(an occasional post prompted by the interesting exchange regarding said gentleman)
What Leon Wanted (1980)
Browse through Leon Leavitt’s Wants List, circa 1980 (Wants List courtesy of DottorJazz – click to enlarge). It’s like reading pages from TheJazzCollector’s $1,000 bin. Next time any one asks you for a copy of your Wants List – here is a good starting point. The last time I gave a dealer a copy of my wants list, they just laughed, pityingly. I imagine a copy of Leon’s list would send them into hysterics.
(List and scans courtesy of DottorJazz)
Many of us wouldn’t have the knowledge to even compile such a list let alone the effrontery to circulate it to other collectors, but this is the rarefied world of the super-collector. Think big. Now think bigger.Then bigger still. No, still not big enough. Originals only, no reissues or second pressings, and Excellent to Near Mint. Now you are getting it.
At today’s prices, it would set you back a half to one million dollars to secure one copy of each, if you could find them, let alone the four or five of each Leon reportedly amassed in his collection. Not a lot of money to some people, Sir Paul McCartney, or Bonio, but the people who can easily afford them rarely have enough taste to want them. That is the curse that falls on the shoulders of the rest of us, outside in the cold, noses pressed up against the glass, seated below the salt, or pecking for the crumbs.
Of course they weren’t as rare thirty years ago, so it is was not as impossible a task. The leap is from the idea of collector to that of trader in high-end artefacts. By the time you have amassed five top copies of Coltrane’s Blue Train, buy one here, sell one there, what’s one copy more or less? Collectors drawn like moths to the flame.
I’ll repeat here for those who may have missed the comment thread, the story on Leavitt posted in 2004 on an Organissimo thread (added new postscript):
Garth, Houston Tx., posted 28 November 2004 – 07:07 PM
In 1995 I was lucky enough, through the good graces of a West Coast intermediary, to be invited to visit Leon’s air-controlled mini-warehouse to see his collection. I had made occasional purchases from him in the past, but I was even then growing weary with the prices for quality used vinyl. (I also had a lot of “stuff”). I was not prepared in any way with what I encountered. I am not sure exactly how many LPs were in that specially built facility, but I would venture somewhere in excess of 75,000 LPs (almost all jazz) were neatly arranged on industrial-strength metal shelving. The filing system was pretty basic, mostly by artist’s name. I was overwhelmed, literally. (My friend told me a story of a Japanese visitor who had a heart seizure while wandering among Leon’s holdings, and had to be removed my ambulance .. he swore it was true.)
I had several “test” records in mind that I wanted check to see the extent of his holdings. One of these was a very elusive copy of Hal McKusick’s “Cross-Section Saxes” (Decca 79209) … I looked for it, found it, and he had FOUR copies!! Another was Lars Gullin’s “Modern Sounds:Sweden” (Contemporary 2505 … a 10″) … he had 3 copies! ….. and so it went for everything I searched for.
I stayed for about two hours, and left deflated. I was depressed (I could understand that heart seizure), because there was no way that I, or anyone else for that matter, could ever manage to even get close to that collection. As Jim and I settled in to our dinner drinks that evening, I expressed to him my feeling that somewhow, for me, much of the fun had been removed from the joy of “the search.” I now knew that whatever I ‘really’ wanted was available merely by contacting Leon, and paying a large enough price.
I really stopped seriously collecting vinyl after that… I began to replace my favorite albums with CDs …and sold my collection.
Leavitt’s collection must have been broken up – I am guessing he is no longer with us – to judge from the appearance on Ebay of records claiming Leavitt provenance on many high-end auctions, the outcome of a dozen of which can be seen here (thanks to Popsike). The spiel is similar on each auction:
“This jazz record is from the personal collection of legendary collector Leon Leavitt, who auctioned jazz records to the world and established a reputation as the foremost purveyor of superb jazz records in the world. We became close friends in the 1980s, and he allowed me to visit his home and warehouse in Sun Valley on a regular basis to choose the best copy of each record and album cover in his extensive archives”
(Seller unknown to me – you may recognise the fingers. He knows his jazz and his sales spiel, but I could give him a short tutorial on record photography)
Auction results (click to enlarge):
Read and weep. Do the sums. All that now remains is for a collector to establish a complementary source of funds. Think big. No, bigger…
THERE are two kinds of obsessive record collectors: those who buy original pressings of rare old LPs because they’re rare and old and they enjoy the searching and collecting, and those like me who buy them because they sound good. I guess Garth from Texas was the former, evidenced by his final act, to sell off the vinyl collection and replace his favourites with CDs (shakes head)
Snap LJC Polls
1. A look in the mirror…
Which sort of collector are you? Do you collect records mainly because you enjoy collecting the artefacts or mainly because of the way vintage records sound? I know for many of us its a bit of both, but I am going to ask you to dig a little deeper within.
If you have any confessions to make about your collecting habit, the comments floor is yours.
2. A gaze into the future…
Many collectors probably see a time when they will get rid of their lesser records and down-size to the best. That’s too easy for a question. The more telling question is what you see as the future of your “best” or “favourite” most valued records. Do see a time in the future when you will probably cash in and sell off the best of your collection (The Shrewd Investor Option) – are you hard enough? or do you intend to keep your best and most valued records indefinitely for yourself (and ultimately your estate’s inheritors, but if you could “take them with you”, you would: The Tutankhamen Option)
Again, if you have any ideas about the future of record collecting, personal or generally, LJC’s the place to comment. The floor is yours.
Come back often and see how the sides are lining up. And if you have any super-collector stories to tell, I am sure people here would like to hear them.
If you are one of those who simply love the musty smell of fifty year old record jackets and vinyl, LJC has introduced a new line of fragrance which is bound to appeal to the discerning record collector.
Available from second hand record shops everywhere, it has the “ear” on the cap, and the trademark “R” beneath NOTE. Special Edition without the “R” also available (price on application. No time wasters)
NEW! Latest in the RVG range of fragrances for discerning record collectors is Hackensack, for men.
Popular with collectors of early recordings, this exciting new fragrance evokes the era of Fifties New Jersey. Hard to find compared with RVG’s more popular Englewood Cliffs range, Hackensack can be found only on auction at Ebay. Bid with confidence. Do not post to Italy.