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Not that long ago, you could find nearly 10,000 tapes for sale or auction on Ebay. Now there are fewer than 7,000, with slim pickings if you're not into Jim Nabors and Barbra Streisand,
Over the years, while I bought some 300+ tapes there, it has become clear that many or most sellers get their tapes from garage and estate sales and have no decks to play them on. I've been happy enough with most buys, but the following are common:
1. 3 3/4 ips tapes sold as 7 1/2 ips.
2. tapes missing the first couple of minutes
3. tapes in the wrong box
4. so-called "safety masters" that are anything but
One of my weirdest was a completely unknown flute/harpsichord duo masquerading as a couple of Haydn symphonies. Only with the knowledgable assistance of Vinyl Phanatic was I able to learn that I had six Telemann sonatas in hand. What has your experience been?
I bought a sealed reel at the starting bid of $9.99. I flipped it back on feeBay for $60.00. I tried to buy another reel from this seller and could not bid as I had been blocked by the seller.
I hope he reads this as I am still laughing!
For a while, this was my most infuriating. Until I calmed down. But even so.
I saw a 7 1/2 ips E. Power Biggs tape of Handel works whose Ebay seller opened the bidding at 99 cents. I won it at $1.04. Plus 4 bucks shipping. Whoop-de-do. Great deal. Got the notice to pay for it. Via PayPal, of course. So I TRIED to do so, but for some reason PayPal wouldn't let me complete the transaction. First time this has ever happened.
As a card-carrying obsessive, I tried various work-arounds, ended up PHONING Ebay, got transferred to PayPal, talked to an actual human being who helped me make the payment.
Eventually, I contacted the seller by email, who answered with just four words ... "I show it unpaid." I responded that PayPal had confirmed my payment. No response from the seller. I finally figured, for $5.04, why am I giving a damn?
Then, lo and behold, it showed up.
It was recorded at 3 3/4 ips. And sounded like it.
About a year ago, I spotted a lot of about 50 R2R tapes with a $300 buy it now. They were just thrown into boxes willy-nilly. I was able to spot a handful of desirable 2 tracks in the pictures, at least enough to more or less justify the price. Since I could only see about 1/4 of the tapes in the pictures, and it didn't seem like the guy was knowledgeable enough to have put the good ones on the top, I took a flyer and bought the lot. Long story short, there ended up being about 90 tapes, with 60-some 2 tracks, and they arrived in immaculate condition, no thanks to the most half-assed packing job imaginable. I sold the ones that were duplicates and some of the 4 tracks for more than I had paid, so in the end, I was able to add close to 50 2 tracks to my collection for next to nothing. There were a lot of Capitols, some nice Angels (including Oistrakh Encores and the Oistrakh/Fournier Brahms Double), and almost all of the Columbia 2 tape sets of Broadway cast recordings, which I was very happy to get. I wish that kind of thing happened more often!
I have noticed the slowdown in the number of R2R tapes listed on Ebay. Kind of curious. Just goes in cycles, I suppose.
The auction was for a used 7-1/2 ips 4T Blood Sweat & Tears 1st album, "Child is Father to the Man". (Al Kooper)
When I received it I noticed that the reel was packed with more tape than I expected. It turned out that the one reel contained two BS&T albums obviously spliced together;... the above noted CIFTTM and also the 2nd Album with David Clayton Thomas. Probably their biggest seller.
At first I was suspicious; was that extra album a home-made recording? After a couple of listens they both sound like directly from the tape master. So I put the 2nd album an a spare reel and in its own case.
I figured I did ok on that deal. Less than $12 for two tapes.
On the other hand I have received my share of defective tape on commercial reels from ebay sellers. On the bad deals the costs were low and so I did not complain or issue negative feedback. Examples, rippled tape on a Mahler Symphony No.2 on a badly warped Columbia reel. I still have it. I replaced the reel and have noticed that even though the tape is rippled sound is not degraded. Evidently the tape drive path straightens the tape enough to get a good read. But I won't sell it. It is damaged goods.
Another; a case of sticky shed on a Walter/Dvorak New World Symphony Columbia tape. Massive squeal. I destroyed the tape, kept the box as a spare box. Those gray columbia reels I don't especially like, so I didn't keep the reel either. Did not complain to seller. Price was low. I'm confident that the seller was sight grading and did not have a clue his/her tape was a non-player. Anyway,I found another copy of this later off ebay at an even lower price. I figured life was ok. It's not like I was shelling out $30 bucks each.
A couple of others like that. But mostly my Ebay purchases were positive. Estimate about 75% satisfactory deals.
Fwiw, I don't blame the seller for tapes which were recorded badly or have 2nd class performances. Not fair to do that. Most of the sellers are just individuals, not big stores.....except for a couple well known sellers that have large supplies of tapes to sell.
Trimming out my small collection to raise some short term funds I have sold a dozen or so commercial tapes on ebay. Two of those sales were problematic.
The most notable was an auction for Stravinsky conducts Stravinsky, "The Firebird" on Columbia. This is a tape I've played a few times and was confident of it being a very good tape for condition and sound.
However the buyer issued a return case, which locked funds from the sale on my ebay. Along with the action came a message that complained of sticky shed. My reply was that I doubted this. Were we speaking of the same tape?
A day later came an apology noting that he played the tape a second time and it played well. Then he went on to explain that on the first play he experienced some loud squeal about 3/4 the way through on side 2 and could not finish. Then noted that the second time he played it this did not happen. So he figured it was hardware problem, not the tape. The return case was dropped and he said he was happy with the tape.
Just a note to ebay buyers; try being a seller some time and see how it goes. Sell a couple and everything goes well. Sell higher numbers and you get a larger sample of the buying public. These are used tapes. We are not stores that can issue a return back to Columbia for a replacement. This isn't Best Buy. etc. What's out there in circulation is all that there is.
Of about 280 tapes in my collection, a full 69 have come from ebay, or about 25%. 33 of those are two-track tapes, most (but not all) purchased prior to 2005 when prices were quite affordable. I would say I've purchased about a dozen tapes that were defective or unsatisfactory for one reason or another: B sonics (or worse), rippled tape, missing music at the beginning, mediocre performance, etc. I've resold the few tapes I didn't like, fully tested and accurately described. In all cases of defective tapes, the seller has given me a refund, often with coaxing, unfortunately. So generally, my experience buying tapes on ebay has been positive.
Having just gotten back into RTR a few weeks ago after a long absence, and with just 10 eBay 7.5 ips acquisitions under my belt, I'm working with an extremely small sample. But I have a couple of RCA tapes that, when first auditioned, played Side 2 on what was supposed to be Side 1. My guess is that whoever played them last didn't flip over what was the supply reel when it became the takeup...perhaps because the RCA label covers the locking hole on that side of the reel and the user didn't want to punch it open after playing Side 1.
Other than that, no quibbles so far. But, as the lyrics declare, "We've only just begun..."
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