Grandma's 78s Really Were Worth $$$.


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Lee Michaelides

My grandmother's 78 RPM records sat in her basement, then in my parents' basement and finally in my basement, for decades. No one played them. No one threw them away because some now-forgotten person declared them "valuable" — whatever that meant. 

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Turns out family lore was right about the records being worth something. It was just wrong about which ones.

"There are BILLIONS of antique records out there," says record dealer Joe Lauro.  "I am only interested in very specific ones. No BIG BAND, no CLASSICAL, no SHOW MUSIC, no ALBUM SETS and no 1940s-50s records. The Big Band-era records of people like Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and many others were pressed by the millions and have zero resale value to serious collectors today." 

My grandmother had plenty of worthless records.

"We pay BIG MONEY for certain blues, country and jazz records from the 1920s-early 30s - they are usually found on the PARAMOUNT label, OKEH label, GENNETT label and many others. These records were pressed in limited quantities and some are quite rare today,"  Lauro wrote me.

My grandmother had none of these.

However John Heneghan, a New York-based collector, dealer and front man for Eden and John's East River String Band, was interested is some of her records. (Students at the Center for Cartoon Studies might want to check out the R.Crumb cartoons that illustrate Heneghan's website. ) 

My grandmother, as a young immigrant, enjoyed (the now worthless) popular music of her new country, but she also collected recordings by Greek and Turkish musicians that reminded her of Istanbul, the cosmopolitan city that had been her home. Her dance tunes piqued Heneghan's interest.

"I’m looking for hot instrumentals. Of course, these guys had great bands and sometimes the accompaniment can be quite good," Heneghan told me. He also offered to buy the dance records.

I didn't make the kind of fortune that fans of Antiques Road Show dream about.  But having $125 deposited with Paypal was better than hauling the records to the dump. 

R. Crumb illustrated John Heneghan's website.

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