Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I have been reading your column in the Milwaukee paper for as long as I have lived in Wisconsin — at first more for the fun memories and interesting trivia than anything else.

Recently, inspired mostly by your articles, I starting collecting records. Now I need a bit of advice.

I read where prices you mention are for near-mint condition, which makes sense since that is the only logical reference point. Unfortunately, not many of the records I find are near-mint.

So, will you please identify the commonly used lesser grades, along with an rough estimate of what percentage of mint values they might bring?
—Arthur Zekley, Racine, Wisc.

DEAR ARTHUR: Yours is a good question about a topic that I'm not sure we have ever covered.

Here are the most commonly used grading terms:

MINT: A mint item must be absolutely perfect. Nothing less can be honestly described as mint. If you have two seemingly mint items, and one is only slightly better than the other, that one is mint — the other is near-mint.

Even brand new purchases can easily be flawed in some manner and not qualify as mint. To allow for tiny blemishes, the highest grade used by many, including ourselves, is near-mint. An absolutely pristine mint, or still sealed, item usually carries a slight premium above the near-mint range.

VERY GOOD: Records in very good condition should have a minimum of visual or audible imperfections, which should not detract much from your enjoyment of owning them. Slight wear will definitely be noticeable. This grade is halfway between good and near-mint.

GOOD: Practically speaking, the grade of good means that the item may be good enough to fill a gap in your collection until a better copy becomes available. Good condition merchandise will show definite signs of wear and tear, probably evidencing that no protective care was given the item. Even so, records in good condition should play all the way through without skipping. In a bizarre contradiction of sorts, good means bad.

Most older records are going to be in something less than near-mint, or excellent condition. It is very important to use the near-mint price range in this guide only as a starting point in record appraising. Be honest about actual condition. Apply the same standards to the records you trade or sell as you would want one from whom you were buying to observe. Visual grading may be unreliable. Accurate grading may require playing the record, a practice known as play-grading.

Use the following formula to determine values on lesser condition copies:

For VERY GOOD condition, figure about 25% to 50% of the near-mint price range. With many of the older pieces that cannot be found in near-mint, VG or VG+ may be the highest grade available. This significantly narrows the gap between VG and the near-mint range.

For GOOD condition, figure about 10% to 25% of the near-mint price range.

DEAR JERRY: One of the artists that I collect is Bobby Bare, also once known as Bill Parsons.

A friend told me he once heard a song that, though not actually by Bobby, mentions talking to him in the lyrics. I have no other information, so if you can solve this mystery I'll start a fan club for you.
—Jon Williamson, Chicago

DEAR JON: Obviously there is no research source for information of this kind. Well, not other than here anyway! Since I doubt there is more than one tune fitting your description, it must be “Day Drinking,” a Top 25 hit in 1970 (Mercury 73139).

In this duet, day drinkers Dave Dudley and Tom T. Hall decide to call one of their friends. Pretending to be on the phone, they say “Hello Bobby Bare, this is Dave and Tom.” Bare is also mentioned in Mac Wiseman's “Johnny's Cash and Charley's Pride,” but there is no reference to talking to him.

Be sure to send me an honorary membership to the new fan club.

IZ ZAT SO? Bobby Bare never intended to be known as Bill Parsons.

His first hit, “The All American Boy,” came out crediting Bill Parsons completely by accident. Since the novelty became such a smash — reaching No. 2 — the company didn't want to confuse matters with the truth, so they also released the next few of Bobby's singles as by Bill Parsons.

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