December 12, 2011

Vinyl Stash Estimated up to $250k, Record Nerd Me Guesses More like $7k

The story goes something like this....

"12/5/2011 - WAKE ISLAND AIRFIELD, Wake Island (AFNS) -- In a tale straight from an adventure book, contractors here recently stumbled upon a vinyl record collection with an estimated value between $90,000 and $250,000.
The 611th Air Support Group's Detachment 1 is now making a comprehensive effort to preserve the nearly 9,000 vintage vinyl records and ship them to their rightful owner, the American Forces Radio and Television Network in Alexandria, Va., according to Master Sgt. Jean-Guy Fleury, the detachment's infrastructure superintendent, who took over the project from the former Detachment 1 commander, Maj. Aaron Wilt.
No digging was required to access this treasure, as the records were cataloged and neatly organized on shelves in a small room on the second floor of the Wake Island Airfield base operations building. The door was conspicuously stenciled with the name of a radio station, KEAD, and a "restricted area warning" sign, which kept most people out. "

"That's a locked room normally, but people in my department have known the records were there for years," said Colin Bradley, the communications superintendent with Chugach Federal Solutions, Inc. CFSI is the contractor that currently manages operations on Wake Island with the oversight of Air Force quality assurance personnel.

"Because of the completeness of the collection, I assumed it was quite valuable," Bradley said. "I have not run across a collection that well preserved or that intact in my career. It's a little time capsule."
The collection includes a variety of vinyl albums and records specially made for military audiences and distributed monthly by the American Forces Radio and Television Network as well as some commercially available records.
"In 1942, the American Forces Radio Service was started to get American music out to the troops overseas," said Larry Sichter, the American Forces Network Broadcast Center Affiliate Relations Division chief. "Some of the radio productions were original, like GI Jill and Command Performance, and have significant value."

The article goes on to say

"The exact dates the low-powered AM station operated on Wake Island remain unclear, but Bradley shared his estimate.

"I would guess that (KEAD) started in the 60s due to the dates on the records," he said. "Also, the FAA controlled Wake Island until the mid-60s, so an armed forces radio station wouldn't have been here. I would guess it wrapped up maybe in the 70s or with the advent of satellite radio.""

And then...

"Since Wake Island Airfield is a tiny 1,821-acre atoll located about 2,000 miles west of Hawaii and 2,000 miles east of Japan, it is possible that the cost and logistics of returning the records to the mainland were prohibitive at the time the radio station was shut down, officials said.
So now, about 30 years after the last record was spun on KEAD, Fleury is spearheading the operation to ship the records back to AFRTS. He has estimated that it will take approximately 75 16-inch-by-16-inch boxes, and a total of about $10,000 worth of specialized material to properly pack up the records. AFRTS is providing the materials and Detachment 1 will do the packing, he said."

As a long time record collector and record store employee all I can think is this. If the collection is anything like your average person's collection (or DJ collection) reflecting that time period, the guestimatation of this collection is grossly over valued and probably not worth shipping anywhere. I would love to know who priced out this collection because I hazard to guess that a knowledgeable music person was NOT the one who set the value of these records. There is this never ending assumption that because some records are old, they are naturally worth something. This same mentality is applied to vinyl record "relics" priced 100 times their actual worth at antique stores. Non record stores go by how old something is to price an item and that logic doesn't work on records. Unless the radio station was serviced by weirdo small boutique labels around the world (doubtful), my bet is that over half of the collection is total junk, the kind of records one would find at any thrift store across America.

If these folks were smart they would create a list of what these records are and get them looked at by an actual music / record buying expert to determine their worth and only then, spend any sort of crazy high dollar amount to ship them somewhere new. I would just hate to see any real time and effort spent over a collection that could very easily feature the kind of LPs that nobody wants or values. I love a great happy ending story when it comes to someone discovering a random record collection but my gut tells me that this one will be end in a yawn.

And don't even get me started on how any large number of records should ship be shipped. I have three words for the Air Force - DOUBLE BOX THEM  ! ! ! But seriously, talk to an expert before you even think about keeping them / mailing them at all.

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