Classical 78s, worthless antiques?
March 17, 2011 1:21 PM   Subscribe

What should I do with a collection of old, classical records near Pittsburgh?

So I have five large (and heavy!) wooden crates full of old records - about 20 albums per crate. For the most part they seem to be in pretty good condition. When they were stored in a basement years ago, someone took the time to wrap each album in cardboard to preserve it. The music itself is almost all classical - Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky... The records are big, brittle and 78 rpm. They're all older than 1950's. Some might be significantly older than that, but I can't find dates on anything.

The record collectors I've talked to in Pittsburgh have said these are almost impossible to sell. I guess nobody wants to flip through 4 records just to listen to a low quality recording of Beethoven's 9th anymore.

So what would you do with these? Can anyone recommend a university or museum to donate to? Might they be worth something after all, if I can find the right person?

(hope this doesn't sound too much like a craigslist post, I'm really asking for advice, not trying to sell stuff on AskMe)
posted by MrFTBN to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cater to kids wanting to be DJs and/or remix stuff. Say you've got the records and they can have as many as they want. You might not get as many since they're 78's, but I'll bet you get some people interested. I know my brother would be, but he's nowhere near PA so that won't really help.
posted by theichibun at 1:26 PM on March 17, 2011

I know that Pitt has a music department as well as a music library (Theodore Finney). You could contact a staff member to see if they accept donations. I don't know if they would have the space or interest in your collection, though.
posted by amicamentis at 1:29 PM on March 17, 2011

Have you talked to Whistlin' Willie's 78s? They're an offshoot of Jerry's Records in Squirrel Hill, here's a Post-gazette article about them.
posted by octothorpe at 2:06 PM on March 17, 2011

I used to work in the Music Department (then Music & Art) at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. They have (had?) an enormous collection of classical LPs. So big, in fact, they may not accept your donation to add to the collection. However, way back when they used to have a huge "Friends of the Music & Art Department" record sale as a fundraiser. Not sure if they still do it, but you would get a tax writeoff by donating to them (even if they sell the LPs instead of accessioning them). It's worth giving them a call!
posted by arco at 2:36 PM on March 17, 2011

Jerry's was my first and only thought.
posted by chinston at 6:46 PM on March 17, 2011

The Harsh truth: old Classical 78's: almost virtually unsellable/give-awayable; I think they're swell, but I have plenty already myself. They ain't hot on eBay, but if you wait long enough, sometimes fashions change.

Time-capsule, conceptual performance-art project, or landfill.
posted by ovvl at 7:38 PM on March 17, 2011

Craigslist really cheap or Goodwill. You can't DJ on these, a university will not want them. It's basically like a pile of old VHS tapes, except less usable.
posted by Slinga at 8:22 PM on March 17, 2011

I called Jerry's first - no interest. Funny he didn't mention Willie, Jerry's son. Though I found Whistlin' Willie's myself on a later search. Hopefully Willie will at least buy the few non-classical records tomorrow.

After that, I'll try Pitt, Carnegie Library, etc. Some of the recordings are from the PSO. It seems appropriate that they should be in a local collection. So hopefully someone around here will take them off my hands. The tax write-off would be nice.

Otherwise, I'm not sure what I'll do. I really can't see myself throwing them away though. They were deliberately preserved, and it doesn't feel right to destroy them after they survived so many decades.

Performance art project sounds ... interesting.
posted by MrFTBN at 8:41 PM on March 17, 2011

If they're from the PSO, maybe call them? They may have an archivist. Or maybe contact the Heinz History Center? Good for you for being conscientious.
posted by chinston at 9:20 PM on March 17, 2011

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