The 78 RPM record collector’s field remains a very selective area with many special niches. The hot areas remain as Rock n Roll, Rhythm and Blues, small Jazz quartet, Rock-A-Billy, and some Country. As you can imagine, supply and demand is the rule of the day. Although some 78 records are more available as more collections appear in estate sales, record shows, and sales to record stores, the really hot 78’s are still limited in supply and go from relatively low prices to very high dollars.
Certainly many portable and component record players are around that play all speeds, including your 78’s. But also importantly are some new things being done in England to produce special 78 phonograph needles that play the other side of the record groove. That’s right; many of the old 78 records were played with old needles that played one side of the groove. The other side of the groove is often in good condition. There are no guarantees, but many collectors are getting better sound from their 78 records with these needles. Also, phonograph stores like J&S Phonograph Needles in Seattle specialize in all new needles, including needles for 78 players.
Can you pony up enough money to buy a good 78 rpm juke box? The sound from your 78 records is awesome on one of these jukeboxes. These 78 juke boxes are hard to find and pretty pricey. Obviously, you can still really enjoy the sound of your 78’s from standard equipment. Just a nice turntable that has the 78 rpm speed on it and run it through a traditional receiver/amplifier and speakers. Buy carefully and get the best condition 78’s you can. Of course, it’s often very tough to get them in good shape. Keep looking and upgrading your collection as you can.
Where do you find all those great 78 rpm records? Antique stores, record stores, garage sales, ebay, amazon, record shows, thrift stores, and record networking. As far as record stores, you can use the telephone to at least find out if they have any 78’s at all.
Try traveling to different cities for example areas in the Southwest. Cities like Austin and Dallas are often great places to look. Obviously, certain parts of the country, like the south, will be better for blues. Different geographic areas mean different category strengths.
So, what kind of 78’s are you going to go for? Good condition blues, R&B, Rock, and small jazz combo usually start at $12 and go up. A $35 78 is something highly desirable. 78 records at $50 and up belong to the Buddy Holly, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, and old, good quality R&B categories. Small combo Miles Davis 78’s can be $15 to $20. Old Blue Note like Thelonias Monk, Bud Powell, etc., probably $20 and up.
What if they’re cracked? Various ways have been suggested to try to fix cracked 78’s. One is to mix up some epoxy and slip in the crack and take a toothpick to scrap off any excess that squeezes out of the crack. A little graphite in a crack never hurts also. Chips on the edge that don’t go into the grooves can sometimes also be fixed with some epoxy to fill the chip and smoothed out so the needle will glide over it into the undamaged grooves. The safest way to store your 78’s are in the 78 book holders available in thrift stores, etc.
Other lesser 78’s by The Platters, country artists, big band artists, etc will be $5 and less. You’ll find little competition for classical 78’s, much big band jazz, Doris Day-Dinah Shore, etc, and others. One way to track down what you’re after is to run local newspaper want-ads for all records out there and then make the house calls to pick and choose what you really want.
Many collectors are certainly willing to get together and trade so you both find more of what you want at a low, low price.
Why collect 78 rpm records? You’re really collecting some rare music history! And, hey, they’re fun and they’re unique.
The music from some of the categories is extremely hard to find anywhere else and ranges from excellent blues, jazz, rock-a-billy, R&B , to much more. And if you don’t like CD’s, here’s another option.
If you’re not too particular, get a 78 player where you can stack your 78’s, turn it on, and let it play for many minutes of very enjoyable music with a certainly different and original sound!