Fans spin vinyl to record high

David Bowie's Blackstar
David Bowie’s Blackstar was the top seller last year

The vinyl-record industry has been abuzz with the news that global record sales are set to top $1bn this year. It comes as sales of LPs hit a 25-year high in Britain in 2016, with more than 3.2 million sold – a rise of 53% on the previous year, according to the British Phonographic Industry. Vinyl should make up about a fifth of all physical-format music sales in 2017, and close to 7% of the $15bn that the global music industry is expected to rake in this year.

However, collectors – who pay on average more than $20 a record – shouldn’t get too excited. The market will soon wind down, say consultants at Deloitte. “In 1981, over one billion albums were sold. In 2017 it will be around 40 million. This is not the resurgence that is portrayed. It is a blip,” Paul Lee, Deloitte’s head of technology, media and telecoms research, tells Nic Fildes in the Financial Times.

The problem is that the market is being driven by hardcore fans, “but less dedicated consumers buying records could fall away over the coming years”, says Lee. Nearly half of those who had bought a vinyl record hadn’t played it within a month of buying it, according to a BBC poll last year, and 7% didn’t even own a turntable to play it on.

The market was given added gloss by high-profile releases by “heritage artists”, such as David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and Prince, all of whom died last year. Bowie’s Blackstar topped the charts, selling more than twice as many copies as 2015’s best-seller, Adele’s 25, notes NME. Other heritage artists also making the top ten were Fleetwood Mac (fifth), The Stone Roses (sixth), Bob Marley (seventh) and The Beatles (eighth). But when you look at total music sales in Britain (including digital downloads), vinyl accounts for just 2.6%. The market is a niche interest, heavily dependent on reissues.

That said, there’s serious money to be made from original records in mint condition, says Ian Shirley of the Record Collector’s Rare Record Price Guide in The Sun. One of the first pressings of The Beatles’ White Album would be worth up to £730,000, while Do I Love You (Indeed I Do), by Frank Wilson is valued at £25,000, as only five of the original 250 copies are thought to have survived. God Save The Queen, of which there were only 300 pressings before the Sex Pistols were ditched by A&M Records, could fetch £12,000. So it’s worth having a look around in the attic.

Trump dismays collectors

Donald Trump’s decision not to issue special number plates for the fleet of cars at his inauguration ceremony today has dismayed collectors. Since Franklin D Roosevelt in 1933, American presidents at their swearing-in ceremonies have issued special commemorative plates, which expired after three months. The president got the number-one plate, while the vice-president got the number two. Greg Hunter, whose family has made the official plates since the 1980s, designed one for Trump, but received no order from the president-elect’s team to have them made up.

That’s been particularly upsetting for Charlie Gauthier, a retired national highway executive, who not only had a complete set up until now, but has written a five-part history of presidential inauguration number plates. “I’m sure this is just like cocaine,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “Once you get addicted to this stuff, you just keep going. If you have plates that were issued to a president and a vice-president of the United States, that’s a pretty cool thing to have in your house.”

The rarest plates are those from Roosevelt’s 1933 swearing in ceremony, which sell for between $4,000 and $12,000. President Barack Obama had a set of plates produced for his 2013 inauguration, but in the event they weren’t used and were instead given away to friends and staff as souvenirs. Gauthier is hoping Trump’s inauguration doesn’t spell the end of this long-running tradition. “I’m a licence-plate guy,” he says. “After 80-plus years of doing it every four years, I just think it’s something that they should continue to do.”

Auctions

Going 

The stretchy blue leotard emblazoned with the famous red and yellow “S” worn by the late actor Christopher Reeve in the 1978 film Superman is going under the hammer at Nate D. Sanders Auctions in California on 26 January. The “muscle tunic”, which has a starting price of $40,000, has four snaps for attaching the cape and two stitched holes in the side where the flying harness was attached. The maker’s tag “Bermans & Nathans / 40 Camden St. / London N.W. 1” is still attached to the collar.

Gone 

A rare copy of Action Comics #1, the comic book from June 1938 in which Superman first appeared, was sold by Heritage Auctions in Texas last August for $956,000, surpassing its $750,000 estimate. The seller had bought their copy for $26,000 in 1998. Just 100 copies of the issue are thought to still exist. A copy in near-mint condition sold for $3.2m in 2014.

Merryn

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