Autographed copies, coloured vinyl, vintage pressings: I shelled out for all of them, in the firm belief they’d make me rich one day.
It is the fall of 1985. My friend Clayton Peters is on the phone, talking up a Run DMC autograph session at the Starsounds record shop on Toronto’s College Street. Sure, I say. I can scrape together $7. We arrive and Clayton steers me toward a compilation that features the now-legendary track Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse). Clayton’s taste is always impeccable, so I follow his lead. We get to the front of the autograph line. Sixty-six per cent of Run DMC is standing there, right in front of me. Two quick flourishes, a smile and a nod. I look down at my new record, and there they are in thick blue marker. A pair of autographs: one says RUN, the other DMC.
“Really?” I ask. Joseph “Run” Simmons looks me straight in the eye, incredulous. I have offended the world’s most important rap star.
I gave the record to my kid brother — as did Clayton to his — forever associating mid-1980s hip hop with poor customer experience. My brother Rob has held onto it all these 29 years, thank goodness. I’m sure it’s worth at least a hundred bucks by now.
The truth is it took me most of those 29 years to get over the idea that my record collection would provide some degree of financial security in my retirement years. I have a few gems that I long believed would deliver a payday eventually. Here they are: the eight albums in my retirement plan, complete with net present value.
- Elvis Presley: Elvis’ Golden Records (collectors’ gold vinyl edition). Released in 1978 on RCA. I lifted this from Mom and Dad’s collection. They were a lot cooler than I was in the 1970s. Current value: $20 or less, depending on which website you visit. (I’ve also got a red vinyl 45 of My Way and America that’s worth maybe $30.)
- The Rolling Stones (original 1964 U.K. mono pressing of their debut). I remember the day I found it, another collector stood beside me looking down his nose. “Terrible condition,” he said, which of course signaled to me that he wanted it. I’ve seen another copy on auction for £1,100, but who knows? Mine actually is in pretty terrible condition.
- Nirvana: Bleach (their debut on the independent label Sub Pop). I was a lot more excited about this one until I learned that the original pressing was on white vinyl. Mine is basic black. Still, it’s an indie Nirvana release from 1989. Worth about $25.
- Bauhaus: Bela Lugosi’s Dead (12-Inch single on blue vinyl). Beautiful to look at and listen to. Again though, only worth about $20.
- Simple Minds: New Gold Dream (gold vinyl). Really just a big personal favourite. I couldn’t resist the gold version. And when I got it home, I couldn’t bear to stick a record needle in it. Remains completely pristine. And worth a grand total of $1.
- Prince: The Black Album (bootleg CD). This was the one he changed his mind about at the last minute (or so the story goes). Only ever released unofficially. I’ve seen it online for $35.
- Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols (autographed by drummer Paul Cook). To be honest, signed by P. Cook. So who really knows? Call it $10.
- Blue Rodeo: Diamond Mine (autographed by the full, original lineup). I have to hurry up and sell this because the ink is rubbing off the cover. Interested?
By the way, while my brother and I were sitting on our high-three-figure record collections, Clayton’s kid brother, Russell, went on to become a world-famous comedian. If I’m not mistaken, he still collects records, too.
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