Coveting Vintage Discs in a Digital Universe
‘Do Not Sell at Any Price’ and ‘Dust & Grooves’
Something unexpected happened to Amanda Petrusich when she set out to explore the “oddball fraternity” of fanatical collectors of 78 r.p.m. records, the increasingly hard-to-find shellac discs that circulated before World War II. At first she was almost repulsed by the avidity of their passion. But when she heard the music of Skip James, Charley Patton, Blind Uncle Gaspard and Geeshie Wiley played in its original format, she fell under its spell, just as the collectors had.
“Eventually, I started to want what they wanted,” she writes. “For me, the modern marketing cycle and the endless gifts of the Web had begun to feel toxic,” its surfeit of always-available music leading to a response that surprised her: “I missed pining for things. I missed the ecstasy of acquisition.”
“Do Not Sell at Any Price” is full of little epiphanies like that, as well as detailed portraits of individual collectors, their quirks and obsessions on display. They are initially suspicious of Ms. Petrusich and her motives, as they are of all outsiders and even their fellow collector-competitors, but her persistence pays off in the form of stories and observations that humanize the collectors and their pursuit.