I’ve always found that I collect.
I’m a collector ”
This page is dedicated to the collecting side of cassettes: briefly we will try to introduce the novice to the world of collecting; give tips that anybody can use, and try to advise on how to not get ripped off when buying a cassette. We will also explain how grading works and what to look for when buying a tape. A must for any collector is a starting point (reference sites) for prices, another important factor is to know what is considered rare and what is not.
Last but not least remember that collecting should also be fun, so no matter what you have, rare or common it’s the love of Bowie’s music that counts the most, we from BOWIEONTAPE wish you all good hunting !!
Why do people collect things? We don’t think there is just one answer to this question, but we do know that collecting can take up a persons free time and empty your pockets!
So let’s say you want to start collecting cassettes, the best way to start may be to search online for any type of information, the next step may be to visit an online selling site to get the feel of availability and price. Usually the most common places to buy tapes are Ebay; Discogs; Musicstack and the likes. On Facebook there are many fan groups and dedicated cassette tape groups. You should also check out your local record store; goodwill or charity shops; flea markets and second-hand stalls etc. Do not be afraid to ask questions and go for what pleases you, whether or not it is the popular choice.
Pricing is tricky and following Bowie’s death in 2016 anything relating to him generally took a price hike, and in many cases a very unreasonable one; to get the best idea of prices, and in the absence of a Popsike type site you should check out sites like Musicstack, Discogs etc. and ask other collecters on forums and Facebook pages, i.e. the bowieontape page or one of the Bowie collectors groups. The more you spend researching the more comfortable you will be with the asking price and whether or not you choose to accept it – or ask it. We do not give guides on pricing as opinion differs wildly, for example: one of the rarest and most sought after cassettes is the Mercury release of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’; a recent edition of Record Collector gave a guide price of £30. Try asking a dealer/ collector to sell you their’s for that.
What is rare and what is not? well for sure EU cassettes like Black Tie White Noise, Earthling and Hours are very common, you can find them cheap and sealed for less than the price of a pint of beer! A cassette – like the Canadian “New Music: Night and Day” -on the other hand, is considered rare by the collectors’ community and can fetch big money. Another “Rare” cassette is Reality: this cassette, like its’ vinyl counterpart was released at the downturn of production in analogue formats so not many can be found! There are also many variations of the same album/ release, so check out the descriptions when visiting bowieontape.
A note: Before we go on to grading it’s probably fair to point out the obvious: the cassette tape was designed to be fully portable and easy to use. You could play it on a high-end home hi-fi; in the car stereo or a cheap ‘n’ cheerful portable recorder whilst sitting in the park. Dirt marks on shells are common; scratches on cases are common; damaged hinges on boxes are common. Unless a tape is sealed there is always a likelihood that it comes in the wrong box and we have included boxes wherever it could be proved that tape came from that box and they more than generic. It’s not always the case they weren’t looked after, rather they were enjoyed as they were meant. How many have been taken from the house and thrown in the glove box of your car with a half dozen more, mixed and matched throughout the journey and before eventually finding their way back inside. It’s what they were made for, it is their purpose. So remember if you’re all about condition, be patient but; if you want to hear a genuinely good quality recording of the songs of David Bowie, albeit not always in the sequence they were on your original vinyl, pick the best condition you can find using the guide below, and enjoy yourself.
Grading : We at bowieontape follow the Goldmine Standard, usually the same rules that are used for records apply to cassettes. One thing that you can’t do when buying online is to see the actual item. Always ask for photos, ask if the cassette plays and how it sounds. Visual grading is important, a cassette that has been stored with care and not played till death is a cassette that will have the inlay and panels in perfect shape, the labels or printing on the shell will not been torn off or worn away, the pads will be intact. Look for a tape that has been rewound, and look through the shell to the tape inside: are there any bumps in the tape indicating it has twisted; can you see any white residue from oxidisation? Look for cracks in the shell or writing or creasing to the slip sheet etc. Discolouration or fading to the cover (J-card) indicates the cassette has been left in the sun or stone light too long – perhaps a shop window; it is almost guaranteed the heat, humidity and dust will mean the tape inside is in poor condition. Always check the catalogue number on the cover (usually the spine), and the cassette match.
Find a web page that will explain mechanical rights societies e.g. ‘BIEM’; ‘SACEM’ or ‘GEMA’ that you will find on the shell of most cassettes and often the cover also, so you can link the correct rights society to the country you think you are buying a cassette of e.g. Portuguese cassettes are marked ‘SPA’ and are often mistakenly offered as Spanish.
Inside the cassette is a small felt pressure pad. They are there to maintain the tautness of the tape and stop the playback head of your cassette player from possibly getting damaged by rubbing against the hard surface of the frame. Over time and due to certain conditions they sometimes fall off. Don’t worry. If you can find the original, glue it back on and if you can’t find it they are available and cheap.
Grading a cassette MINT means that the cassette is sealed, or brand new but unsealed. At the other end of the scale we have POOR. A cassette that is in POOR condition is generally speaking good for nothing unless it’s a very rare item and you are unlikely to find a better copy. Good sense should prevail; the better the condition the more it should be worth within it’s price range.
The Goldmine Grading standard for tapes
Mint (M) = J-Card is crisp, clean and perfect in every way. Likely sealed. Cassette is brand new, and professionally produced. Used sparingly as a grade, should be free of even the slightest blemishes and/or defects. This grade should be used sparingly, if at all.
Near Mint (NM or M-) = Sleeve should be totally crisp and clean with only the slightest evidence of handling. Tape is likely new, free of any wear or damage.
Very Good Plus (VG+) = Sleeve has slight wear, marks, indentations, and/or may possibly have a cut-out hole (or similar). Tape has been taken very good care of and may have light marks or spindle wear. Should play cleanly with minimal noise or degradation.
Very Good (VG) = Sleeve will contain more wear, marks, and/or indentations than a VG+. May have slight fading, a small tear/rip, or some writing. Tape may have heavier marks and wear than VG including plastic discoloration. Should play with some stronger hiss or degradation, but not enough to overpower music.
Good (G), Good Plus (G+) = Sleeve will be well worn, marked, and contain obvious indentations, fading, and/or writing, more so than a VG grade – possibly a more significant tear/rip. Tape will have heavy wear on shell. Felt stopper may be missing. Tape may have minor creasing, but not broken. Must play through, may have heavier degradation that will overpower music.
Poor (P), Fair (F) = Sleeve will be torn, heavily stained, showing general heavy damage, or will be partially missing. Likewise, tape will be heavily damaged, showing complete fading on the face, crinkled tape, missing screws or teeth, staining, and other heavy wear. Cassette will more than likely not play through.
Generic = Within the context of grading items , the term “generic” refers to a type of sleeve that is not specific to the release. A generic sleeve is either a plain sleeve or a company sleeve with standard company artwork.
The best way to start is always to ask friendly collectors, they will be more than happy to give you tips and guide you !
Also check out these Bowie collecting related sites