Once you’ve seen enough of these Top 30 lists, you start to assume that certain patterns in the Discogs marketplace are as constant and unchanging as a Morrissey haircut.
For example: there’s going to be a Beatles record (or three) in the Top 30 every month. Book it. You’re also going to see some Zeppelin. Hey, who doesn’t love gettin’ the Led out and paying exorbitant sums of cash for the privilege? And not only are you going to get Iron Maiden in any given Top 30, you’re going to get the one specific Holy Grail of Maidendom: The Soundhouse Tapes, the band’s mail order-only debut EP. That’s just how the marketplace works.
Above all else, though, there is one ironclad rule of the Discogs Top 30: you’d better believe the biggest seller is going to be on vinyl. Maybe it’ll be a 45, maybe an LP; could be an error pressing, a limited release, or a promo; but you can pretty much bank on the #1 biggest seller in any given month having been transferred from wax. And, sure, there have been a handful of exceptions over the years, but this trend has been especially reliable as of late. In fact, you’d need to rewind the clock to 2014 to find the last time a non-vinyl release was leading the Top 30 pack.
Here’s the thing, though: rules are made to be broken. Do you know what we like to do with rules here at Discogs? Okay, technically we like to expand upon them in great detail and embed them deep within our database expectations. Whatever. Let me rephrase that: do you know what we like to do with the rules here at the Discogs blog? That’s right: we like to BREAK THEM!
For example: there’s no Led Zeppelin in this month’s Top 30! Chaos reigns!
Oh, but that’s not the only rule we’re breaking. Remember that stuff about how great vinyl is and how nothing else brings top dollar? Yes, you do. Come on, that was just three paragraphs ago. You could tell that was leading to a big reveal, right? Please tell me you saw that coming. Okay, good! Anyway. Forget vinyl. This month’s biggest seller is a cassette. For that matter, my research shows that this month’s ‘winner’ is the most expensive cassette that’s ever been sold on Discogs.[That research, by the way: half-assed/fully-frenzied digging through a bunch of old Top 30 lists before questioning the efficacy of such data collection methods, followed by panicked contact with star Discogs developer rodneyfool, who was able to solve the problem and save my bacon with science. All the sweat and none of the glory, rodneyfool! The glory of writing about cassettes! On the internet!]
The previous sales record, and the last cassette release to take the lead slot in the Top 30, was a 26 volume Throbbing Gristle box set back in October of 2014. Er, suitcase set. That sold for $2200. As we all know, though, box sets are really just a deceitful way to land on the Top 30, and this month’s top earner is a single cassette release. If you want to compare musically-encoded apples to apples, then, you’d need to go back even further, to May of 2013, to find the next closest thing: a lo-fi comp tape called ‘De La Viande Pour Le Disco?‘ that sold for just over $1.8k. Complete with plastic bag, one must assume.
Well, anyway, forget all of that. That’s old and busted. We’re talking new hotness. The record for a single cassette on Discogs now stands at $4087.
No, that’s not miscalculation. Do not adjust your monitor. Four thousand dollars! For a cassette! You know, like the thing you have to respool with a pencil! As one of the other members of the Discogs support team told me when I revealed this month’s priciest release (after they revealed that they’d previously owned one of these very cassettes): okay, well, I can’t actually tell you what that response was, because it was four letters long and it rhymed with everyone’s favorite waterfowl. Nor can I tell you who that person was, though I bet they’ve really got MARBLES in their HEAD every time they think about…Johnson? Okay, it was MarbleheadJohnson. Man…four thousand dollars.
Believe it or not, I know exactly what you’re thinking at this very moment. You’re obviously envisioning yourself swimming in a big old pile of money, Scrooge McDuck-style. But before you go rushing to your coat closet to unearth that beat-up box of Hall and Oates tapes for treasure conversion, it’s worth noting that this might not be a sign of a forthcoming tape renaissance or anything. This item commands the cheddar because it’s really damn rare. Oh, and it’s a Prince release.
See, at a time when he called himself…actually, I’m not sure what he called himself. “Hi, I’m unpronounceable symbol, pleased to meet you”? “Just send the bill to [points sexily at mysteriously-shaped guitar]”? At any rate, in 1995, during THAT PHASE of his career, the Purple One was getting ready to release The Gold Experience. And, like any other musician might do, he figured the best way to tease the upcoming release of that album would be to compile a limited-run cassette of remixed/edited versions of Gold Experience tracks, along with assorted odds and ends, and bring them to Paris Fashion Week to give away to the funkiest folks viewing the Versace collection. Classic promotion strategy!
The result was The Versace Experience – Prelude 2 Gold, and it’s one of the great rarities in the Prince catalog. Now, apparently some of these edits pretty much consist of Prince randomly shouting “VERSACE!” in the middle of the songs that would later appear on The Gold Experience. (These rumors cannot be confirmed at this time because I do not currently have $4k to spend on many cassettes, let alone a cassette. My family gotta save up that diaper money. If you wish to aid in shoring up my journalistic integrity, I’d welcome you to forward a mint condition, certified authentic copy of this release to me ASAP.) You’d think that might drive down the price. But the material isn’t available elsewhere, and I’m guessing not many of the Versace fans thought to forward the darn thing to their synth pop-loving nieces/nephews for safe keeping, so an explanation for that price tag starts to become a little clearer. Also, and in all sincerity: we obviously all still miss the guy, so let’s just keep thinking of these eye-popping sales as a sincere form of love and devotion for a lost idol. At least until we figure out it’s just some pharma bro gaming the market.
And, uh, there’s other stuff in the Top 30 too, I guess. Like that copy of The Soundhouse Tapes at number 15 ($1127, y’all! Never say this release doesn’t have staying power). And two, count ’em, copies of The White Album, bringing in $1200 and $973. But you already knew that, didn’t you? Sure you did! Assuming you were paying attention earlier, of course. But other mysteries await when you take a look at this month’s list. Mysteries such as:
-A 1968 rocksteady single from Prince Buster, who passed away a little more than a month ago. Not a completely sufficient tribute for one of the originators of the ska genre, but it’s a start. Godspeed.
And with that diversion into adolescent humor I think it’s safe to assume that I’ve been writing this post for too long and/or your patience is wearing (has long ago worn?) thin. Thin like the oxide on a Billy Idol tape that spilled out and never will find that promised big payday. And that’s pretty damn thin. So click on over to the Discogs Top 30 Most Expensive Items Sold List from August 2016 before I come up with any other strained metaphors and we’ll all be the better for it.