📜 Feature What is considered "rare" these days?

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Amusingly, musical rarities appear to be bountiful these days. Take a look at any over-caffeinated eBay seller who proclaims, IN ALL CAPS, how rare this record is that they are selling. At Discogs, some sellers also claim to sell "this rare album you don't see much anymore," while I glance over and notice that there are 46 copies for sale from other Discogs sellers. Even some local estate sales want us to rush in to buy up some unfortunate deceased homeowners "old rare vinyl records." For these sellers, the word "rare" is a marketing term, whether they realize they are doing it or not--it implies a sense of urgency, to get buyers to react and make the purchase. It also helps a buyer swallow an overly inflated price. After all, if you don't buy it at today's high price, you may never get to buy it at all!

It's like I've said in the past. If you call everything old "iconic," then nothing stands out as being iconic. Likewise, calling everything "rare" presents us with a glut of similar rarities that end up not being rarities at all.

So, what is rarity?

Those of us who collect or listen to music often fall into our "rarity" niches as we begin exploring an artist's lesser albums, or seeking out artists who we've heard of in passing but have usually never seen many of their recordings. I've pursued my own rarities in the recent past.
  • I leapt from listening to a couple of Tamba 4 records decades ago and took a deep dive into their past, only finally getting ahold of their earliest recordings within the past couple of years, lucking out with pricing on long-out-of-print CDs that kept them sensibly priced, as LPs were nearly impossible to find.
  • I have been buying sealed copies of long-out-of-print records that have never seen a digital reissue. I primarily found sealed versions of all the missing unavailable LPs in my A&M/CTi collection this way.
  • I have also bought records that truly were rare, like the legendary 10-inch Epic record from 1953, Moondog and his Friends. This was before some enterprising person made a poor needledrop of the same record and had it reissued on CD and LP. (For the record, no pun intended, I spent $75 for it about 20 years ago from an eBay seller, at a time when most copies were selling for close to $150. Right place, right time!)
  • A small number of the 12-inch singles I bought in the 70s and 80s are either difficult to find or very expensive to buy.
And I'm sure everyone reading this has their own rarity niches in which they have tracked down and held onto titles that are near and dear to them.

I see rarity in two different ways. There is rarity when the availability of an item is difficult if not almost impossible to find. This is mainly what I mention above. Another form of rarity is related, but refers to artists that very few record buyers have heard of. The George McCurn album on A&M is one I'd consider a rarity, as the only two groups who know about McCurn are fellow A&M collectors who have seen him mentioned here, and those who follow gospel groups from the late 50s who may remember him from The Pilgrim Travelers. Anything by McCurn could be considered a rarity by that token. And there are many artists like him who have recorded one or two albums and fell into obscurity.

What rarities and "scores" have you found over the years?
A short time back, I found out that the Capitol Records pressing of Carole King Tapestry that I have was done for Capitol Record Club so it is most likely not rare at all but I have only seen the one copy that I found at a used record store.
Some of the many Easy Listening instrumental Reissues on CD namely London /Decca phase 4 stereo albums by Ronnie Aldrich. Frank Chacksfield and others released on the Dutton/Vocalion label are now mostly out of print again ( I don't know if they are available digitally) but they and others like it are rarities as they have been for decades because there isn't much of a market for them like there was before their availability is limited. I'm so thankful I got mine while it was possible to me I define those opportunities as rarities too
In my collection, I still have sealed in shrink wrap a copy of the 2006 green & yellow vinyl reissue of The Beach Boys Pet Sounds. I think the green vinyl contained the original 1966 mono (sourced from digital masters) and then the yellow vinyl features the album digitally remixed into stereo.

I also have a still sealed Smile Sessions box set that has the 2 LP’s, 5 CD’s and 2 EP’s. Although I see online that the CD box set that just contains the CD’s (I have an open one that bought sealed in 2011 that I’ve played and I’ve kept in very good shape) is going for about $1,300 CDN! The LP set is only going for about $400-500 CDN.

Another rarity I have is a sealed LP copy of the 1986-1998 Time-Life Treasury Of Christmas. From what I can tell the LP box set was only available from 1986-1989/1990, and then it was CD & cassette only until 1998. It’s also the first place that the Carpenters single-mix of The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire} appeared sourced from a digital master. (Both the LP and Cassette mention that all the tracks were from digital masters.). As far as I am aware, the next appearance of the digital single mix wouldn’t be until 20 years later on the 2006 Japanese Singles set, and earlier appearances were from analog masters.
Rudy, How cool it is that you own the 10" Moondog lp on Epic. I own it too. The original will always be sought after, and I think in 5 years the value will soar. It is VERY rare. Far more rare than many of the highly priced Blue Notes. Hang in there with this one.
I uploaded mine to YouTube. I figured I would share it with the rest of the world, as our Epic copies sound better than those janky reissues from recent years.

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