“Life on Ebay” Boot Camp Day One

Two more  second-hand record shops I frequent regularly in London are in the process of closing their doors due to rent increases. The story is the same each time: the business is moving online as the only way to survive. We  are rapidly approaching the time when you will only  be able to buy online, so I thought I might establish an “LJC Boot camp”, to help everyone get match-fit for dealing with issues with buying second-hand records online, and on Ebay in particular.

“Hi, I’m a Search Engine. How may I not help you today”? 

Wading through results of an Ebay search for original “Blue Note”, even after you have carefully customised to exclude CDs, 7 inch singles, new records, Buy It Now, and (forgive me) from Japan,  it is still like searching for a pearl on a huge stony beach. Somewhere among all those re-issues are one or two original pressings, in decent condition, from a credible seller, whose current auction price is not already three times over your house limit. You just have to find them.

Ebay seller would like to meet naïve buyer, with a view to “e-commerce”

No getting away from it, buying and selling online is a battle of wits.

One record I spied typified the sort of ambiguous  offerings you see in their hundreds, but its artful barefaced-cheek managed to entertain me long enough to adopt it for the introductory training course.  But first, everyone has to introduced themselves to the group, and tell them one thing about themselves no one else knows.

Online Boot camp Day One

An Ebay seller is offering an L.P: “Lee Morgan “Indeed!”: This is a real life case, which auction closed yesterday, screencaptured below.

The sellers unspoken dialogue: I am going to tell you a lot of things to describe the content of the LP , like the track listing, which artists plays on it, where it was recorded, and such like. Everything you would get when buying a CD. I am NOT going to tell you anything important for buying a record that would allow you to put a value on it, like when it was manufactured and by whom. I am also not going to show you anything that would enable you to value it yourself, like letting you see the label or jacket detail. I’ll use a generic cover photo with the edges trimmed-off.

It’s in near mint condition!” And it is “Used” apparently. I bet if you were to ask you would get: ” I don’t know much about records, I’m selling it for a friend” Below is the value of auctions for the “real” Lee Morgan Indeed!, as battle-hardened collectors know only too well to their cost:

Amazingly, our cheeky Ebay seller has three bids, standing at £10, and seven minutes to go. I am sure those bidders know it is not an original pressing but all the same, by the time they have added the postage, they will have paid getting on for twice the shop price of a Scorpio, which is almost certainly what it is: a digital to vinyl transfer. The principle is what matters. The seller has not said anything wrong, it is all factually correct – they have just omitted to tell you it is a reissue. Not against any rules.  If they had been really clever, they would have a start price of £100, implying it is an original. That is not against any rules either.

Extraordinarily, Ebay do not consider this misleading or fraud.

On the same basis as the Lee Morgan, you could sell a copy of the Mona Lisa, as long as you don’t say it is a copy or say it is the original.

Lee Morgan Indeed! Da Vinci Mona Lisa, Recorded at Van Gelder Studios  Painted at Da Vinci Studio, Florence –  in near mint condition!” Opening bid £10m.

Question to seller: Does it have the artist’s signature LdV at the bottom corner of the canvas please? Thanks for looking.

Sorry, I don’t know much about art, I’m selling it for a friend. I’m afraid it’s packed up and ready to go, sorry. It’s a really nice painting“.

23 thoughts on ““Life on Ebay” Boot Camp Day One

  1. Shaft, in response to “Blue Note pressings without the ear? Yes plenty. Blue Note pressed a lot of Liberty pressings etc. from 1966 and onwards. …”

    I dont consider those to be Blue Note pressings, but rather Liberty pressings. So would most collectors. After Blue Note was taken over by Liberty pressing quality took a turn for the worse.

    This doesn’t mean that there are not some very good Liberty pressings out there, but in my experience they tend to be original Liberty pressings, not-reissues from the old Blue Note catalogue. But as with all things Blue Note there are always exceptions!


    • Ok Tony I understand your point 😉 The Blue Notes up til 1966 feel more genuine for sure and Blue Note was an independent company. But in some way I consider Plastylite more of a pressing plant than a Record Company even if all the best BN Records have that “ear”. We also have to remember that the company Blue Note issued a lot of first original pressings during their Liberty years (as you notes above).

      However, stupid new owner Liberty had to use their own Record pressing plants and make Blue Note move away from Plastylite – eh? Big loss for us who cares for quality sound, right?


      • Yes, I agree. I guess I am particularly sensitive to the subject because it is very easy to be misled when shopping on eBay, thinking you have landed an original Blue Note from pre-1966 only to discover once the mailman arrives that you have a Liberty re-issue… Been there. Bought the T-shirt.


        • I am keen to unpick the “Liberty Years”.

          They come in for some stick from collectors because sellers try to pass them off as “original” Blue Notes (and prices) – Tony’s point. But I have some absolutely brilliant Liberty pressings, and some absolute dogs.

          There was a golden window shortly after the sale in 1966 when what came out – ear or no ear – sounds bloody good. There are some horrors towards the end of the Liberty Years after 1968 when TransAmerica, a financial services group got involved as an investor, and the pressings are a disaster, contracted out to no-one knows. Some of the 1st pressings by Liberty that fall in the bad years are also horrors.

          My research suggests that in 1966 the Plastylite contract was moved immediately to Liberty Records regular pressing company RCA, with whom Liberty had “favoured client” status. RCA were pretty good (query Dynagroove) and working with Van Gelder engineered tapes the output is great. 1966-8 = good Liberty.

          At the bad end, I just got a Div Lib and Div UA press of Rollins 1542 and they are identically horrid, vile pressings, interestingly no Van Gelder mastering stamp on the Div Lib, identical handwritten catalogue number only on both. The pressing is totally unlike others of the same stripe, horrible and noisy. What gives? 1968-70 = bad Liberty?

          There is a story waiting to be told.


  2. Quite an interesting approach to the topic! That was a fun read. Though i stick with mattyman at the moment: If you keep checking for sellers who sell grandpa’s collection without a lot of knowledge and for certain features of the LP sleeves in particular there is a good chance to make a bargain! I do even find them in the “buy now”-category every once in some weeks. Has any of you ever noticed that you can tell most of the original BNs by the colours and flash reflections of the sleeve’s surface? The few Liberty pressings with old covers do generally not produce frustration if bought at about 20 quid, i have convinced myself. Of course it is mostly a gamble in regard of the vinyl’s condition…


    • Camden branch of Music and Video Exchange shut last month and the Notting Hill Classical branch is consolidating with one of their others.
      Intoxica in Portobello Road is half way through a temporary extension to its lease which terminated end of September. Rumour is that JB Records is closing, though nothing was mentioned by Rob when I was in there last Friday.
      There is a chill wind out there.


      • regarding jbs heard from out on the floor their owners! and it is just a clear sense of when they close to be quite honest i wont miss any of them! their customer relations skills stank but in being fair dont they all?


        • I think thats a little unfair. Your mileage may vary but Bill at JB Records is a lovely guy, well spoken of in the business. Generous with his time and knowledge, always willing to play tracks before you buy, offer musician-opinions and recommendations, and his pricing is very fair. Sounds great customer service to me.


          • Apologies for the incredibly late reply. Bill, when he worked at Out on the floor introduced me to ‘The Band’, ‘The J.B’s’ ‘Stevie Wonder’ and many others. I have himt to thank for rescuing me from self induced bad indie hell. He saved my teenage years.


  3. Good reading. Although it occasionally happens that a seller’s bad description can still lead to obtaining a true 1st original pressing 😉


  4. Buyer beware seems to be the best recommendation. I collect mainly Jazz LPs. Mainly Blue Note, where the all important “Ear” (Plastylite P) in the runout is essential for an original pressing before the company was bought out by Liberty. And time and time again, sellers conveniently fail to mention its absence. As in the following auction for a Stereo copy of Blue Train that sold for over $200:


    I asked the seller about this one. Reply: “Sorry, cant see it no”.

    Tellingly the seller chose not to include my question and his answer on the listing….


    • Tony, you are ahead of the curve. Boot Camp advanced training “Buyer Seller – Hand to Hand Combat” will have an intensive eighteen hour immersion module including Ear Recognition using special night-vision goggles.A must for every collector.


      • LOL! One of my most frustrating experiences this year was an original blue note. Described as VG++, with Ear and Van Gelder. I asked all the pertinent questions, but forgot to ask if it was warped… needless to say, the old PayPal “item not as described” process was swiftly brought into action. You can not leave anything to chance it would seem nowadays – so many sellers just focussed on getting the best price for their items.


      • I can’t believe that has no ear. The seller may says he can’t see it but that DG on 47W63rd says its there , I’d put money on it.Lots of money.
        May be the seller isn’t the sharpest crayon in the pencil box, or however you say it.


        • The point is, did Blue Note press any LPs without the Ear? And the answer, bar a couple of rare exceptions is No! So it doesn’t matter if it was personally signed by RVG and Mother Teresa, it is not authentic.


          • Hi again ;-.) Blue Note pressings without the ear? Yes plenty. Blue Note pressed a lot of Liberty pressings etc. from 1966 and onwards. But maybe you meant to use the word “Plastylite” instead of “Blue Note” above. Then it makes sense 😉


          • I would be very interested to see examples of deep groove pressings without the ear. I’ve heard that in rare exceptions Plastylite has forgotten to put the ear in – but plenty makes me very curious indeed.


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