Why I Paid $37,100 for One Record

FUSE TV - Why I Paid $37,100 for One Record

It's fitting that when I first try to reach John Tefteller, he was negotiating a rare record deal and asked to call me back. I called Tefteller, an Oregon-based record dealer whose collection numbers more than 400,000 45s, 78s and LPs, after hearing of his astounding purchase of bluesman Tommy Johnson's "Alcohol and Jake Blues" for $37,100. It's the most anyone has ever spent on a 78 rpm record and one of the highest prices paid for any record.

Tefteller, who makes his living buying and selling records and dealing blues memorabilia, has been collecting records for more than 40 years, but even he couldn't believe his luck upon discovering a near-perfect copy of "Alcohol and Jake Blues." The record is considered a Holy Grail among blues record collectors and stands as a vital historical document of the genre. 

One night, as he does every night, Tefteller was trawling eBay when he came across the record from a seller in South Carolina. The anonymous seller found the record at an estate sale years ago, and posted it on eBay with no knowledge of the record's true value. The record was set to sell at $16,800 when, minutes before the auction ended, it shot up to $37,000. Tefteller won't reveal what his maximum bid was, but suffice to say, it was enough to edge past the highest bidder and get him the record.

Soon, Tefteller will remaster the record and release it for free as part of an upcoming compilation album. But for now, the record aficionado gave us details on the record, the sale and why he actually got a pretty good deal. 

$37,100?! 

[Laughs]

What makes the record worth that much?

These original Paramount delta blues records have attained such a mythic status over the years, and there are loads of people who would love to buy one of these things, that it just becomes so legendary. When you actually see one for sale, which happens once or twice in a lifetime, you have to make a decision.

It's also historically extremely important because there are no masters on these records. You think of modern-day records and there are master tapes that you can go back to and make new copies of. When you go back to these 1920s and '30s blues recordings, this is it. The masters were destroyed years ago and there's no way to recover them. The only way anyone is able to hear this stuff now is to search out an [original] commercial pressing. So when you find one of these blues records in really super nice condition, that's an earth-shaking event in the record collecting world.

Looking at it that way, it sounds like it's difficult to put a price tag on it.

Well, that's exactly the point. When someone is shocked or awed to see that a record sold for $37,100, because that is a large amount of money in anybody's bank account, on one hand you could say, "That's nuts. Why would someone do that? That's crazy!" But when you think of the historical importance of what this is, how do you put a price on it? It's an amazing masterpiece of a record that previous to this copy, there was only one other, which I also had.

Wait, you already owned a copy?

Yup. My original copy never sounded real good; it was in hammered condition. This new copy is in beautiful condition and there's almost no wear on it. I have a lot of very rare records.

How much did you pay for that copy?

It was several thousand dollars. I'm not sure because I'm not home, so I don't know exactly. I know it sounds weird to most people because if you paid several thousand dollars for a record, you'd darn well know exactly how much you paid. But in my world of buying records for thousands of dollars on a routine basis,  it's very easy to forget exactly how much you paid for one.

I Played One on TV

46m

I Played One on TV

Good Records

1m

Good Records

Folk Arts Rare Records

13s

Folk Arts Rare Records

Free The Robots Reveals Where He Found One of His Rarest Records

1m

Free The Robots Reveals Where He Found One of His Rarest Records

The Dirtiest Song Ever Recorded

21m

The Dirtiest Song Ever Recorded

Why This Show Exists?

8m

Why This Show Exists?

Sneak Peek Inside J. Dilla's Record Collection

1m

Sneak Peek Inside J. Dilla's Record Collection

Why Is He Blowing Me Kisses?

21m

Why Is He Blowing Me Kisses?

Carlos Niño Shares His All-Time Favorite Record

2m

Carlos Niño Shares His All-Time Favorite Record

Monalisa Discusses The Nostalgic Appeal of Vinyl Records

1m

Monalisa Discusses The Nostalgic Appeal of Vinyl Records

Will.I.Am: The Way I Am

3603s

Will.I.Am: The Way I Am

If I Should Die Before I Wake

57m

If I Should Die Before I Wake

Mario Lopez: One On One

Mario Lopez: One On One

J.I.D

20m

J.I.D

I Need A Plane

21m

I Need A Plane

What Do I Do

41m

What Do I Do

I Rank Velvet #1

21m

I Rank Velvet #1

I Can Smell That Smell

46m

I Can Smell That Smell

Man, I’m Getting Married

23m

Man, I’m Getting Married

I Took The Wrong Pill

21m

I Took The Wrong Pill

Whitney Houston: As I Am

53m

Whitney Houston: As I Am

Sake One

10m

Sake One

Game On!

20m

Game On!

I Don't Trust The Cloud

21m

I Don't Trust The Cloud

I've Got This Foot Thing

21m

I've Got This Foot Thing

"I'm Not A Role Model"

23m

"I'm Not A Role Model"

Checking for CHIKA

20m

Checking for CHIKA

Asking For It

1h 21m

Asking For It

Hot For Hollywood

44m

Hot For Hollywood

Ready For Action

22m

Ready For Action

One Take Jake

20m

One Take Jake

Who's On Top?

1h 13m

Who's On Top?

On Call LA

43m

On Call LA

On Call Miami

44m

On Call Miami

One Busy Queen

21m

One Busy Queen

Chew On This

44m

Chew On This

On Call NYC

44m

On Call NYC

Leaning On Lena

20m

Leaning On Lena

J.I.D., Madame Gandhi, 24kGoldn

24m

J.I.D., Madame Gandhi, 24kGoldn

Run for the Border

24m

Run for the Border

Make Room for Roomie

20m

Make Room for Roomie

Asking For It - Trailer

2m

Asking For It - Trailer

Jailed For Playing Bingo?

7m

Jailed For Playing Bingo?

Rapper Rich Quick Performs "Nice Guy" On 'Dancin' On Air'

3m

Rapper Rich Quick Performs "Nice Guy" On 'Dancin' On Air'

Freaky On The Floor

22m

Freaky On The Floor

Eyes On The Prize

22m

Eyes On The Prize

Fire On The Floor

22m

Fire On The Floor

Clean Up Aisle One

46m

Clean Up Aisle One

Putting It On Wax

23m

Putting It On Wax

Bougie On A Budget

2m

Bougie On A Budget

Is Everyone on Drugs?

20m

Is Everyone on Drugs?

Battle on the Catwalk

45m

Battle on the Catwalk

Freedia's Twerk On Washington

21m

Freedia's Twerk On Washington

Eye On The Prize

44m

Eye On The Prize

Gym Shorts on Runway

41m

Gym Shorts on Runway

A Time For RO-mance

20m

A Time For RO-mance

Hard Times for Milk & Poster

1m

Hard Times for Milk & Poster

All You Ever Wished For

1h 21m

All You Ever Wished For

Casey Brings Her Hosting Skills To iCandy Nightclub

1m

Casey Brings Her Hosting Skills To iCandy Nightclub

LIVE on FUSE: Combate Global

30s

LIVE on FUSE: Combate Global

All You Ever Wished For - Trailer

2m

All You Ever Wished For - Trailer

Gay Pride for the Gay Bride

23m

Gay Pride for the Gay Bride

Meagan Good Gets Jumped for Trina?

2m

Meagan Good Gets Jumped for Trina?

Ugly Sweaters Make for Beautiful Attire

42m

Ugly Sweaters Make for Beautiful Attire

Bougie on a Budget Music Video

2m

Bougie on a Budget Music Video

T-Pain Gets Schooled On Genetics

1m

T-Pain Gets Schooled On Genetics

This Season on Transcendent: First Look

1m

This Season on Transcendent: First Look

Wilmer Valderrama Gets Mistaken For A Terrorist

8m

Wilmer Valderrama Gets Mistaken For A Terrorist

Yesenia Mentally Prepares For The Rose Bowl

2m

Yesenia Mentally Prepares For The Rose Bowl

Cody Spells Out Love On The Field

1m

Cody Spells Out Love On The Field

Gabriel Iglesias Dishes On His "Second Favorites"

1m

Gabriel Iglesias Dishes On His "Second Favorites"

DJ Scratch's Vinyl Collection on Crate Diggers

14m

DJ Scratch's Vinyl Collection on Crate Diggers

DJ Eclipse's Vinyl Collection on Crate Diggers

13m

DJ Eclipse's Vinyl Collection on Crate Diggers

We All Have That One Family Member...

3m

We All Have That One Family Member...

Desus & Mero On Recognizing their Social Responsibility

10m

Desus & Mero On Recognizing their Social Responsibility

One Big Happy Family: Season 2 Trailer

2m

One Big Happy Family: Season 2 Trailer

Is Nya A Baller On The Low?

51s

Is Nya A Baller On The Low?

All the Focus is on the Diamonds

21m

All the Focus is on the Diamonds

Martin Moreno Faces His One-Handed Woes

2m

Martin Moreno Faces His One-Handed Woes

Lil Jon and Nude DM's on Tour

3m

Lil Jon and Nude DM's on Tour

This Season On Clash of The Corps

1m

This Season On Clash of The Corps

Dikembe Mutombo on Adidas at Sneaker Con

5m

Dikembe Mutombo on Adidas at Sneaker Con

Kev On Stage Makes Shrimp Fried Rice

20m

Kev On Stage Makes Shrimp Fried Rice

Jason Markk Delivers Premium Care For Your Kicks

3m

Jason Markk Delivers Premium Care For Your Kicks

Aim For Even Higher Goals After Drum Corps

1m

Aim For Even Higher Goals After Drum Corps

Clark Should Have An S On His Chest

2m

Clark Should Have An S On His Chest

Nopalito On Telling Raw & Authentic Stories Through Photography

7m

Nopalito On Telling Raw & Authentic Stories Through Photography

The Transcendent Star On Donald Trump: Dear Bambiana

1m

The Transcendent Star On Donald Trump: Dear Bambiana

Freedia's Manager Drops a Unexpected Bomb on Her...

3m

Freedia's Manager Drops a Unexpected Bomb on Her...

Here's What to Expect on "Saturday Morning Fever"

2m

Here's What to Expect on "Saturday Morning Fever"

On the Road With G-Thing: Deleted Scene

2m

On the Road With G-Thing: Deleted Scene

Chika On Building Community Through Her Music (Extended)

14m

Chika On Building Community Through Her Music (Extended)

Nick Cannon Talks His Personal Opinion on Marriage

1m

Nick Cannon Talks His Personal Opinion on Marriage

What To Expect On Clash of the Corps

1m

What To Expect On Clash of the Corps

Gabriel Iglesias Proudly Announces Love for Mayo: Ask Fluffy

3m

Gabriel Iglesias Proudly Announces Love for Mayo: Ask Fluffy

The "Fluffy Breaks Even" Gang Ditches Food For Spinning

2m

The "Fluffy Breaks Even" Gang Ditches Food For Spinning

Have Beauty Standards for Women of Color Really Evolved?

5m

Have Beauty Standards for Women of Color Really Evolved?

The Grind Never Stops When for the Queen Diva

2m

The Grind Never Stops When for the Queen Diva

DaCav Hits The Stage For An Electrifying Performance

2m

DaCav Hits The Stage For An Electrifying Performance

1000 On How Resilience & Consistency Launched His Rap Career

9m

1000 On How Resilience & Consistency Launched His Rap Career