Demo values

Demo values

Demo value is a matter of debate. Record Collector’s Rare Record Price Guide declares firmly that its prices are given for commercial releases, or ‘stock copies’, not for demos or promos except in unusual cases (like The Beatles, Madonna, Queen etc). Where the difference is important, like My Mind’s Eye by Small Faces, where the mix differs on early demo copies, they note it.  In previous issues they’ve commented that some soul records had so many promo / DJ copies that the commercial releases are the rarities. 

Manship’s Rare Soul 45 rpm UK Price Guide takes a pro-promo line. It also matches all the sleeves correctly in the illustrations. Prices are given throughout for commercial releases and promos/ demos, and the promos range from 20% to 30% more expensive for demos right across the board. Manship is a soul specialist, and as he says, the very high prices for old soul singles are partly driven by DJs. They’re also the ones I’ve seen parting with the thick bunches of twenties at Record Fairs. Manship adds that in the sixties, a normal promo run was about a hundred copies, and the ones sent to  the BBC for example will still be in the BBC libraries, so they are rarer.  In some cases they might even be marginally different too. What’s the appeal? Is it the suggestion that the owner was once on the restricted list of those to receive demos? Might the coffee stains on the demo have dropped from a famous DJ’s cup? Is it that they were made from the earliest pressing master?

There’s an underlying belief (or hope) that early copies had less wear on the stampers so were better, thus driving price. Any difference would be infinitesimal.

For some artists Manship’s guide shows a large difference between a normal copy and a “DJ copy.” DJ is the standard suffix for a demo / promo.

For The Hunter Gets Captured by The Game by The Marvelettes, Tamla Motown 1966, Manship was quoting £20 for a standard copy, £85 for the promo. It’s considered a classic, wasn’t a hit, but was later much anthologised. It became hugely popular in the Northern Soul era.

For Junior Walker and The All Stars, there are several singles valued at £8 to £10 where the DJ copy is valued at £30, and others valued at £15 where the DJ copy is valued at £60 or £70. This isn’t generally true of Motown singles in the guide, but Junior Walker was a DJ’s favourite (or fave rave as they would have described it at the time). 

This is a small section of the Tamla-Motown listing. Compare the basic release with the DJ copy. Some range from a 100% premium to a 300% premium (£10 to £30) with the first Jimmy Ruffin listing. Then You’re All I Need to Get By hits 500% … £8 to £40.

Manship’s Guide: Tamla Motown (as of 2005)

Slop Time

Girl groups also are premium. So let’s take a middling example, Slop Time by The Sherrys.

Slop Time: The Sherrys, London American 45-HL5686 1963

Rare Record Guide 2022: £25 mint, demo not stated

Standard copy

Manship’s Guide starts at Near Mint rather than Mint. My copy of the guide is 2005, and it gives:
Standard £15 Demo £22

Discogs give a median price of £16 for the promo, (they won’t be stating quality) and has one on sale at £28.50. They have a standard one at a median of £9.99 with one on sale at £12.

Whatever, it means a 33% to 50% premium on the demo.

Mod and psych

Conversely, rare psych / mod singles are considered more valuable in the stock copy version than the demo version, because so few were sold. As in all collecting fields, eBay and the like are skewing values. In the Decca section there’s a copy of the Charms demo by Johnny Hudson & The Teen Beats.  Early beat group era. A stock copy is listed at £10 mint in Rare Record Guide. I paid £5 for this one and Googled. A demo had just been sold on eBay for £43.

Natural Sinner: Lloyd Price, Wand 45 1971

Some labels spewed out demos without much success. For example, 90% at least of the singles on the Wand label that I’ve ever seen are demos. A demo would not have much greater value. For Natural Sinner, Manship adds £1 on the demo.

So take the demo of a rare Mod single by The Action, Land of 1000 Dances. Rare Record Guide 2022 valued a stock copy at £75 mint. Manship’s Rare Soul 45 rpm UK Price Guide (16 years earlier, remember) has a stock copy at £50, and a promo copy at £70. They’re pretty close then, closer than the ‘negotiable area’ that applies to any second-hand goods. If you take it as ‘Mod’ then a stock copy should be worth more. Manship disagrees BUT it’s a Mod cover of a soul song.  But then Discogs is curious. They list the median sale price of the demo version as £120, and the stock copy at £78, but then one disc of the stock copy sold for £265. (Lucky seller? Dumb buyer? Signed copy?)

Tyrannosaurus Rex put out demo singles with inserts and picture sleeves during their Regal Zonophone career. That’s Marc Bolan in the fey hippy guise prior to the glam Marc. The price differential is huge. While the singles rate at a handsome £40 in stock sleeves, the three  in promo picture sleeves soar to £375 or £425 if the insert is intact. The three singles are Deborah, One Inch Rock and King of The Rumbling Spies. On the other hand, I looked at Google images and found copies at 100 and 200 euros … but they’re not mint.

In contrast, many collectors (the writer included) say that they’re not interested in promos because they want the artefact that most people had, the basic commercial release. 

The balanced answer is that promo / DJ copies are far more important for soul and reggae than for releases in other genres. There is a cachet in the soul scene in having a “proper” DJ copy.

The most valuable demos are those which were genuinely used to assess interest in a record, and in particular those where, having assessed the interest, the commercial release was abandoned.

In 1963, Decca pressed demos of Fortune Teller / Poison Ivy as an intended second Rolling Stones single. The version of Poison Ivy is not the one that appeared on the subsequent EP. Having demoed the record, they abandoned release in favour of Lennon & McCartney’s I Wanna Be Your Man. If you have one, auction it. It’s worth at least £1000 in mint condition.  It doesn’t even say DEMO on it either. Perhaps ‘withdrawn copy’ is a better description.

Parlophone pressed very few of The Beatles Please Please Me demos because the sales force did not share George Martin’s belief that it would go to number one. So a copy with the big red A is worth around £1500 or whatever auction fever raises above that.

Replica demos

The romance of the demo soldiers on. Replica reissues of classic mod singles are produced with the demo label, not the actual label.

These are from Circles: The Mod 45s Box set 2013. They’re two sides of one disc.

The Koobas: A Place I Know, Pye 1966 (The B side has become the A side)
I Really Really Care: The Alan Bown Set 1967
(original £30 standard, £45 demo)

An original Koobas single rates at £195 to £225 on Discogs.
I Really Really Care was the A side of the demo, but the B-side of the eventual release. It sells for £45 to £68 on Discogs in standard form. The promo version has hit £99,

Vashti Bunyan

An example of the attraction of demos is the Vashti Bunyan single Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind on Fat Cat Records in 2007. It’s her version of a rare 1965 Jagger / Richards song with her own composition on the B-side. Hmm. Some of these are advertised as demos with “copied from the original demo” stickers on the net, because she recorded it in 1965. Bunyan is collectable. Her Just Another Diamond Day LP from 1970 is rated at £1200 mint.

Right, demos were sent to DJs, so many are put in radio station card sleeves, and most radio stations attach their own labels. Fine. The label’s “typed” but someone’s added Vashti in biro. Good. Look at the B-side. Like old B sides it’s blank, so someone has handwritten in the title and added a little drawing. Ah! And Decca group lines surround the label. Then there’s a sticker “Copied from the Original Demo – A Gift from Tony, Helen and Kim Rounce”. They’d be the pluggers, perhaps? Lots of demos have plugger stickers on.  But that’s odd. A bar code.? What? Yes, but it’s stuck on top of the plugger sticker.

Examine it more closely. No stickers. No handwriting. it’s all printed directly on the white card. The “writing” is printed on the label. Yes, this is a fake demo, actually a new release, though it is indeed copied from her original 1965 demo. The give-away is the only genuine sticker on there “£2.95”. Demos don’t have prices on them because they were NOT FOR SALE. Doh! It was a limited edition though, but of 1000 singles. All exactly the same.