It’s a collecting truism that the only things you regret are the things you didn’t buy. It’s something you learn quite quickly: there is nothing like the deflating feeling of missing something wonderful in an auction because you didn’t dare bid higher. And conversely the feeling of guilt-ridden horror when you’ve gone well beyond any rational limits on something does soon melt away. What doesn’t bankrupt you makes you stronger, as Nietsche put it during his Beach Boys collecting period, or at least as long as your significant other doesn’t check your Paypal statements.
I touched on this with some of the discussions about Candle “Lions” singles, which have recently gone stratospheric with bidding wars on Ebay. It’s quite easy for me to act smug about this having hoovered up most of the copies that have been sold recently.
But if I didn’t have a copy I’d be in there mixing it with the nutters. I did that with the BBC In Concert transcription disk and massively overpaid for it, but don’t regret it at all. It’s almost impossible to find so worth the effort.
All the same, there are a number of things I really do regret not trying harder on. And the reasons are usually pretty stupid.
Exhibit A sits above in the photo. It’s a Brazilian cassette copy of Jordan. Doesn’t look magical, isn’t magical really, it’s very mundane. It turned up on the Mercado Libre auction site in South America – this is a sort of Latino Desparado run version of Ebay, which is fiendishly difficult to buy from as you need to register a local credit card and can’t easily contact sellers. And it was on sale for pennies for months and months and months while I scratched my head about it. Eventually I figured out a way of finding the seller and explained I’d love to buy it. And he came back with some ridiculous price, $50 US or something, so I threw a bit of a paddy and refused, expecting to be able to come back in a few weeks to beat him down to something approaching the original price. Except the sodding thing sold. I’ve never ever seen another copy, and local cassettes are amongst the rarest objects you could imagine because they were generally made in small quantities and then not valued in the slightest. And this one was, in the words of Toy Story 2, “mint in box… never been opened”. It’s enough to make you fairly drool with frustration. And every now and again I search plaintively in case it’s come back. It never will.
The second example was a cracking, unique, object. I bought a lot of John Birch’s residual Sprout collection, including acetates and some other bits and bobs. He’d tried to sell them on Ebay but had no luck, it being the period where interest in matters Sprout was minimal, and in fact just before I got interested. So I picked them up pretty cheaply. Almost as an afterthought he offered me a multitrack tape of a Sprout single which was apparently left over from the mastering. I thought about it for a bit, then figured I couldn’t play it and at that point wasn’t quite the completist I am now, so didn’t bother and forgot about it. When I remembered again it had been passed on to someone else. Most annoying.
But the most annoying one, the absolute regret of regrets, was on Ebay just as I was becoming interested in collecting Sproutanalia. Now you see quite a lot of gold disks on sale, and they’re all reproductions made to sell to gullible fans. But one day a real one appeared – a gold disk for “A Life of Surprises”, rather tatty and in a broken frame, but eminently restorable. And I looked at it, and I went back and looked again, and it looked lovely. I resolved to bid if no-one else did, and someone did so I left it. I think it sold for £50 or so, absolute bargain for whoever got it. But it wasn’t me.
Mind you, someone has one of Paddy’s gold disks which he gave away on “Live and Kicking” in 1991, where this belonged to a relatively lowly sound engineer or someone like that. But I literally dream of having the one I missed up on the wall in the Sprout shrine. I will never ever do anything so stupid as not bidding on something like that ever again. I didn’t even save the contact details or keep a photo. Madness.
So there we have it, my fellow collectors: never give up on an object of desire, whatever the price. Unless you’re bidding against me, obviously.