Jake Williams

Equinox Staff

 

The furnace kicks on, adding a low drone to the crackles of an Eddy Arnold record, leisurely ascents of an old country dobro bolster the sleepy feeling of George Dubois’ dimly-lit basement room. Cardboard boxes, labeled from jazz to folk to R&B and classical, line the cement walls of an area not much larger than the most spacious janitorial closet.

The categorized boxes sit neatly on foldout tables, stacked from the ground up like a stonemason’s bricks.

In the farthest corner of the room this orderly system dissolves, becoming a menagerie of uncategorized 78, 45 and 33-rpm records.

“I’m starting to get tired of this stuff here,” Dubois said. For over 30 years this modest basement room has doubled as a makeshift vinyl store and warehouse for George Dubois. He estimates about 20,000 records lie in his Keene, N.H. basement, regarding the most records he’s ever had at a given time.

Today, Dubois labors to play the role of a wholesaler instead of the retailer he has played in the past, hoping to greatly downsize the collection. As an active seller on eBay since 1997, he has racked up 1,250 feedback responses, a good estimate for his overall sales, to his username “Vinylman.” Carson Arnold, manager of Turn it Up! Record Store in Keene, said this is one of the most lucrative ways to sell records, “if you play your cards right.”

In the mid-2000s, Dubois was one of Turn it Up! record’s main suppliers according to Arnold. “He had a lot of mid-to-late ’60s rock music, some garage band items,” Arnold said, “He has a lot of stuff that on a day-to-day basis, at street level, sells really well.”

Record collecting has seen a renaissance in the U.S. since the 1990s when it appeared to be going obsolete, a fact attributed to the influx of CDs, Arnold and Dubois agreed.

According to DigitalMusicNews.com, from 1993 to 2007, record sales averaged just over a million units sold per year. However, from 2008 to 2011 that average jumped to nearly three million records per year.

In June of 2012, Nielson SoundScan, an organization aimed towards highlighting media trends, reported vinyl sales were up 14 percent from the 2011 total of 3.9 million units sold.  In 1977, U.S. vinyl sales peaked at 344 million units according to Nielson SoundScan.

Dubois estimates he has sold 10,000 records in his lifetime, and he has shared in the burgeoning bounty records represent. One of these records was We are the Chantels by late ’50s R&B group The Chantels.

Dubois said the band’s record label pulled the first pressing of the vinyl because it featured the four women in plantation garb. This made the first pressings extremely desirable.

Dubois said he sold that record online for $800. Despite his ability to hunt down a rare record, vinyl collecting wasn’t always in the blood of George Dubois.

It was something he came into later in life. He said it all began at a yard sale in the late 1970s. There, he passed on the opportunity to purchase a stack of 20 “mint” Beatles records.

“He wanted $50 for them and I was willing to pay $40 and I never came back down. I thought about it and thought about it and said ‘I need to go back and get those’,” Dubois said. “And he told me they had been sold.”

This “big mistake on [his] part” sparked an interest and Dubois realized after scouring appraisal books that these records had value to them. Soon thereafter he began purchasing large lots of albums.

In the early 1980s a co-worker alerted him to a 10,000 record lot for sale in East Granby, Conn. where he worked. On his commute home from Connecticut for over two weeks, Dubois filled his Buick Century with $500 of vinyl.

“I’d haul them home and haul them down into the basement,” Dubois said, “My wife thought I was nuts.” Although he would find some records he was interested in for listening, this was strictly a business for Dubois.

“I was in it for a hobby, I wanted to see what I could sell on the market. And I would say that the records that came I came by that was my design just to turn around and move them,” Dubois said.

Today, the 70-year-old Dubois is searching to do what he did almost 30 years ago – haul them away.

“That stack of money records I had up on the top, that’s basically where I want to end up,” Dubois said, motioning to two boxes containing mostly Beatles and 1950s rock, about 300 records. Everything else can be taken away, individually or in big lots.

He has categorized the records into $2 and $5 boxes, hoping to expedite the clearing of this basement space.

Yet, despite his attempts to scale down his record operation, Dubois said he has a “Catch-22 situation.”

“See this,” he said reaching for an envelope on the bookshelf next to him, “This is the kind of stuff I’m dealing with here.” This “letter,” he scoffed, is really a 20-something page catalog of this women’s record collection.

“My name is out there now and a lot of people are seeking me out to get rid of their records,” Dubois said, “and if not to [get rid of them], just to appraise them.”

Dubois said he looked up the book values and sent them back to the women with what he was willing to pay on them. He gets one of these letters every week.

It’s not always just letters — sometimes records simply fall in his lap.  Dubois said a woman recently showed up at his door with a stack of records she planned to bring to the dump. Among these records was a copy of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.

Also in the stack was a rare copy of Blind Faith’s debut album featuring another discontinued cover.  He agreed to put the records on eBay for the woman, splitting whatever profits he would make.

Dubois is admittedly exhausted by the shear bulk he’s amassed.

He said he’s getting too old to deal with 20,000 records.

Still, as he speaks of the latest records that found him, it’s clear he can’t escape his curiosity with vinyl’s monetary worth, the same curiosity that ignited his interest.

“I found that every time I bought a record, I learned a little bit more,” Dubois said, “That’s the fun in it for me.”

 

Jake Williams can be contacted at

jwilliams@keene-equinox.com

         

 

 

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