Review by Lee Dempsey
As a long-time Beach Boys collector, I’ve always been frustrated by the fact that the Beach Boys have never been given the same attention as other artists – such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, even Elvis Presley – when it came to documenting their recorded output, and values for that output. Brad Elliott made a step toward that with his book Surf’s Up!: The Beach Boys on Record, 1961-1981, but that book has never been updated, and it didn’t include prices. Generic price guides from sources such as Goldmine offered some support in that regard, but most of them have missed widely on pricing – and in some cases omitted completely – a number of rare Beach Boys releases.
The Price and Reference Guide for The Beach Boys American Records, First Edition, by authors Perry Cox, Frank Daniels, and Mark Galloway, finally gives the Beach Boys U.S. physical catalogue the attention it deserves. With over 480 color pages of listings of albums, EP’s, 45’s, CD’s, and tapes of all formats – ranging from group releases, to solo outings, to various artist compilations – the authors (themselves collectors and dealers) left almost no stone unturned.
The book is fully-hardbound, and weighs a ton. It includes a foreword by Jeffrey Foskett, and an interview with David Marks. Two editions are available: a standard edition (retail $49.95 US + shipping), and a numbered, limited edition in a custom slipcase, signed by David Marks and the authors (retail $79.95 US + shipping). The standard version is available both on Amazon, and directly from Perry Cox on eBay; the deluxe version is only available direct from the authors on eBay. Sections in the front of the book address grading, test pressings and acetates, promo copy designations, sealed copies, sleeves, and label and pressing plant variations. Also interspersed throughout the book are bonus photos of rare items that don’t really classify as recorded media – handwritten lyrics, publicity photos, posters, promotional items, etc. Rarer listings are graded in three conditions: Good (G), Very Good (VG), and Near Mint (NM); where as more common / more recent items are graded in two conditions. In general, the VG prices are about 40% of the NM values, and the G values are about 40% of the VG values. The authors go into an amazing level of detail regarding variations in label and cover printing, so called “hype stickers” that were affixed to the shrink wrap or cover, and the like. Even though I’ve been collecting the Beach Boys for over 40 years, there are items and variations that I didn’t even know existed. It will take the reader days – if not weeks – to pour through the details.
The criticisms are basic, and are standard for a book of this type: one, the values can be controversial at times – and Perry Cox admits such in a letter accompanying the book. For most of the rarer items, the prices are significantly higher than those in any previous price guides; in general, readers should be pleased if they own a copy of one of the Beach Boys rarer records – and angry if an item is on their want list! For example, the colored vinyl pressing of “Barbie” / “What Is A Young Girl Made Of” by Kenny & the Cadets (Randy 422), which features, Brian, Carl and Audree Wilson, lists at $5,000 NM, and the black vinyl version lists at $3,000 NM! (I sold a copy of the latter for $400 about 15 years ago…) There may a short window of “arbitrage” where records can still be bought off auction lists at prices that don’t reflect their new book value, but expect that window to close once more copies of the guide get into the hands of dealers. On the other hand, some items are drastically undervalued. For example, the cream-colored stock copy of Brother / Reprise 0998, “Cool, Cool, Water” / “Forever” is listed at a near-mint value of $6; collectors who have devoted their time exclusively to collecting the Beach Boys know that this stock copy, while considerably less rare than the brown label Reprise edition of the same title (which lists for $500 in NM condition in the book), is still hard-to-find itself, and is several orders of magnitude rarer than the white label promo of the same title (listed in the book at $20 in NM condition).
Based on my collecting experience, if the brown Reprise version is the benchmark at $500, then the cream Brother / Reprise should be valued at $100-$125, and the white label promo should be $40-$50. Likewise, the stock copy of the Spring “Good Time” / “Sweet Mountain” 45 (UA 50907) is listed at $30; in reality, less than a handful of stock copies of this title have surfaced, and the value is well above $200. Also, the esoteric formats such as PlayTape, 4-Track, 8-Track, and Reel-to-Reel don’t seem to get the same level of detail in pricing as the vinyl, CD, and cassette entries, with across-the-board pricing assigned to most titles in those formats, instead of singling out the rarer titles. As Cox points out, the market value is set by individual buyers and sellers, and not by a physical book that is essentially outdated the day after it is published; a real-time source such as eBay Completed Listings will always provide a more grounded value at any point in time.
Second, there are a number of typos, which, if the authors had submitted proof copies to a handful of key Beach Boys collectors for review and feedback, could easily have been avoided. For example, the entries for the All Summer Long album refer to a cough heard in the stereo version of the song “Little Honda;” BB fans will know that the cough actually appears in the song “Wendy.” But since there are five separate entries for the original Capitol black / rainbow label release (mono “Don’t Break Down,” stereo “Don’t Break Down,” mono “Don’t Back Down,” stereo “Don’t Back Down,” and mono promo designated), the error is propagated across all five entries.
Third, by organizing the book alphabetically instead of chronologically, it allowed the authors to group all releases across 50+ years of a single title together – but most collectors that I know organize their collections chronologically. At a minimum, a chronological index in the back would have been helpful.
Given the amount of effort it took just to get this version out the door, it is unlikely that the authors will ever do a Second Edition, but it would be great if they would take the feedback of collectors on pricing, corrections, and additional entries, and publish a searchable digital revised edition. Regardless of whether that happens, The Price and Reference Guide for The Beach Boys American Records, First Edition, is still a definite must-have for all Beach Boys collectors, regardless of whether you are a seasoned veteran like me, or you are just starting your collection.
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