First, a disclaimer. My intent has never been to use this blog to cover the “inside baseball” aspects of jazz record collecting. There are other blogs that already address those sorts of issues quite well. Nevertheless, a recent auction caught my attention—as well as the attention of many others, I’m sure—and I want to take a look at it.
Jackie McLean is one of my favorite artists, so I regularly watch eBay auctions for original pressings from his Blue Note discography. And as he began his association with Blue Note at the onset of the 4000 series (with 1959’s BLP 4013 New Soil, to be exact), original pressings often sell for surprisingly reasonable prices.
According to popsike.com, in auctions dating back to August 2005, the highest selling price for the 1960 album Jackie’s Bag (BLP 4051) was 547 GBP/768 USD in October 2013. A quick tally of the 10 highest prices (see below) shows a median price of $313.50. (In a data set such as this, it is better to use the median than the average, as it “controls” for extreme values at the top and bottom. In this case, the average is $410.10, which even a cursory look below reveals is a rather misleading summary of the data.)
Thus, for a number of years, the jazz collecting world has seen one of Jackie’s most desirable Blue Notes as a mid-“three figures” and definitely sub-$1000 item. Until yesterday, that is.
On May 10, Jackie’s Bag was listed as a 10-day auction, with the bidding stuck under $200 for the first week or so. (Not an original question, but why doesn’t everybody use a sniper these days?) However, on the final two days of the listing, the price began to soar (see below). The final selling price was a wallet-emptying $1237.12, or 61% higher (!) than the previous high water mark of $768.
As you can see in the table above, three different people placed bids for over $1000. Even if the winner had hit the ejector seat at $800, the album was still going to sell for over a grand, which amazes me. If this is the new normal, what, if anything, does it mean for other J. Mac releases from this era, like New Soil or Swing, Swang, Swingin’? Or his mid-sixties releases? Or for that matter, records by people like Donald Byrd or Lee Morgan?
If I had to wager, I’d say that this is probably a fluke, and a very happy one for the seller. He or she will certainly not be worried about the vagaries of “inside baseball.”
Is this the way the market is going or is this price an outlier without any further implications? Tell me what you think.