4. Tommy Johnson's Alcohol and Jake Blues and Ridin' Horse
Sale price on eBay: $37,100
Vinyl records are hitting a nice little revival and, according to Nielsen Soundscan, have jumped from little more than 4 million sales in 2012 to more than 6 million last year. That's only about 2% of the overall album market, but it's growing and has grabbed music lovers' attention.
It's also made it near impossible for old-school crate diggers to get a deal on rare records anymore. In the case of this 78 by seminal Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson dating back to 1929, one enterprising collector in Johnson's home state of Mississippi nearly had it for $4,000. A technical error with eBay's Buy It Now feature kept the bidding going and jacked up the price by more than eight times that amount.
While it takes a well-rounded music scholar to not only recognize Tommy Johnson and his influence on early 20th century blues, but to scour eBay for his extremely rare albums hoping one pops up, sometimes music collection isn't about the music at all. Sometimes, it's just a matter of the same dumb luck that leads to someone buying a stamp with an upside-down image or a pack of baseball cards featuring a baseball player holding a bat with an expletive written on its knob.
That kind of collecting happens more than music fans would like to admit, with a recent example featuring a promotional copy of the Beatles' single Love Me Do featuring Paul McCartney's last name spelled "McArtney" on the label. That went for nearly $11,000, which bought someone a whole lot of boring, unsatisfying conversation.
Collector: "See, it's spelled 'McArtney.' Can you believe it? 'McArtney!' What rubes!"
Collector's put-upon friend: "That's great. I'm going to freshen up my drink. Do you have anything stronger than grain alcohol?"