion with 10 of the most sought after recordings by collectors:
If you spot any of these in your rounds, you will want to snatch them up before anyone else does. If  they're in good shape, that's a huge bonus, for most of them have value in just about any condition. Even the reissues, for example, the 2 Martzy recordings(3 lps each) on red label Angel will bring several hundred dollars in near mint condition.

J. Martzy, Bach Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin, Columbia UK Original Mono only (33cx....)
J. Martzy and J. Antoinietti Schubert Sonatas & Sonatinas on Columbia UK Original Mono only (33cx...)
Janos Starker: Kodaly Sonata for solo cello on Period label (mono only)
Leimer/VPO Piano Concerto no. 4 on Decca Stereo SXL-2100 (very rare)
Janos Starker: Bach Cello Suites, Mercury SR3-9016 Stereo (also valuable in mono)
Furtwangler's Beethoven Eroica Symphony (no.3) on Original Urania (mono only)
DeVito, Mozart Violin Concerto on EMI HMV UK ASD-429 (Stereo)
Kogan, Brahms Violin Concerto on Columbia UK Original Stereo SAX-2307
K. Bohm, Mozart's Magic Flute Opera on Original Decca (UK) Stereo SXL-2215/17 (3 lps)
F. Fennell Hi-Fi ala Espagnole on Mercury Stereo SR-90144
A. Gibson Carmen, Faust Ballet Music on RCA Stereo LSC-2449
F. Reiner Pines, Fountains of Rome on RCA Stereo LSC-2436 (1s/1s pressing only)

Well there you have it!  Good luck with your collecting/selling!


 


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