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Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records

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3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  628 Ratings  ·  121 Reviews
The untold story of a quirky and important subculture: The world of 78rpm records and the insular community that celebrates them—by acclaimed music critic and author Amanda Petrusich, who contributes regularly to Pitchfork, The Oxford American, and The New York Times.

Before MP3s, CDs, and cassette tapes, even before LPs or 45s, the world listened to music on 78rpm records—
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Hardcover, 260 pages
Published July 8th 2014 by Scribner (first published July 1st 2014)
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Community Reviews

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Paul Bryant
Jul 14, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sufferers from OCD and their families

Just look at some chapter titles:

An Air Of Impoverishment And Depleted Humanity

An Obnoxious, Bitter, Hateful Old Creep

Suck All The Blossoms And He Leave You An Empty Square

But There’s Another Part Of Me That Finds It Kind Of Disgusting


Thanks Amanda, a great subject done wonderfully well. A meditation on many things including fetishization, obsessive compulsive disorder and learning scuba diving. (She does this so she can scour the bed of the Milwaukee River for 78s which were hurled into the riv
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Jeff Crompton
Apr 28, 2015 Jeff Crompton rated it it was amazing
Okay, I feel that I have to start this review with some personal background. I am, among other things, a 78 RPM record collector. For years, I would come home with jazz LPs, and my wife would roll her eyes. I would say, "At least I don't collect 78s - those people are crazy."

But then I became obsessed with the jazz saxophonist Boyce Brown, who recorded about a dozen times in the 1930s and 40s. I decided that I had to have all of his recordings, but soon discovered that one of his sessions existe
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RandomAnthony
Aug 12, 2014 RandomAnthony rated it liked it
Shelves: music
I picked up Amanda Petrusich’s Do Not Sell At Any Price primarily because I live in Port Washington, WI, a couple miles away from the site of what’s apparently one of the most important blues labels in American history. More on that in a minute. Ms. Petrusich redeems herself pretty well with this book, but it’s not perfect. While she puts in yeoman’s labor in research and interviews, Do Not Sell At Any Price should have either been bigger or smaller. It doesn’t feel the right size. You’ve either ...more
John
This was a terrific book. Petrusich, a music critic, sets out to explore the genuinely odd world of 78 rpm record collectors, a subculture probably completely unknown to any outsider who hasn't glimpsed it in the documentary Crumb or as represented in the movie Ghost World (and I assume the comics as well, though I've never read those). What's wonderful about her as a writer is that she never condescends, and never indulges in voyeurism (indeed, she gets caught up in their pursuits). Instead, sh ...more
Elle
May 30, 2015 Elle rated it really liked it
Started the book this afternoon and didn't put it down until I finished. Maybe it's because I'm a collector at heart; maybe it's because decades of life in the South have imbued me with a love of the blues and bluegrass, but this was a deeply fascinating and engrossing read. I was actually getting annoyed by my needing to stop and highlight/annotate parts in the book. Amanda's voice is funny, tremendously self-deprecating, and laced with wry bemusement at how she went from reporting the story to ...more
Emily
Jul 19, 2015 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: music
This book took me a peculiarly long time to get through, given that its subject (78 RPM record collecting) is one that has personal resonance for me (I have fond memories of summer days spent trawling antique marts of rural Virgina in the company of a friend who was an avid hunter of vintage recordings, although not in the same league as the ones described in this book). Maybe I found the book easy to put down and hard to pick back up again because Petrusich's approach is frustratingly scattersh ...more
Tom
Nov 02, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it
After reading some of John Jeremiah Sullivan's stuff that touches on 78 collectors -- parts of Pulphead and that wonderful NYT Magazine piece on Geechie Wiley earlier this year -- I was pretty excited about this Amanda Petrusich book, and it didn't disappoint. There were a couple sections that dragged just a bit, I thought, but overall this was a fantastic book about a strange subculture.

Having just read David Kinney's The Dylanologists, I didn't really intend to read this sort-of-similar book s
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Chris
Apr 19, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own
"The question that never gets answered, or maybe that doesn't even get asked, is what is it about being human that makes us desire this thing that is so ephemeral?" - 78 collector Chris King

"Do Not Sell at Any Price" is a love letter to wanting. To wishing. To white-knuckle envy and ache that keeps you up nights. You might not collect 78s. Maybe you collect Faberge eggs, or stamps, or baseball cards of disgraced baseball players. You have a thing you want, and then your brain structures your lif
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Jay Hinman
Sep 11, 2014 Jay Hinman rated it liked it
Few topics are as evergreen as that of the cantankerous, obsessed, divorced-from-his-age 78rpm record collector. There are the thrilling narratives of the porch-combing northern whites who canvassed door-to-door in the late 50s and early 60s to line their own pockets, give seed to the “blues revival”, and in turn, bring figures like Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James back from the figurative dead. Then there’s the guys who’re still doing it today. Since most of the old delta blues and early co ...more
GlenK
This book is a fascinating look into the world of 78RPM record collecting and the often obsessive, sometimes seriously bizarre people who live there. By turns it is a quest for the rarest of the rare (focusing usually on 1920s American rural blues), a history (of the music, the musicians, the record companies), and an often laugh-out-loud travel narrative (in style and tone, this work reminds very much of Sarah Vowell's "Assassination Vacation"). As a compliment, I would also recommend Rick Kenn ...more
Tony
Feb 06, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it
DO NOT SELL AT ANY PRICE: The Wild Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78 rpm Records. (2014). Amanda Petrusich. ****.
I continue to learn, as I get older, that everything in life is collectible to someone. This even includes those clunky 78rpm records that predate the 33 1/3 rpm, the 45 rpm, the EP, tape, and CD formats. I’m sure that most of you have seen them. The problem is that most turntables (if you can even find them today) can’t play them. You’re lucky if they play 45 rpm records along
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Michael Neno
Sep 01, 2014 Michael Neno rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records is a mixed bag, but essential reading for record collectors and those interested in the history and evolution of the recording, preservation, cataloging and categorizing of what we now call "roots music".

Petrusich brings an outsider approach to the subject and interviews most of the important living 78 collectors and historians: John Tefteller, Joe Bussard, John Heneghan, Chris King and others. It's a partly
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Debra Komar
Feb 08, 2016 Debra Komar rated it really liked it
Highly entertaining look at extreme collectors. I have to admit, I have heard only a handful of 78s in my life and have never come close to the subculture that cherishes them, but Petrusich does an admirable job of introducing them without judgement or turning them into a freak show.

If you have ever watched someone eat on the Food Network, you know how hard it is to live vicariously through the senses of another person. Reading about music is like watching someone taste - it takes real talent t
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Rob
Apr 11, 2016 Rob rated it really liked it
Stopping by Powell's to pick up books is always dangerous for my wallet. Remaindered for US $8 I couldn't pass it up and glad I didn't.

It's an interesting read, albeit frightening to see how much I have in common with the "weirdos" who make up the bulk of hardcore 78 collectors. It's entertaining and fairly light, although not without a few faults: the author, like people profiled in the book, tends to over-intellectualize the relation of enjoying/appreciating music vis a vis collecting, and too
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Pat Frank
Feb 14, 2015 Pat Frank rated it liked it
I would have preferred to rate this book in the high 3s but we are limited to whole "stars." It dragged a bit, I felt, on occasion, dry as one of the paper sleeves on the 78s. But the book was redeemed at the end as she examined the collector personality and I found some connection to her observations. I was briefly, one of those rare female collectors since I had such a strong connection to my parents 78s. I even purchased a gorgeous Coumbia wind-up player with louvered doors functioning as vol ...more
Aengus
Oct 27, 2014 Aengus rated it really liked it
A little bit music criticism, a little bit ethnomusicology, and a little bit
autobiography, "Do Not Sell at Any Price" is a look at obsessive music collectors, and the fetishization of commodity. Is the music on 78's incredibly important, or is it just rare? Ms. Petrusich dives into (quite literally: she spends a year getting SCUBA certified so she can dive for probably non existent shellac) the cranky world of middle aged misanthropic record collectors and comes up with a pearl of a book.
It ove
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Hester
Dec 21, 2015 Hester rated it really liked it
This book did something for me I didn't think possible: it re-ignited my love for music, and my need to hear new sounds. And by new, I mean old. I explored roughly this territory in the late 80s and early 90s (not the 78 world, gah, I'm not a middle-class white dude), and somehow got separated from it in the early 2000s. Sure, I bought the occasional ceedee (when most of my music was, and is, on vinyl), but I seriously lost enthusiasm. Case in point: I'm wearing a 5SOS hoodie as I type this. Oh, ...more
Hank Stuever
Oct 19, 2014 Hank Stuever rated it liked it
It took a while for me to come back and finish this book because it sort of tested the outer limits of my (merely passing, I admit) interest in record collectors and 78 rpm blues recordings, but I knew it would. I also already knew the tropes and stereotypes of this world, courtesy "Ghost World," R. Crumb, the Anthology of American Music, etc. I was drawn to the book because of an interview with the author on public radio, in which Amanda Petrusich did a very good job of discussing the feelings ...more
Bill Sleeman
Feb 21, 2015 Bill Sleeman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history



Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78 rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich is a must read for any music fan or for any collector (which would be just about anyone on Goodreads) of things, whatever your particular proclivity might be. It is a fun, engaging and informative investigation of not just the records in the title but the people behind the collecting. Central to the story is Petrusich's own growing interest, both personal and professional, in the task of

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Caryn Rose
Sep 22, 2014 Caryn Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such an incredibly special book I have been delaying marking it as finished because I feel like I need a lot of time to write about it. This is a phenomenal, very human, very detailed detour into this world, but also serves as a roadmap into other similar worlds. It is as rich and detailed as a novel. You don't need to know anything about collecting records or 78s because Petrusich tells you everything you need to know, in language that is warm, plain and understandable. The best non-fic ...more
Bob
Jun 09, 2015 Bob rated it really liked it
This has tons of useful and somewhat esoteric information about the actual production and distribution of 78 records, the business and various contenders in its heyday. The portraits of collectors and collecting are equally good. The writing style is intentionally not scholarly, but sometimes feels lazy, e.g. use of profanity at spots where it doesn't feel just colloquial, more like it's an easy way to finish a paragraph.
With the amount of geographic and historical detail, there are some errors
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Scott Cave
Apr 07, 2015 Scott Cave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It it occasionally stumbles (the scuba diving for record section comes to mind), it is quite simply one of my favorite books about music I have ever read. A capable analysis of the weird, old 78 rpm records that have defined the folk canon in the United States and the weird, variously aged (mostly) men that devote their lives to finding them. She brings both a real sympathy for her subjects and a real love for the music. Cannot recommend highly enough.
Kaleb Horton
Jan 12, 2016 Kaleb Horton rated it it was amazing
A sad story about trying to hold on to a past we can't get back, of trying to capture something that is dissolving and dying as we go near it. 78s are fascinating, that damn plant in Wisconsin is fascinating, that period of recording history is fascinating. We had something magic, we were actively creating something magic, and we didn't even know it. We didn't see it and we blew it.
Joseph Crawford
Aug 27, 2016 Joseph Crawford rated it it was amazing
4.5. Good synopsis of what drives 78 collectors. (YouTube is a great tool while reading this book. A song gets mentioned, you can pause and listen to get an idea.) Highly enjoyable.
Karl
Aug 13, 2016 Karl rated it it was amazing
thought it was terrific. just wanted to mention that for anyone who enjoyed the scuba diving in the mud, donald westlake's novel drowned hopes will give you plenty more fun :).
David Davy
Jan 26, 2016 David Davy rated it really liked it
I won't be scouring flea markets for rare 78s anytime soon, but I have visited Google more than once searching for some of the songs mentioned within, and you can understand why other people do.
Steve
Feb 05, 2016 Steve rated it it was amazing
I have been a music geek for over 50 years, and I just LOVED this book. Even with my "indie" tastes, every chapter introduced me to a new artist/song. Thankfully in this day of Youtube, I was able to find them online.

A nice mix in of cultural studies-speak, and some analysis of why people collect - but she knew when to stop, that this book was not about providing answers to that "unanswerable" question. I also like that she chose to just do the more detailed history of one label. And a nice mix
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Matt
Nov 21, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it
This book was a really great examination of record collecting and the mentality (or neurosis) that drives people to seek out exceptionally rare records. I collect records, though nothing quite as rare or expensive as the collectors in this book, but a lot of it rang true to me. In particular, the ideas of searching for records and finding those things you've been trying to get for years (and still wanting to get other things) seemed pretty familiar to me. My only quibble with the book is Petrusi ...more
Bradley
Sep 25, 2015 Bradley rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
In this interesting look into a quirky subculture, Petrusich explores the world of 78 rpm record collectors and what drives their deeply-rooted desire to collect the rarest music on earth. Petrusich interviews numerous collectors and connects the commonalities and idiosyncrasies they all share in their obsession. Through her interviews and journeys into the flea markets, record stores, and basements of America, Petrusich shares the appeal of these coveted records and their connection to insular ...more
Jessica
Feb 04, 2015 Jessica rated it liked it
Recommended to Jessica by: Jeffrey Fields
Shelves: non-fiction
This is one of those books targeted to a very specific market. So specific, you're not sure if you're in it or not. Part of the time I felt like I was reading a textbook while at other times it was like a historic recitation of dates, places, names, and titles. Occasionally it was a psychological profile of a "type," or the memoir of an obsession.

I think the truth is that I didn't enjoy this book. It's well written, if a little stiff, and it certainly contains a lot of information. I feel like I
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Amanda Petrusich is the author of “Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records” (Scribner; 2014), “It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music” (Faber and Faber; 2008), and “Pink Moon,” an installment in Continuum/Bloomsbury’s acclaimed 33 1/3 series. She is a contributing writer for Pitchfork and a contributing ...more
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“Collecting anything requires a singularity of focus, but 78 collecting demands an almost-inhuman level of concentration. There is a violence to the search, a dysfunctional aggression that vacillates between repellent and endearingly quirky. It’s intimidating to outsiders, and it feeds on sacrifice.” 1 likes
“On a good day, even writing can feel like a form of collecting—of gathering words, images, and ideas and arranging them in an order that feels right.” 1 likes
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