The Story of a Rare Record

The Austin Record Convention has been a marketplace for vintage phonograph records for almost 50 years. Many thousands of rare (and not so rare) records have passed through the show during these years. It’s only natural, since the show is the largest music sale in the USA and buyers and sellers attend from all over the world so people can usually get a good price for their rare records at the show. And also have a chance to find specific record rarities. But at our last event perhaps one of the most truly rare records in the US turned up, brought to the show by an older Texas couple.

Only 2 copies of this disc were known to exist until this copy came to the show. As the story goes, when this blues 45 was issued in 1953 by Sun Records most of the pressings got destroyed in an accident, so only a few escaped destruction to reach collector hands.

I had been contacted a couple months ahead of the show by the record owners and they wanted to sell their family collection of records. They had a mix of 45s, 78s and LPs. Most were not of great value except for a few Sun 45s including the last issued Elvis 45, Sun #223 Mystery Train, not a truly rare record but all the 5 Elvis records issued on the Sun label are hard to find. The owner didn’t identify any other records she had but I told her to bring all of her records to the show as there might be other records of value in her small collection of vinyl. So the family came to the Austin show with their records this past May.

They came to my table to show me the records and as I looked thru them, I saw their Sun records including the Elvis - Mystery Train 45. But the other Sun records also looked very interesting, one was Rufus Thomas, Sun #181, Bear Cat, a hard to find Sun release, which I was familiar with, and another was Sun 45 #183 by D A Hunt, Lonesome old jail / greyhound blues, which looked very interesting to me as I had never seen it before. So I went over to Dr Robert Stallworth’s table at the show to ask his opinion of this odd Sun record. Robert is one of the most experienced and honest blues record collectors in the USA and I felt sure he would know the record. And he did, he told me it was a very good, very rare record of high value. I returned to the owners bought the 3 Sun 45 for what I considered a fair price. As word spread around the show about the rare Sun 45 turning up, I had many offers to buy the disc from other collectors. And as I soon learned from the other collectors, only 2 other copies of this disc had surfaced since 1953, and one of them had recently sold for over 5 digits! Being in the position I am in running the show with my son, Nathan, I refuse to take advantage of people by underpricing their rare records when I’m asked for my opinion. The folks that had brought the record to the show were still present, so I found them and told them that the Sun 45 by D A Hunt that I had bought from them was much more valuable then I realized. I offered to run an impromptu auction of the disc for them at the show and that we would split the proceeds. They agreed and our auction was as big a success as we had hoped it would be. The previous owners and myself went home happy with our deal, and so was the new owner of Sun #183!

Of course all the 45 collectors at the show, including myself, wanted to know how this family came into possession of this extremely rare record. But all the lady could tell us was that her family used to travel around the US on vacation. And in the early 50s they had gone thru Memphis, home of Sun Records. Her brother was a big music fan and must’ve picked up the Sun records at that time.

A great story that shows how rare records are lost - and found.

Doug Hanners