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Are old 78 RPM records on the Vocalion label worth anything?

The History of Vocalion Records

Vocalion was founded in 1916 by the Aeolian Piano Company of New York City, which introduced a retail line of phonographs at the same time. The name was derived from one of their corporate divisions, the Vocalion Organ Co. The fledgling label first issued single-sided. vertical cut disc records, soon switching to double sided, then switching to the more common lateral cut system in 1920. Aeolian pressed their Vocalion discs on a good quality reddish-brown shellac, which set the product apart from the usual black shellac used by other record companies. Advertisements stated that "Vocalion Red Records are best" or "Red Records last longer". However, Vocalion's shellac was really no more durable than good quality black shellac. Vocalion red surfaces are less hardy than contemporary Victor Records. Audio fidelity and pressing quality of Vocalion records are well above average for the era. In 1925 the label was acquired by Brunswick Records. During the 1920s Vocalion also released "race records" (that is, records recorded by, and marketed to, African Americans; their famous 1000 Series). The 15000 series continued, but after the Brunswick takeover, it seems clear that Vocalion took a back seat to the Brunswick label. In 1925-26, quite a few Brunswick titles were also issued on Vocalion, and since the Vocalion issues are much harder to find, one can speculate that they were not available for sale in as many stores as their Brunswick counterparts. (By 1928-9, many of the jazz sides issued on the Vocalion 15000 series were extremely rare and highly sought-after.) In April 1930, Warner Bros. bought Brunswick Records and, for a time, managed the company themselves. In December 1931, however, Warner Bros. licensed the entire Brunswick and Vocalion operation to the American Record Corporation. ARC used Brunswick as their flagship 75 cent label and Vocalion became one of their 35 cent labels (their race/blues series during this time continued to be significant) . Starting in about 1935, the Vocalion label once again became a popular label, signing Billie Holiday, Mildred Bailey, Putney Dandridge, Henry 'Red' Allen and other swing artists. Also, starting in 1935, Vocalion started reissuing titles still selling on the recently discontinued OKeh label. In 1936 and 1937 Vocalion produced the only recordings of the influential blues artist Robert Johnson (as part of their on-going field recording of blues, gospel and 'out of town' jazz groups). From 1935 through 1940, Vocalion was one of the most popular labels for small group swing, blues and country. After the Variety label was discontinued (in late 1937), many titles were reissued on Vocalion, and the label continued to release new recordings made by Master/Variety artists through 1940. During the 1925-1930 period, outside of the 1000 'race' series, Brunswick apparently used the Vocalion brand as a specialty label for purposes other than general sale. This is assumed due to the relative rarity of the Vocalion popular series, and the fact that some of the regular Brunswick releases were also put out for sale as Vocalions. This seems to also be a possibly explanation as to why the early 1930s Vocalion are relatively rarer than other ARC records. ARC was purchased by CBS and Vocalion became a subsidiary of Columbia Records in 1938. The Vocalion label was discontinued in 1940, and the current Vocalions were reissued on the recently revived OKeh label with the same catalog numbers. The discontinuance of Vocalion (along with Brunswick in favor of the revived Columbia) voided the lease arrangement Warners had made with ARC back in late 1931, and in a complicated move, Warners got back the two labels which they promptly sold outright to Decca, yet CBS got to keep control of the post-1931 Brunswick and Vocalion masters!

Most Valuable Blues and Jazz Artists on the Vocalion Label

Charlie Patton Robert Johnson Memphis Minnie Leroy Carr Tampa Red Jenny Pope Bukka White Mississippi Sarah Mississippi Moaner

Are old 78 RPM records on the on the Black Swan label worth anything?

History of Black Swan Records Black Swan's parent company, Pace Phonograph Corporation, was founded in March 1921 by Harry Pace and was based in Harlem. The new production company was formed after Pace's music publishing partnership with W.C. Handy, Pace & Handy, had dissolved. (Some historians have thought W.C. Handy had a stake in Pace's new business, but Handy's own words contradict this.

Popular entertainer and pioneering black recording artist Bert Williams was an early investor in Pace Phonograph. Williams also promised to record for the company once his exclusive contract with Columbia Records ended, but he died before that could occur.

Pace Phonograph Corporation was renamed Black Swan Phonograph Company in the fall of 1922. Both the record label and production company were named after 19th century opera star Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, who was known as the Black Swan.

Noted author, activist, and academic W.E.B. Du Bois was a stockholder and member of the Board of Directors of Black Swan. Ads for Black Swan often ran in The Crisis, the magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which Du Bois edited.
The production company declared bankruptcy in December 1923; and in March 1924 Paramount Records bought the Black Swan label. The Chicago Defender reported the event by noting important accomplishments of Black Swan in a short career span, including: pointed out—to the major, all white-owned, record companies—the significant market demand for black artists; prompted several major companies to begin publishing music by these performers. In addition, the Defender credited Pace with showing the majors how to target black audiences and to advertise in black newspapers. Paramount discontinued the Black Swan label a short time later.

Most Valuable Blues and Jazz Artists on the Black Swan Label Kattie Crippen on Black Swan 78 RPM
Alberta Hunter on Black Swan 78 RPM
Ethel Waters on Black Swan 78 RPM
James P. Johnson on Black Swan 78 RPM
Lucille Hegamin on Black Swan 78 RPM
Trixie Smith on Black Swan 78 RPM


Top Buyer Jon Warren of 2ndMarkets.com is one of the top buyers of rare blues records. He can be reached at 1-423-320-1521 or by visiting his website (xlixk the link above.

How do I grade my 78 RPM Records?

I believe someday all collectibles will be graded using a 10-point scale, and that this universality will be a factor in making them a recognized investment like stocks and bonds. Grading services will exist for every type of antique or collectible, and these grading services will enable a liquid marketplace for trading in antiques and collectibles of all kinds. Collectors will view their collection “portfolio” as a source of retirement income in the same way that stock investors do today. EBay and similar sites will be the "NASDAQ" for the liquidation of these collectible investments. This isn't a great insight on my part, it is already happening in a small way, and I believe it is just beginning.

The 78 RPM Record Collecting Hobby uses a grading system known as the VJM Grading System. The VJM Record Grading System is an internationally-used and recognized system for grading both 78s and LPs. It is used by virtually all jazz, blues, personality and most pre-war record dealers and collectors alike, with an easily understood sequence of letters to show grades and a system of abbreviations to show faults and damage. The first grading system to be adopted by jazz record collectors was devised by the publishers of Record Changer magazine in the 1940s, and the system now known as the VJM Grading System is a refined version of the former, introduced in the early 1950s.

The VJM System has never been, however, aligned with a 10-point system. We have attempted with this guide to match the VJM system to a 10-point system, because, in our opinion, buyers feel more secure with "sight unseen" Internet buying when they are familiar with a 10-point grading system. New collectors in any hobby become advanced collectors through knowledge, including knowledge of terminology. Without such a set of grading terms and definitions, buyers may feel confused and uncertain about the quality of items they are buying over the internet or through the mail. Confusion and uncertainty are not good for the growth of any hobby.

This VJM/10-point scale for grading  is similar to systems already adopted in other markets. By using a set of standardized grading terms, we can ensure the growth of the hobby now and in the future.

I welcome your feedback. Please e-mail me with comments and suggestions. My e-mail address is jon@2ndmarkets.com.

I have outlined the various grades, and described the specifications for each. These grading definitions are intended to help you rate the condition of your item. As in any collectible, the better the condition of an item, the more valuable it is.

C10 = N : Store Stock New
As new and unplayed (there are virtually no 78s that can categorically be claimed to be unplayed). C9 : N-
Nearly New, but has been played. No visible signs of wear or damage. C8 = E+
Plays like new, with very, very few signs of handling, such as tiny scuffs from being slipped in and out of sleeves. C7 = E : Excellent
Still very shiny, near new looking, with no visible signs of wear, but a few inaudible scuffs and scratches.
C6 = E-
Still shiny but without the luster of a new record, few light scratches.
C5 = V+
V+ is an average condition 78 in which scuffs and general use has dulled the finish somewhat. Wear is moderate but playing is generally free from distortion. Surface noise not overly pronounced.

C4 = V : Very Good
Moderate, even wear throughout, but still very playable. Surface noise and scratches audible but not intrusive. C3 = V-
Quite playable still, but distortion and heavy greying in loud passages. Music remains loud in most passages. Surface noise and scratches well below music level.
C2 = G+
Grey throughout but still serviceable. Music begins to sound muffled. Heavy scratches.
C1 = G : Good
Quite seriously worn and scratched, but music level is stillhigher than surface noise.
G- ; F ; and P
The VJM system has these designations for records in extremely poor condition. We do not place these on the 10-point scale because records in this condition have little or no value. In cases where the record is extremely rare, it would be worth the C1 price.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
sfc = surface lbl = label nap = not affecting play scr/scrs = scratch/scratches lc or lam  = lamination crack cr = crack gv/gvs= groove/grooves hlc/hc = hairline crack wol = writing on label sol = sticker onlabel fade = faded label eb = edge bite ec = edge chip ef =edge flake cvr = cover s = stereo rc= rim chip rf = rough;
aud/inaud = audible/inaudible
lt = light

Are old 78 RPM records on the Black Patti label worth anything?

History of Black Patti Records Black Patti Records was a short-lived (less than a year in 1927) record label. The label was owned by The Chicago Record Company, which in turn was owned by promoter Mayo ‘Ink’ Williams. The label was named after 19th century African-American singer Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, who was nicknamed The Black Patti after famous opera star Adelina Patti.

Mayo Williams had enjoyed a profitable career as de-facto manager of "Race Records" (recordings by African American artists intended for African American customers) for Paramount Records. He decided to go into the record business for himself. He had no equipment, only his Chicago office. The actual recording and pressing of the records was contracted out, mostly to Gennett Records.

Black Patti Records debuted with advertisements in May 1927, with some two dozen discs said to already be available. The repertory included jazz, blues, sermons, spirituals, and vaudeville skits, most (but not quite all) by African American entertainers. A total of 55 different discs were manufactured. Williams found running his own label not as lucrative and easy as he had hoped and closed up operations before the end of 1927.

Perhaps the most famous of the sides recorded for Black Patti are those by Willie Hightower's jazz band.

Most Valuable Blues and Jazz Artists on the Black Patti Label Willie Hightower on Black Patti 78 RPM
Mozelle Alderson on Black Patti 78 RPM
Hattie Garland on Black Patti 78 RPM
Steamboat Joe on Black Patti 78 RPM
Sam Collins on Black Patti 78 RPM
Big Boy Woods on Black Patti 78 RPM
Kid Brown on Black Patti 78 RPM
Elizabeth Washington on Black Patti 78 RPM
Top Buyer Jon Warren of 2ndMarkets.com is one of the top buyers of rare blues records. He can be reached at 1-423-320-1521 or by visiting his website (xlixk the link above.

Are old 78 RPM records on the Gennett label worth anything?

History of Gennett Records Gennett is best remembered for the wealth of early jazz talent recorded on the label, including sessions by Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke, The New Orleans Rhythm Kings, "King" Joe Oliver's band with young Louis Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, The Red Onion Jazz Babies,The State Street Ramblers, Zach Whyte and his Chocolate Beau Brummels, Alphonse Trent and his Orchestra and many others. Gennett also recorded early blues artists such as Thomas A. Dorsey, Sam Collins, Jaybird Coleman, and Big Boy Cleveland, and early "hillbilly" or country music performers such as Vernon Dalhart, Bradley Kincaid, Ernest Stoneman, Fiddlin' Doc Roberts, and Gene Autry. Many early religious recordings were made by Homer Rodeheaver, early shape note singers and others.

From 1925 to 1934, Gennett released recordings by hundreds of "old-time music" artists, precursors to country music, including such artists as Doc Roberts and Gene Autry. By the late 1920s, Gennett was pressing records for more than 25 labels worldwide, including budget disks for Sears, Roebuck's catalog. In 1926, Fred Gennett created Champion Records as a budget label for tunes previously released on Gennett.

The Gennett Company was hit severely by the Great Depression in 1930, and cut back on record recording and production until it was halted altogether in 1934. At this time the only product Gennett Records produced under its own name was a series of recorded sound effects for use by radio stations. In 1935 the Starr Piano Company sold some Gennett masters, and the Gennett and Champion trademarks to Decca Records. Jack Kapp of Decca was primarily interested in some jazz, blues and old time music items in the Gennett catalog which he thought would add depth to the selections offered by the newly organized Decca company. Kapp also attempted to revive the Gennett and Champion labels between 1935 and 1937 as specialists in bargain pressings of race and old-time music with but little success.
Most Valuable Blues and Jazz Artists on the Gennett Label Josephine Beatty on Gennett 78 RPM
King Oliver on Gennett 78 RPM
Jelly Roll Morton on Gennett 78 RPM
Red Onion Jazz Babies on Gennett 78 RPM
Baby Bonnie on Gennett 78 RPM
Walter Coon on Gennett 78 RPM
Mae Glover on Gennett 78 RPM
Thomas Dorsey on Gennett 78 RPM
Top Buyer Jon Warren of 2ndMarkets.com is one of the top buyers of rare blues records. He can be reached at 1-423-320-1521 or by visiting his website (xlixk the link above.

Are old 78 RPM records on the Herwin label worth anything?

Herwin Records was a US record label founded and run by brothers Herbert and Edwin Schiele, the trademark name being formed from their first names. Herwin Records was based in St. Louis, Missouri, and produced records starting in 1924. Most of the material released on the label was from master discs leased from Gennett Records and Paramount Records. In 1930 Herwin was sold to the Wisconsin Chair Company, the parent of Paramount Records, which discontinued the Herwin label sometime in the 1930s.

Most Valuable Blues Artists on the Herwin Label

Lizzie Washington on Herwin 78 RPM
Blind Willie Jackson on Herwin 78 RPM
Charley Peters on Herwin 78 RPM
Katherine Baker on Herwin 78 RPM
Blind Tim Russell on Herwin 78 RPM
Jerry Lee on Herwin 78 RPM
Reverend J.M. Gates on Herwin 78 RPM
Blind Jeremiah Taylor on Herwin 78 RPM

Are old 78 RPM records on the Paramount label worth anything?

Paramount Records was contracted to press discs for Black Swan Records. When that company floundered, Paramount bought out Black Swan and thus got into the business of making recordings by and for African-Americans. These so-called 'race music' records became Paramount's most famous (and most valuable to record collectors).

Paramount's 'race record' series was launched in 1922 with a few vaudeville blues songs by Lucille Hegamin and Alberta Hunter. It had a large mail-order operation that was a key to its early success.

Most of Paramount's race music recordings were arranged by Black entrepreneur J. Mayo Williams. 'Ink' Williams had no official position with Paramount, but was given wide latitude to bring African-American talent to Paramount recording studios and to market Paramount records to African-American consumers. Williams did not know at the time that the 'race market' had become Paramount's prime business, and he was essentially keeping the label afloat.

Problems with low audio fidelity and poor pressings plagued the label. Blind Lemon Jefferson's big 1926 hit, 'Got the Blues' and 'Long Lonesome Blues', had to be hurriedly re-recorded in the superior facilities of Marsh Laboratories and subsequent releases used that version; since both versions appear on compilation albums, they may be compared.

In 1927, Mayo Williams moved to competitor Okeh Records, taking Blind Lemon Jefferson with him for just one recording, 'Matchbox Blues';. Paramount's recording of the same song can be compared with Okeh's on compilation albums, to Paramount's detriment. In 1929 Paramount was building a new studio in Grafton, Wisconsin, so it sent Charlie Patton — 'sent up' by Jackson, Mississippi storeowner H.C. Speir — to the studio of Gennett Records in Richmond, Indiana, where on June 14 he cut 14 famous sides which led many to consider him the 'Father of the Delta Blues'.

What are the most valuable blues records on the Paramount label?

  • Charlie Patton on 78 RPM Paramount
  • Son House on 78 RPM Paramount
  • Willie Brown on 78 RPM Paramount
  • Tommy Johnson on 78 RPM Paramount
  • Charlie Spand on 78 RPM Paramount
  • Robert Peoples on 78 RPM Paramount
  • Blind Lemon Jefferson on 78 RPM Paramount
  • Alberta Hunter on 78 RPM Paramount

How to sell your old record collection

In order to make a "sight unseen" bid for your Old Records, a record buyer needs to know certain key information. YOU SHOULD INCLUDE THIS INFO IN YOUR INITIAL LIST! If you are new to record selling, building the list yourself can be a chore, but this article covers the main points and hopefully makes it a bit easier. Before you start off trying to sell your old records, you should make an inventory list. It will be the first thing any record collector will ask for.

IMPORTANT: YOU SHOULD INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING INFO IN YOUR LIST!

LABEL (always on the record label; example: SUN)
RECORD NUMBER (always on the record label; examples: in the image at right, the Record Number is 175
ARTIST NAME (always on the record label; example: JOHNNY LONDON
CONDITION (used, like new, VG, NM etc., just a best guess please, even if you only say USED or LIKE NEW)

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