The Philip Piper Jazz Collection

We look into the fascinating Philip Piper Jazz Collection which will be offered for sale as a Timed Auction on 31st July - 9th August at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers. Tune in as we chat to our specialist and sale curator Michael Barnes, who discusses the intricacies of collecting, determining value and auction highlights



Lot 46 - Victor 10" Shellac 

Noted: Duke Ellington & Orch, Wilton Crawly, Bernie Moton and more

Estimate - £2,000 - £2,500



The Philip Piper Jazz Collection will be offered for sale as a Timed Auction on July 31-August 9 at

Philip ‘Pip Piper’ was born in 1926 and in his late teens he discovered Jazz and immediately became hooked. His knowledge of the early years of Jazz was extraordinary and he was known for being able to quote who had recorded what, when and where, along with the names of all the band members. He quite rightly established a reputation as a Jazz historian and an expert on the subject. Philip Piper was not only considerably knowledgeable but he also had an eye for quality and scarcity. His reference library is also extensive and contains scarce and difficult to obtain material. 

A collection of this quality is rarely offered on the market. Boxes containing over 3,800 Jazz Shellac 78’s, Vinyl plus extensive lots of CD’s and Jazz related books and ephemera are being offered for sale. Lots include many scarce and rare examples on the Vocalion and Victor labels plus Brunswick, Columbia and Blue Note and V Discs. 



Lot 68 - Vinyl & Shellac

Various Jazz Genres

Estimate - £150 - £200



Our specialist in charge of the auction, Michael Barnes, answers our questions about this remarkable collection: 

What informs price when it comes to 78s?

What is important is that the 78 is playable to a high quality. Shellac is a robust medium but does damage easily and can scratch and chip which reduces the listening pleasure. The better the condition, the better the sound quality. Therefore, records in Fine to VF condition with no cracks or dents are desirable but those described as Mint attract a premium price.  A serious collector will accept a poor example just to have the record in their collection but will then always be on the lookout for a better example.


Which are the most sought after names (both artists and labels)?

Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Stéphane Grappelli, The Original Memphis Five, Fats Domino, Bessie Smith, Django Reinhardt, Barney Kassel to name but a few. The choice labels are typically Victor, Vocalion (Black & Red Labels) Columbia (Flag Label) Decca and Brunswick.


What would be the ‘holy grail’ for collectors?

The combination of artists playing together on a recording adds extra value and ‘zazaz’. The vibe created by these artists takes it to another level. This is why many recordings have been re-released over the years on different labels or compilations. Good spontaneous Jazz and the Blues is timeless. Many of these moments recorded and released on the Blue Note label have this magic. 


How do record collectors collect? Is it via artist, genre or era?

Most collectors will seek out their favourite artist, genre, era and some magpies look for rarity but at the end of the day, it is about the pleasure of the recording. Collectors may own several copies of the same record simply because they seek out the best condition. The Philip Piper collection includes many duplicates in varying condition for this reason. 


Which will be the most attractive elements in the Philip Piper collection?

The volume and quality of recordings accumulated over the years gives the collector a great deal of choice. The large amount of reference material available is paramount for the serious collector or novice entering the field for the first time. It will also attract considerable interest as some publications are difficult to obtain.


How do you set about cataloguing them, what are the subdivisions?

Because the collection is so large, it was a case of simply writing up each carton/box of records one at a time that were removed from Philip Piper’s home.


Where do you expect interest to come from for the collection? 

Japan, followed by the US are the strongest markets, then the UK. The European market is also strong with France and the Netherlands leading the way.


Are you expecting buyers to ‘fill in’ their existing collections – if so, which areas will be the most sought after? 

As the lots contain quantities of 50 or more records all collectors, established buyers or those starting on their journey, will find items they need. This is a fascinating hobby or should I say addiction! 


Do you need a special turntable to play the records?

A high fidelity direct drive variable speed turntable fitted with the appropriate stylus designed to play 78s is essential. This is to prevent further damage. A good flat response power amplifier such as a Quad with additional filtering and EQ in line with a pair of high end flat response speakers will be needed.


Do you have one record that would be your personal favourite?

Anything by Barney Kassel and Stéphane Grappelli – “I remember Django” springs to mind - I had the pleasure of jamming with Barney Kassel many years ago but that’s another story!


Many of us will have some 78s in the attic, what should you look for to determine whether they are worth anything? 

One sided 78s (Classical recording) are worth money. However, later doubled sided recordings are of less or little value and usually find their way into your local charity shop. Seeking the advice of a reputable auction house like Sworders is a good start as they have access to experts. If you have boxes of Jazz 78s - well that’s a different ball game.



For more information about the sale, please contact | 01279 817778





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