The thrill of the hunt: it’s one of the key things that sends bargain hunters to thrift stores, garage sales and dusty old attics. When someone hits up a local thrift store or garage sale, one never knows what might turn up. For these lucky thrifters, they lucked into pieces of music history.
75-Cent Velvet Underground Record Sells for $25,000
Warren Hill was just browsing a sidewalk sale in New York City in 2002 when he found a Velvet Underground acetate from 1966 featuring early versions of songs that would end up on The Velvet Underground & Nico. Hill was excited, and worked for a record company. Soon he realized that this was an exceedingly rare copy of the 1966 Scepter Sessions. Only two copies are known to exist, and the other one was already accounted for. The record was sold on eBay for $25,000 – a whopping 33,000 times what Hill paid for it. Three quarters well spent!
Unpublished Beatles Photo Contact Sheet Found at Garage Sale
Thrifter Dave Seabury always asks people at garage sales if they have anything from the Beatles or Grateful Dead. One day, the owners pointed him to a box that contained a beat-up old frame with a contact sheet in it. Contact sheets were single sheets with thumbnails of photographs that let the photographer see all the images from a roll of film at a glance. Seabury’s contact sheet showed 70 images of the Beatles taken by photographer Eric Weill in 1966 when the Beatles were playing Candlestick Baseball Park in San Francisco. The images are amazing portraits of the Beatles from behind the scenes. Rather than the confident guys singing before a throng of screaming fans, the photos show the Fab Four looking serious, pensive, and thoughtful. Seabury raised money on Kickstarter to print the negatives, which led to a massively successful photo exhibition.
Priceless Rudy Vallee Memorabilia in Attic
Rudy Vallee’s widow was poking around in the attic in Rudy Vallee’s Hollywood Hills home when she came across a treasure trove of memorabilia. The finds included a gold watch from actress Mary Pickford, a fedora from W. C. Fields, a Rudy Vallee marionette given to the singer by puppeteer Edgar Bergen (father of Candice Bergen), a dozen saxophones and clarinets, about 150 hats, a case of 1935 champagne, nearly 2,000 cufflinks and medals and a bottle of witch hazel from the late actress Madame Maria Ouspenskaya. Eleanor Vallee hadn’t been in the attic for years, until she found a key to the attic hiding in a Chinese puzzle box in the late singer’s bedroom. A safe in the hallway turned out to contain letters from Richard M. Nixon, Paul Newman, the Andrews Sisters, Irving Berlin and Hedda Hopper, among others.
1964 Beatles Photos Get $358,000
Old Beatles photos strike again, thanks to a box sealed up in a basement for over 40 years. The previously-unseen pictures were taken by a teenage photographer, Mike Mitchell. He got a press pass and took hundreds of behind the scenes photos at the Baltimore Civic Center and Washington Coliseum. The negatives were in Mitchell’s basement until 2011. 46 images were sent to auction at Christie’s, fetching $358,000.
Willie Nelson’s Earliest Ephemera Found in Remote Oregon House
If you buy a new house, carefully examine every inch of the place, just in case. Susan Liotta bought a small plot of land with a small house in Oregon. The prior owner was Willie Nelson’s mother. She left behind an amazing stash of items from Nelson’s early career, including instructional piano books, lyric sheets, handwritten arrangements, full orchestral charts, and an $800 contract from Alamo Promotions signed by Nelson for a 1967 concert. Yellow legal pads contain early Nelson compositions. Promo photos show a very young Willie posing as a cowboy and laughing near an Odessa school bus. Inside a Tex Williams record sleeve, Willie stored a few other 78s. The record is also autographed by the singer: “To Willie, thank you for all the great songs and performances you’ve given to country music.” Another box was found with 45s of “The Party’s Over,” a the Nelson single produced by Chet Atkins. The copies were in mint condition.
Bob Dylan’s Rarest Record
Bob Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, was released in May of 1963. It was the first album to feature mostly Dylan originals. However, right before its release, four of the songs were replaced. Although no one knows why the change was made, CBS records changed the entire look and feel of the album. It got new artwork and new songs. However, a small number of copies were made from the original masters. Only a few copies have surfaced in more than 50 years, and only around 20 are known to have been pressed, including only two stereo copies. A few years ago an Arizona woman contacted a record collector asking him if he would be interested in her copy. Her uncle gave her a box of old albums in 1980, and in 1994, while pricing them for a garage sale, she put them in a cake tin and forgot about them. Preparing for a trip to Los Angeles, she thought she would see if she could sell the Dylan album on her way out. The collector had checked thousands of Dylan copies over the years without ever finding an authentic copy. Until now. The album was the real deal, and he sold it for an undisclosed amount believed to be in the six-figure range.