Swingin' Singles

July of 2014 is just around the corner and no doubt you will be happy to know that donations are just rolling on in. Yeah, I know August is supposed to be a no donation month. Tell everybody else.

I told you about the five boxes of old surgical textbooks. By old I mean two hundred years old. Please plan your trip to the collectibles table accordingly. (The antique medical and scientific books are at the first corner you come to as you move down the first aisle: across the corner where Art turns right.) The book of glorious engravings of hernias is red, if I remember correctly.

Somebody actually counted what they gave me. What they gave me was 1,054 records, from the estate of an uncle I have to figure was a disc jockey who appeared at a lot of proms and anniversary dinners. Because of these 1,054 records, roughly a thousand are pop instrumentals—dance music—of the Forties and Fifties. There are The Hollywood Strings, The Hollywood Brass, The Melachrino Strings, 101 Strings, Lawrence Welk, Liberace…there’s enough retro Easy Listening for a dozen lounges.

Another record collection was the kind that gives me qualms every year. First, do I leave the 45 adapters in the 45s or try to sell them separately? And do people buy them with the records or just pop them out and put them in a pocket? (For those who do not recall, the old doughnut-format single could be played on the spindle of a record player only if the record player came with a special adapter for the larger hole, or if you inserted a metal or plastic adapter into the record itself. The plastic ones can generally be removed and used in other records, but the metal ones were often permanent.)

Beyond that weighty question is the fact that about sixty of the 45s that were donated were polkas. Do you know that until the 2012 Book Fair I was unaware that there even were such things as polkas on 45? I led a sheltered life, but I had no idea it was that sheltered. In fact, Chicago had at least two record companies which seem to have specialized in polka singles.

Still, going back to 1986, when I started pricing records at this little shindig, there have been polka albums to torment me with that sorting question: what category do they go into? Are polkas Folk, Easy Listening, or Classics? (The Strausses wrote a goodly number of polas, you know.) I’ve always opted for Folk, which puts me in line with a number of other record sellers. (eBay, that bunch of cowards, set up a separate category called Polkas.)

Mind you, the polka came across the ocean in the mid-nineteenth century and became so popular in Mexico and Central America that the Latino record section is also a possibility. But what I try to do is put something where I think people will find it, and the number of customers looking for polkas who will go straight to the Latino…yes, I’ll wait while you try to accept the concept of customers looking for polkas in the first place.

Listen, this collection has put us in the position of practically cornering the market in singles by Li’l Wally and the Harmony Boys, including even his famous Polka Twist (to give you an idea of the vintage of these bits of musical plastic). I bet I sell more of those than I sell old French books with engravings of hernias in them.

Somebody dropped off a small but interesting collection of books dealing with theories about the calendar system of the Ancient Greeks, but if you’re not going to be serious about Li’l Wally, I refuse to even mention that. So there, too.

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