Record collectors are always searching in thrift stores, attics, garages, and yard sales for rare gems that may be far more valuable than the sellers know. Some buy boxes of records at estate sales. Collectors often buy records from the families of deceased record collectors. The sellers usually don’t care much about what they are selling. They see it as ridding themselves of useless clutter or worthless junk.
In 2009, according to Tad Vezner, a reporter for the Twin Cities Press in St. Paul, Minnesota, where we found the story of a collector’s ecstatic find, sometimes their pursuit of rare records and music memorabilia pays off. He bought a rare Sun Records 45—it was Sun’s ninth release—for 25 cents that he put up for auction on eBay with a winning bid of $10, 323.
Tim Schloe, a St. Paul record collector says it doesn’t happen often but the search for rare vinyl is on. He bought a large collection in 1997 from the brother of a Texas collector who had recently died. It included a 45-rpm recording by black blues musician D.A. Hunt. The 45 had been released on Sam Philips’s legendary Sun Records label in 1953—before Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Roy Orbison began recording for Sun.
The A Side was a song called ““Greyhound Blues” and the B-Side was “Lonesome Old Jail.” Vezner said the record” didn’t seem like much at first.” It had been originally released as a 78-rpm record, not long before 45s completely overtook the singles market. In those days, 45s were often pressed in small editions and sent to radio station DJs in the hope that they would be played on the air and catch on. This helped make the Sun 45s extremely rare—if a market for them could be found. Rock and pop music memorabilia has since become a part of the growing market for music of historical interest.
Purchased as part of a large collection from the brother of a deceased Texas collector in 1997, the 45-rpm recording of bluesman D.A. Hunt’s first and perhaps only recording of “Greyhound Blues” (with “Lonesome Old Jail” on the flip side — didn’t seem like much at first.
But Schloe, like the best collectors, did his homework. He researched the recording and found that one of the 78 rpm records had just sold for around $3,700. “It’s his (Hunt’s) only release for Sun and likely the only release he ever did,” Schloe said. “I’ve seen Sun Records before; some of the later releases are collectible but they’re not that valuable.” He was unable to find anyone who had ever heard of the 45-rpm version, according to Vezner.
Sun Records launched in 1952 and helped introduce the musicians who would influence the transition of American popular music from Tin Pan Alley song factories, country music from Nashville and blues from the American south to rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s.
Schloe’s eBay auction began with an opening bid of $9.99. In a few days, the bids topped $1,000. “Then it went to about $3,000 and stayed, and $5,000 and stayed. It then made the big jump [to $10,323],” said Schloe. “It’s a hobby, first and foremost. I really like the vinyl format. More and more people are starting to collect [vinyl] records, something about that tactile medium. People really enjoy the crackles and pops.”
It was a marvel that the D.A. Hunt 45 sold for over $10,000, particularly since it had pop and scratches and was pretty well used and abused. Prospectors sometimes do strike gold, but it’s the market that determines the price. Schloe knew just how long to hold out until the last moment to get the best price he could. Both amateur and professional collectors love the chase, but the ones who find gems are those who don’t give up easily.
In 2014, Jack White’s Third Man Records released re-issues from Sun Records’ back catalog. They included D.A. Hunt’s 1953 “Lonesome Old Jail” backed with “Greyhound Blues.” The interest in rock and pop memorabilia continues to grow thanks to the rebirth of interest in vinyl LPs and 45s, as well as older shellac recordings on 78s. As a commenter on Vezner’s Pioneer Press story said, “I should have hung on to some of my old 45s.”