Some call it the dark art, and others, black gold.
Vinyl records, which predate digital music and compact discs, have been making a comeback in recent years, especially among audiophiles.
And because some original pressings are now hard to come by, collectors are willing to fork out a tidy sum for a rare record.
How tidy a sum? Try $8,000.
That's the price of what may be the most expensive vinyl record in Singapore: an original 1971 UK Decca pressing of Growers of Mushroom by British rock group Leaf Hound.
Its owner, Mr R. Alagirisamy, 66, who has a personal collection of 40,000-plus records, bought the album in 2007 from a Singaporean collector who did not know its value at the time.
The retired civil servant decided to set up For The Record at Peninsula Shopping Centre in 2011 because he is single and has no one to pass his collection down to.
On the price he is asking for the record, Mr Alagirisamy said: "The last time a copy of it was sold on eBay, it went for US$6,400 (S$8,500). I priced my copy accordingly because it is in an excellent condition as well."
Despite the high price of the record, a walk-in customer wanted to purchase Growers of Mushroom about a month ago, Mr Alagirisamy said.
He said: "It is the flagship album of my shop and I didn't want to sell it. But I told the customer that if I decide to sell it, he will be the one who will get it.
"I won't sell to speculative buyers. I'd rather sell a record at a lower price to someone who can appreciate it than sell it to someone who is only interested in its monetary value."
Vinyl aficionados love the "warmth" and soundstage of records, compared with the "sterility" of digital music.
Mr Alagirisamy said that apart from rarity, the condition of the record and even its cover will determine its value.
He said: "Even if the album jacket has a tiny bump on one of its corners, its condition is no longer classified as mint and its value will fall.
"For a record to be considered mint, it has to look like it has just come out of production, no matter how old it is."
Mr Alagirisamy said that collectors here are more willing to splurge if they are able to physically examine the record and play it before purchasing, as opposed to ordering it online.
Mr John Ling, 35, the customer who offered to pay $8,000 for Growers of Mushroom, said: "In the end, it's paying to experience an irreplaceable moment in history.
"There are a limited number of copies of the original record in the world, so to find it here is amazing."
The creative director said he would feel the pinch of splurging on the album if and when Mr Alagirisamy decides to sell it.
"I probably couldn't shop for the rest of the year if I made the purchase," said Mr Ling.
Said Mr Alagirisamy about Growers of Mushroom: "Apparently only 500 copies went into the market at the time. About 10 years ago, it cost about £500 (S$1,000 at current exchange rates), but after a reissue came out, the price shot up."
An online check shows that a copy was sold on eBay in 2012 for £3,851, which is close to Mr Alagirisamy's price.
A check with other local record shops indicate that the highest price paid for a record sold here was $2,000 for the Eagles album Hell Freezes Over, from House of Turntables at Plaza Singapura.
And the most expensive record ever? It's The Quarrymen's "That'll Be The Day/In Spite Of All The Danger", according to UK newspaper The Independent.
The 1958 78rpm acetate by the band that would become the Beatles is valued at £200,000 and the only existing original copy is reportedly owned by former Beatle Paul McCartney.
Little-known band behind the record
Growers Of Mushroom, the 1971 debut album by UK hard rock band Leaf Hound, has become the holy grail for many record collectors over the years.
Though the album has received recognition over the years for inspiring the stoner rock movement, it sank almost without a trace at the time.
This was because Leaf Hound had already disbanded after becoming disillusioned with the delay of its release. The album received glowing reviews, but with the band no longer in existence, it never caught on with the public.
In 2004, singer Peter French put together a new incarnation of Leaf Hound and they released an album, Unleashed, in 2007.
A live album, Live in Japan, was released last year.
This article was first published on May 04, 2015.
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