My firm belief is that prices should indicate the supply and demand of the record being sold. Before the powerful tool we know as the internet, these kind of estimations could be difficult and plenty of mistakes were made. On my part as well as with other dealers. Since there's a lot of poor information around online (like unpaid for auctions on popsike and people trying to get lucky setting a high price tag), I think the best way is to use a combination. The whole toolbox so to say, that is your gut feeling and knowledge, online information and, to a lesser extent, printed price guides.
Going through my old paper lists from the mid 90's I can definitely say that I made quite a few pricing mistakes. Every now and then I get reminded of these when I see certain titles listed/sell for big money. I've listed some of the biggest pricing mistakes I usually get reminded of during sleepless nights...
Milton Wright - Spaced - This was regarded as "the poor Milton Wright album without Keep it up" when I started dealing. On my first list I had two copies at £10 each and only managed to sell one. I relisted it later at same price and it sold (if I remember correctly Rainer Trüby was the lucky customer). In 1999 I had another two copies but increased the price to £50. The last decade showed how incredibly rare this LP is and the top eBay price is $1149.
Directions - Self titled - I listed it for £10 in the mid 90's and it didn't sell. Since then I have only had it twice and the highest I sold it for was 2200 SEK. Again time has proven this to be a very rare record with popsike top hit being $361.
Hörselmat - Svenska LÖD AB - Again on one of my paper lists at £280 which was then the highest price I ever tried to sell a record for. Last copy online sold for $1581. Even though it used to be found every now and then (DJ/collector Mad Mats found two copies when we were scoring Stockholm record stores together one day in the mid 90's) this album has proven to be very very rare.
Boscoe - Same - In 1997 I had listed this for £100 and it sold to one of the local soul/funk collectors. He later sold the same copy on eBay for abuy it now price of $999 in 2007 if I remember correctly.
Mulatu of Ethiopia - Same (Worthy) - In 1997 me and friend/dealer Max Hansson went to Tokyo together. The Wax Trax record shop had around 50 sealed copies of this for sale at around £30 each. As I was unsure of the value I bought only two copies. One I kept myself and listed the other for £65. Last eBay copy sold for $726.
Other painful memories involves Toby King, Leon Debouse "A fine instrument", Steady Wailin Sid "Spirit of 76", Snoopy Dean "Wiggle that thang", Cortex "Mary & Jeff" (20 copies scored in a trade deal and all sold for £40-75), Joey Gilmore album, Joki Freund "Yogi jazz", Phyllis Bailey's incredibly rare Ameri-Com album and many more.
All records were of course not sold too cheap at the time and when re-reading old lists it's amazing to see how some prices on records proven not to be so rare have drastically dropped. In the mid 90's with the more inefficient record market and prices being hyped on records played on the then strong acid jazz, rare groove scenes etc, many now fairly easy to find classics were overpriced. Some examples below!
Marva Whitney - Live & lowdown at the apollo - £150
JB's - Food for thought - £85
Leroy Hutson - Hutson - £85
Band of Thieves - Same - £130 (auction price)
And when the big hype for European bossa records came in the mid 90's myself and many other European dealers sold some records way too expensive due to the incredible demand. Like Lill Lindfors "Vi har varann" £25, Alice Babs "67" £60, Meta Roos "Zazueira" £125 and Gimmicks Of Sweden £125. My deepest apologies to those who bought them but I guess you all sold them with good profit back then!
It will surely be interesting to look back at today's record prices and to see how the market will develop in the next 10-15 years. After all one man's trash is another man's treasure.