The Vinyl Collector: Judging an Album by its Cover

By Alex Mosier     

Back in December, I took a trip up to New Jersey to meet my girlfriend’s Coheed and Cambria -- The Afterman Ascension -- Big Beige Demosfamily. The nervousness building up to that initial meeting, coupled with the 12 hour drive to her home town, was enough to leave me in need of a good vinyl hunt. Given the luck (and skill at searching matrix codes) she had demonstrated last time she went record shopping for me, we decided one evening we may want to go check out the little record stores in the town.

So, late at night, we ran out into the freezing New Jersey night toward a place she called Vintage Vinyl. She described the store as a little hole in the wall music shop with plenty of CDs, cassettes, a few shelves of old DVDs and a wall lined with vinyl records.

Upon walking into the store, I realized to say she had understated the presence of vinyl would be laughable.

Not to mention, the walls were lined with photos of bands that had played on the small stage in the back; and that isn’t referring to local garage bands, but groups like Judas Priest.

Flipping through the bins, I felt like a child in a toy store. As I would flip through a shelf for one band, another would pop into my head, causing me to run down the isle to another part of the bin. There was so much, perhaps too much, vinyl record stimulation that I could barely focus. This caused me to quickly lose track of time. I looked up to see a signed and dated picture of Coheed and Cambria performing only a couple of months earlier.

Checking the C section, there was only one Coheed and Cambria album to be found. The cover was a dingy tan and brown color over a thin and choppy illustration of what appeared to be a man being strangled by tentacles. In a white streak across the cover it read “Coheed and Cambria The Afterman: Ascension // Big Beige Demos.” Anyone who knows anything about the band is aware that they have a tendency to give their albums long winded and strange titles. I held the record, debating putting it back or taking it home, as the worker called to us that the store was closing.

I had to make a decision quickly. My girlfriend offered her phone, but there was no time to run the matrix code online. Throwing out random reasons both for and against purchasing the album, being the voice of Reason, she pointed out that it was only $10. At that price, I could not think of a reason big enough to not get it, other than the fact that such a thrown together cover made me question the album itself. Reluctantly, I chose to give the album a try, so I checked out and we headed back to her parents house. In the car, I ran the matrix number online and learned something interesting about the album.

Albums that are Big Beige Demos are essentially demos by big name bands for upcoming albums.  The record’s dingy cover was intentional; it was a downgrade from the actual cover for The Afterman: Ascension album. This album was also printed in clear vinyl, the color of which always builds a greater level of collectability. Finally, I learned that this album was released exclusively on Record Store Day 2012 at a select number of shops nation wide.  

As it turned out, that little shop was one of them with the elite selling rights and this one copy had just been sitting on the shelf since then, still in its original wrapping at the original price.  Doing a little research online, I learned that people in select parts of the US and other countries where the album wasn’t available were willing to pay upwards of $70 for it. The songs, even in their rough recording, are still worth the $10 I spent — and to think the record almost got overlooked because of a less than appealing cover.