This post is going to be rather philosophical. Why collect record cover art? Well, I started as I was interested in music and I found that I would prefer to buy a record with music that I liked if it had a more attractive cover. My collection began with a collection of cover art by Vaughan Oliver and his collectives 23 Envelope and V23. I built up a super collection of releases primarily on the 4AD label — not only records and CDs — but also a large number of posters. I had all the really rare items designed by Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg including the famous Lonely Is an Eyesore wooden box and two copies of the Lilliput CD promo book. Vaughan Oliver autographed both the Eyesore box and a Lilliput book when I went on a pilgrimage to his studio in South London in 2001. I sold my whole Vaughan Oliver collection in 2010-2013.
I started collecting Andy Warhol’s record cover art in 1967, when I bought the Velvet Underground & Nico album at One Stop Records in London’s South Moulton Street. I confess I didn’t realise its greatness until a couple of decades later, but that didn’t stop me from buying White Light / White Heat the following year — again on US import at One Stop. So I had two Andy Warhol covers. That was the start of the collection. I bought the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers when it came out in April 1971 and their Love You Live in 1977. I got my fifth Warhol cover in 1982, when my family bought me Diana Ross’s Silk Electric as a Fathers’ Day present. From there I started looking for Warhol covers and gradually (and with the help of ace Warhol collector, Guy Minnebach) managed to collect every known Warhol cover by 2008, when Guy and I curated an exhibition of Warhol’s record cover art at Piteå Museum in northern Sweden arranged to celebrate what would have been Andy Warhol’s 80th birthday on 6th August 2008.
At the same time I had collected a representative collection of Peter Blake’s record cover art, including records, posters and books with a few rarities. I also noticed that I had several records with covers designed by Klaus Voormann; the Beatles’ Revolver (of course), Manfred Mann’s As Is, the Bee Gees first album and all three Beatles Anthology albums (on vinyl) and, when Klaus visited Stockholm in 2003 he kindly signed several album covers for me. So I continued collecting his covers, too, and now have almost every cover he has designed.
Around 2008, my son-in-law wondered if I would like to invest in a print by a street artist called Banksy, who had an exhibition in Stockholm. I passed on that (stupid, or what?) But, I had seen Blur live at Hultsfred’s Festival in 1996 and had all their albums and I had even bought the Think Tank LP in 2003 — my first Banksy cover. Then, in around 2008, I happened to find a couple of record covers designed by Banksy and found a contact on the Internet who was trying to offload his collection of Banksy-designed record covers. They were cheap at that time and I bought quite a few. As my Bansky collection grew, so did the prices for the rare items. A DJ, who was about to get married and needed money, offered me a copy of Röyksopp’s Melody A.M. promo double LP with the Bansky-sprayed cover for what was an exorbitant amount back than, but which I’m today glad I paid. I later added both versions of Banksy’s / Danger Mouse’s Paris Hilton CD (the original first issue and the reissued second release.) Since then my Banksy collection has been exhibited in a number of Banksy retrospectives.
I started to collect Andy Warhol’s record cover art as I am a Warhol fan. I have always loved his art and found I couldn’t afford to buy any original works. But his record covers were affordable and easy to store, much easier that hanging prints or paintings. I started collecting his covers when they were affordable and could even trade rare covers for others that I didn’t have. I had no idea that many would become valuable. I have been lucky to find several covers signed by Warhol to add to my collection.
A similar situation has happened with my Banksy collection. Bought first for the art and in an attempt to collect a complete collection of Banksy’s official and inofficial covers I found that I had made an investment. I have no idea what my collection is currently worth.
But what about my other collections? My Peter Blake collection of record and CD covers could still be bought for only a little more that I originally bought the covers for. Similarly, I don’t think there would be much interest in my collection of Klaus Voormann’s covers; although I treasure them both.
I have recently started to collect record, cassette and CD covers designed by David Shrigley. A couple of years ago, my wife and I had a wonderful meal at Sketch, a London restaurant who’s walls were decorated with Shrigley’s paintings and posters. As I have said in a previous post, I was lucky to get David Shrigley to sign my copy of Castle Face Record’s version of Velvet Underground & Nico cover, and so started my collection of David Shrigley’s record cover art. His posters and prints are now well beyond my budget, but his record, tape and CD sleeves are still very affordable. I wonder if they will one day, like my Warhol and Banksy covers, prove to be a sound investment, too.
I should emphasise, though, that I didn’t start collecting record cover art as an investment, but because I liked the art. That it has proved to be an investment only adds icing to the cake.