Music · On my radio · Word of the week

Word of the week: mint

Last month, in this piece, I wrote about MiniDisc technology. In recent weeks I have been playing back some of my old MiniDisc recordings, stretching back over more than two decades. They’re similar to the kind of things we recorded back in the 1980s: mix-tapes and radio shows. There are chart run-downs, American-themed shows presented by Paul Gambaccini, editions of “Pick of the Pops” hosted by the late Dale Winton.

The most evocative recordings are those taken from Marc Riley’s show “Mint”, broadcast on Sunday nights on BBC 6Music from October 2004 to March 2007. As far as I can see there are no archive editions available on the web. This page titled “Fancy a Brew?” summarizes the show: “the pair [Riley and Uncut journalist Rob Hughes] set off to explore the world of collectible records and memorabilia, with a slight tongue in cheek … sending presenters out to charity shops and car boot sales to see who could get the best bargains with a crisp five pound note, certainly added to the fun.”

The pair’s acquisitions from their weekly shopping sprees were assessed by Jack Kane, who wrote for Record Collector magazine and was editor of the Rare Record Price Guide. Sadly he took his own life in the spring of 2005, so he was only involved with the show for the first eight months or so. His contributions were always a highlight. I have just been listening to a Punk and New Wave Special, from sometime in 2005. (I didn’t have the Date and Time feature set on my MiniDisc so can’t tell exactly when it was.) Kane describes one of their purchases as “common as chicken shops in Hackney”. It was good to hear his voice again, for the first time in many years.

The word “Mint”, as you no doubt know, refers to collectible vinyl in its most desirable state, unplayed and in its original packaging. Marc Riley’s show confirmed that the vast majority of records do not hold their value well. I remember back in the late 1970s that original 7” copies of “Anarchy in the UK” (Sex Pistols, on EMI) were changing hands at up to £20 within a year of its release. I wanted a copy so that I could hear it, not because of its value, but the cheapest quote I got was £15, from a record shop on the Kings Road. I couldn’t afford it. The boy I sat next to in Maths had picked up a copy for 25p from the bargain bin at his local Woolworth and offered it to me at that price. I couldn’t do it. I told him how valuable it was, and to keep hold of it. It could only go up in value. Now, over 40 years later, it has barely doubled. You can pick up a good quality copy for around £30.

The most valuable records are those that were never available to the general public. I have still never seen a copy of the Sex Pistols follow-up single, “God Save the Queen”, on A&M, but according to this piece from the BBC website one went for £13,000 at auction last year. Back in 2011 (according to this piece) it was valued at £8,000, but the added value is probably connected to the “golden handshake” letter that accompanied the disc: “it was thought only nine copies of the single were kept ‘in a vault’ and handed out to a few long-standing employees when the London office closed in 1998”.

I traded in a handful of albums back in the 1970s, and trashed a copy of the first single I ever bought, but otherwise I still have every vinyl record that I (and my parents) ever bought. None of them are in mint condition. Even if they were, the whole collection is probably worth less than we spent on it in the first place.

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