Information And Help To The New Collector - Part IX


by Terry G.G. Salomonson

In the many years that I've collected programs, I've seen and heard about a lot of the following practices of different collectors. Oh, some may have been completely innocent, being a new collector and unaccustomed to the understood practices of their community of collectors, but for the most part this is not the case.

Most collectors starting out, are eager and willing to agree to just about any set of trading rules laid down by their new contact. Now, let me say from the start, most collectors, traders and dealers are very honest and in this hobby truly want to be of some useful help. I would have to say that in all the years I've been collecting, there has been only about three people that I have had a bad problem with and I would steer clear of in any future projects. In this hobby, there just doesn't seem to be a major problem with the stranger you know only via the postal system. In fact you will find that you can make some wonderful contacts and associations through this hobby, but more about that in Part 10.

The purpose of this installment, is to make you aware that there are ways you can be short changed, so to speak, and maybe not realize it. Like I said, some of these practices are completely innocent on the part of the other collector/trader, but then again, maybe not. It's for you to decide whether you feel that you are being taken advantage of or not.

When I first started out in this hobby, that main format that programs were collected on was reel-to-reel tape. The reel recording deck was very popular as a part of the home audio system and a very convenient way to collect and record monaural radio broadcasts. Because of various tape lengths, recording speeds and tracks, problems did develop among some collectors.

Recording broadcasts one track at a time (quarter track), and using 1800' length tape, you could record up to 6 hours of programs. That would give you 12 30 minute programs, or up to 24 of the 15 minute programs. The typical trading arrangement would be to trade one reel of programs from your collection, for a reel of programs from the other collectors collection. The understanding being that you would trade an 1800' reel for an 1800' reel (or 1200' for a 1200') of programs.

A few collectors, taking on a new collector, might request five reels of material, receive five 1800' reels and send back the same number of reels but maybe three or four 1800' reels and one or two 1200' reels of material. This would short the first collector, not in the number of reels, but in the amount of time available on the reels for recording. Thus the second collector would be receiving a lesser amount of programming content. Don't be confused about the number of programs. After all, you might be trading an 1800' reel of 30 minute programs (12 of them in all), for an 1800' reel of 15 minute programs (24 of them in all). You would still be receiving 6 hours of material.

Some traders would take this a step further and actually total the exact number of minutes that they would receive from the new collector and complain about any "shortages." A 30 minute or a 15 minute program is not always exactly 30 or 15 minutes in length. If local announcers did the commercials live, then a 15 minute program might only contain eleven and a half or twelve minutes worth of program. It is still a 15 minute format program. Like a 30 minute television program today. If you remove the eight or nine minutes worth of commercials, you only have 21 or 22 minutes worth of program left.

Some collectors would add up the exact timing of each program, deduct that from 360 minutes worth of possible time and than demand that a maybe 13 minute shortage be made up before any further trading would be conducted.

Another way to cheat would be to receive 6 hours worth of programming on an 1800' reel (recorded at 3 3/4 ips), and send back an 1800' reel recorded at 7 1/2 ips, thus receiving only half the amount of programming that you sent. The few that did this claimed their programs were worth more in the trade, because the higher speed added to the overall quality of the programs. While this has some merit, especially in music, it is really hard to make a good case when you're talking about monaural voice broadcasts from 50 years ago.

I had one collector, who because he recorded everything on 1800' reels at 1 7/8 ips (cassette speed), expected two reels from you for every one reel he would send. The main problem here is that most reel decks wouldn't transport tape at 1 7/8 ips. So you would have to redo the material you received from him, before you could list it in your catalog for another trader. By-the-way, this same collector also recorded news broadcasts, while using adapters on his reel deck, to slow the speed down to 15/16's ips (half the speed of cassettes).

If you agree to these trades, then there are no problems. But if you are not aware of these possible problem areas, it can lead to big disappointments.

Some traders recorded left channels only (while using 1/4 track machines) and claimed your reels to be in the half track mode. This is another way to request twice the material than they are providing. The novice might not know that while playing the material back, they should hear the broadcasts okay in the left channel (track one) and hear in the right channel program (track two) in reverse. If you hear nothing in the right channel, you've been cheated. More about this in Part 12.

We all expect good, splice free recording tape will be used to make up the reels we receive. Some collectors have been caught using their discarded tape. Recording tape that has dropouts, is wavy (warped), has splices. Some collector even get ride of the 2400' tape they have on hand, trim the excess over 1800' and pass it off as 1800'. Again, unless you agree to this, you shouldn't accept differences from what you are providing. And certainly not splice filled tape that is probably made up from many different reels and even different manufacturers stock. This could lead to biasing and recording level problems.

Also, check the type of splice and how well the splice was made, if you run into this area. Probably made, you should not have a problem with a splice. But, some providers do not splice correctly, and some even use standard office scotch type mending tape instead of magnetic splicing tape. Never accept scotch tape as magnetic splicing tape! Over time the sticking material used in scotch tape will gum up your recording/playback heads, and even transfer itself to other layers of your tape on the reel.

Recording programs with the volume level low, is another problem that usually is just a simple mistake, but sometimes it is done intentionally. The problem with low volume is the most obvious. When you play the tape back, or try to make another copy of the program for someone else, you will have to turn up the volume level to start approaching 0vu on your deck. In doing so, you will also start to increase the amount of tape hiss. With each copy made, the hiss problem will continue to increase.

Using cheap tape, thinly oxide coated tape, or tape that has had more than its share of use, will also give the recipient less than the expectant results. Years ago, in trying to save money and find a cheap source for tape, many of us turned to used computer tape. What we have found out in the twenty years since, is that this tape eventually dried out and now squeals when played back today. Many programs have been lost this way. Buy and use good tape now. The little extra you spend now for good, new, lubricated tape, will pay off years from now. Trust me, you really do not want hundreds of bad reels in the heart of your collection.

A few "bad guys" have done the following over the years. To change the pitch, or speed, of the source tapes, gives the recipient an off speed program. Of course, poorly maintained equipment, bad tape, and a few other areas, could be the cause, but there have been collectors that have passed on off speed programs. Many collectors have no way of correcting this problem and just have to live with it, and worse, pass on the problem in their next trade. Some source collectors have even, using their thumb, sped up and then slowed down a tape while making copies.

Why would anyone do this? Well, one reason is to charge for the "newly discovered better copies" later. They can trade for more material that they want, using the same material (now in "better sound") to help upgrade the shows they already traded (with problems). Kind of getting two for one.

Sometimes, a few collectors will put together a series of programs in chronological order, intentionally leaving a couple of programs out. Again, the theory here is to offer the newly found missing programs for a premium trade.

Claiming never to have received programs, is another way of cheating in the trading relationship. This should really be noticed especially if the collector who claims not to have received the programs states that he would like something else instead of the original selection.

Dealers have had tapes return and refunds requested, after the collector has received the tapes, copied them, and then defaced the tape by stretching or breaking it. This way, they got their programs for no cost. Again, here, be careful if the one you sent the tapes to, returns them and does not ask for a refund, but does ask for different selections.

So programs have been edited before they are traded to other collectors, giving the editor an original copy that maybe no one else has access to. Original commercials or portions of the body of the program will "show up later."

Some collectors send out their tapes via the post office and the Special Fourth Class rate. The type of mail moves as space permits. While at the same time, they want their orders filled and shipped via second day UPS, or First Class mail.

In buying groups, an originally purchased tape is circulated among each member of the group. Occasionally a member will copy the tape and then replace the copy for the original and keep the original. Some groups of gone to put special leaders at the beginning and end of each tape to discourage this practice. Sometimes it works, and sometimes not. The problem is, is that as a member of the group, you're not getting what you're paying for.

Switching leads and connecting cables between decks causes a lot of problems with collectors. This can be a larger problem with programs that are not clearly identifiable such as soap opera episodes and so on. Switching tracks, leads, cables and so on, usually leads to more irritation then anything else.

I donated a large number of programs many years ago to a museum and was told I could declare a tax deduction if I wanted. Months later, at the end of the year, I decided that maybe I should get some paperwork on the donation so that if I decided to take the deduction, I would have the supporting documentation. I found out that the person I sent the donation to took the tax break and claimed the donation to the museum for himself. Live and learn.

I hope that these few pages are enough to make the reader aware of some of the problems you can run into. Fortunately 99% of the people in this hobby are good, honest, above board collectors and traders. Among the 1%, well......

A close friend of mine follows one simple rule after his many years in this hobby. He requests a sample reel from a potential trader of anything in his collection he/she considers to be in excellent sound. It doesn't matter what he receives, even if he already has a copy of it. This test reel (cassette), gives him an idea of how his sound rating compares to what the other trader considers excellent. It also gives him a view of the type of tape used, how well the recording was made, etc.

This is probably the best single step you can take in building a new relationship with another collector.

Hopefully you will learn which sources to stay away from without being burned too badly. This article, I hope, will put you a couple of steps ahead of anyone who might want to pull a quick one on you. If any of the readers can offer an additional dirty trick, please forward to me. I'll include it in future articles. It can only help each of us - and that's the point.


If there is an area of information that you, the new or well established collector, would like to see in this series, please feel free to write me. Any questions, comments, or suggestions will be carefully considered. I can be reached through this internet web site or the following addresses:

P.O. Box 347
Howell, MI 48844-0347


Copyright (c) 1988 - 1998 by Terry G.G. Salomonson. All rights reserved.

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