Discover why a trip to a thrift store in Manhattan caused record shop owner Mark O’Shaughnessy’s heart to skip a beat…

The question I get asked the most, as a record shop owner, is what is the most expensive record you’ve ever sold? It’s one I normally duck, as the answer might lead people to think that I’m some kind of ‘vinyl millionaire’, which I am not!

Before opening two record stores in Bath, I was a mail-order dealer, had been for 25 years – and the quest for interesting records to sell on these paper lists took me all over the world and most often to the States.

I was never quite sure what I’d find on these USA trips and it was this element of surprise that kept me going back. But, by 2013, I was beginning to tire of the travelling, so I made a personal promise that the trip I was about to make to NYC in October of that year would be my last.

I flew into JFK as I’d done so many times down the years, planning to revisit some favourite spots. I decided to try my luck in and around Greenwich Village on my second day in town. Record shopping in that little metropolis wasn’t what it once was and many of the bigger Downtown stores (including Bleecker Bob’s) had closed. The upside of the ‘death’ of record stores in the Village was that in their place sprung up a slew of thrift stores.

Just like the UK, the best time to hit the thrift stores is first thing Monday morning, as that’s when the donations they receive on Friday and Saturday are put out. And, guess what day it was? Yep, Monday.

As I strolled into Washington Square Park, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted an assistant putting out some boxes onto a table just outside a thrift called Goodwill Industries, definitely one I’d not seen before.

There on the floor were four boxes of 7″ singles. I gathered the boxes around my feet and put my record bag on top of them, which is common pro-dealer practice to prevent other diggers from trying to get a look in. Amazingly, most of these 45s were still in sleeves, not necessarily the right sleeves, but any sleeve is better than none. I went through and pulled out a good few NYC/NJ local-area soul/funk/disco items, no boners, but definitely decent stock.

I got to the last box, already happy with my haul, when there and then I spotted a silver/blue label called Queen City… in a plain sleeve, Job Opening by the Del-Larks. My heart skipped a beat. I quickly but carefully took the 7″ from the box and laid it on top of my other finds. I guess many would have quit and left the rest. Not me, I went all the way through the box and then walked up to the counter to pay.

The teller took my pile from me and counted them up like he was dealing out a pack of cards: “23 rekkids at a buck a pop is 23 bucks buddy,” he barked at me. I peeled off a $50, and waited politely for my change.

Such was the ‘rushed’ nature of the trip, that I didn’t actually get time to look back through that stack of 7″s again until I got back to London. The first thing I did when I got home was to check that the Del-Larks had the Bell stamp in the deadwax, any other deadwax marking would denote a bootleg or second press. This one had the Bell stamp. Yessssssss!

I’d say this original Del-Larks 45 is a Northern Soul Holy Grail. So rare, and not many bona-fide originals in existence. So much so that I got a certified NS expert to confirm authentication. I also thought it better that he handled the sale, as his ‘seal of approval’ would quell any doubters and ensure that the optimum price was achieved.

A private online auction was set up and £999.99 was set as the starting bid. It hit £2,000 within 10 minutes, then £2,500 within the next 10. Short pause, then £3,000 was blinking in front of me, £4,000 followed quickly. Less than a minute later, £5,000 flashed up on the screen. Then £6,500, but we weren’t done yet, £7,000 was staring at me. I literally could not speak. A slight delay, then £7,500 was right there in front of my eyes. £8,000, £8,250, £8,500. It kept going up. Then a quick flurry and the auction ended. The final price was £8,611! I stared at the screen in utter disbelief. Absolutely silly money.

So, now I guess you know why I just don’t tell people what my most expensive ever record was, because, frankly, I don’t think they would believe me, but, this is fact. A dollar-bin 7″ from a thrift store in central Manhattan went through the roof in a private auction. This is why I NEVER stop looking, people… happy digging!

Read more: Digging For Victory: Mark meets his match

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