In the Limelight

Like the world at large, the comics and collecting fields have had to adjust their strategy for productivity over the last few weeks. Among those is Hake’s Auctions, where employees have been working from home as part of Pennsylvania’s current “stay at home” policy. Hake’s President Alex Winter, who is handling day to day operations from home, took a break to dig into his collection and discuss his passion for collecting records.

Scoop: Why do you collect records?
Alex Winter (AW): From the time I was an infant I have been exposed to music. As a baby, my mom would play Alice Cooper 8-tracks. His first release came out in 1969, the year I was born. All these years later he remains a favorite of mine and I even have those very same 8-tracks, showing how I was a collector from birth. The first music I bought with my own money was on cassette. My very first purchase was AC/DC’s Back in Black when it was initially released in 1980.

In 1985, I got my first turntable and that was when I fell in love with vinyl. In the late ’80s when vinyl was on the decline, I turned my focus to mainly CDs (at least as far as new releases went). But I continued to buy “old” vinyl. Around the year 2000 when the vinyl resurgence started up, I was more than happy to go full force with this format again. Not only did I start buying new releases on vinyl once more, but I really ramped up my collecting of vintage records. That included going way back in time and buying a 78 rpm collection as well as other formats such as reel to reel, and even adding some more 8-tracks to the archives. But it is vinyl I love the most. I am more an LP person but I do have 45s, the aforementioned 78s, and plenty of picture discs of all shapes and sizes.

As far as record albums go, I love it all, from the cover art to the liner notes to the warm and inviting sound a record transmits, as opposed to other formats. The process of putting a record on the turntable and dropping the needle, nothing brings me more joy. It is as much a Zen experience as it is aural bliss.

Scoop: How many would you estimate that you have?
AW: All formats considered I am somewhere over the 10,000 mark.

Scoop: What are your favorites?
With a collection as large as I have, the list of individual favorites is difficult to pinpoint and can change on a daily basis based on my mood. Genres that are constant favorites are heavy metal (especially obscure releases from the ’80s), jazz from the ’50s-’60s (especially Blue Note releases), and psych from the late ’60s-early ’70s. As far as artists go, I have a holy trinity: the father is Miles Davis, the son is Prince, and the holy spirit is Jimi Hendrix. I am never not in the mood to listen to any of those three and I actively seek all I can for them, especially rare releases, foreign issues, and bootlegs. Hendrix in particular is one that I love foreign releases as they had such wildly different cover art in many cases, both for LPs and 45s. And I will also always go back to AC/DC, more so the Bon Scott era even though my first exposure was to the Brian Johnson-fronted lineup. I consider Bon to be the greatest rock frontman of all time. As for their LPs, I have a complete collection of original Australian pressings. Most of these have different tracks and cover art from the US issues.

A subcategory of my album collection is signed LPs. There is an easy favorite there: a copy of Sketches of Spain, not only signed by Miles Davis but he also added a small portrait sketch of him playing a trumpet. As for my autographed records, I try to get them signed by the line-up that played on that album. Other favorites that are full band signed include Metallica’s Master Of Puppets, Alice In Chains’ We Die Young 12” maxi-single (eerily and ironically titled), and Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules not only signed by the band but also amazingly remarqued by artist Greg Hildebrandt whose awesome art graces the cover (and has an incredible backstory that is also Google-worthy).

Scoop: What records are on your want list?
AW: Again, this is a list just as long as what records I already have. But top wants are original Vertigo pressings of the Ozzy years Black Sabbath releases, a high grade copy of The Marvel World Of Icarus (comic fans should do a Google search of this – it is wild), Evil Dead soundtrack (again high grade which is not easy to find), deep groove pressings of some of my favorite Blue Note artists such as Jimmy Smith, Hank Mobley, Grant Green, and others. The list could go on and on. One thing I will say with my record collecting is that more than anything else I collect, condition is paramount. I am an uber condition freak. I would rather wait years to find the best copy possible rather than buy a lower grade and upgrade later. I have passed on many records over the years because the condition was just not there.

Scoop: What else do you collect?
Far too much some would say (including Heather, Hake’s operations manager and my better half). What I collect reflects a Hake’s auction, it is extremely diversified. Some main collections include comic books, comic art, pin-back buttons of all types, Underdog items, and further expanding on my music collection – concert posters and promotional material that was issued by record companies exclusively to DJs, record stores, and reviewers. Such very cool things as a Led Zeppelin inflatable airship and a Ramones mini baseball bat. The list of collections goes on. Basically, if I find it interesting it is a candidate from my collection, regardless of what type of item it is.

Scoop: How are you keeping busy during the current situation?
Just because the Hake’s staff is at home does not mean we are not working. I am still handling tons of day to day calls and emails about all aspects of the auction. I am reaching out to many of our bidders and consignors just to check and see how they are doing. Over the years, many of these work relationships have evolved into great friendships. I am also having daily meetings over the phone with all staff members to see how they are progressing on the things they are doing from home. While in a different context than if I were at the office, I am still having very productive work days and that is a necessary distraction. It helps that I am working in my music room and as much of a workout as my laptop is getting, my turntable is in constant rotation (pun intended) as well. Our three cats are happy to have us around so much and are actively helping us out with our various projects.

In my downtime I continue to catalog my music collection and have been revisiting things I have not played in a while. I am also taking daily walks to get some fresh air and clear my head. It should come as no surprise I ordered a new CD Walkman (yes, they still make these) for the walks and I love it. I do not download or use online playlists, I want tangible objects I can place my hands on whenever I want. That is what collecting is all about.