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Record Collector Extraordinaire - a conversation with Tom from Atlas Records

Tom's impressive collection of video game memorabilia

Holly |

Welcome to the first in our series of interviews with record collectors. This week, we had a chat with one of our very own Record Experts (Tom) about his collection.

Tom is passionate about Michael Jackson and just about anything collectable - keep reading to learn more...

What was the first record you purchased?

The first record I bought was 'Let It Be' by The Beatles. It would have been from Black Cat Records in Taunton during my first year of college when I was 17 or 18.

What is the most recent addition to your collection?

It would probably be the Jak and Daxter Soundtrack, it's a video game from 2001. It's quite a recent release but from a very old game. One [disc] is yellow and then disc two is orange. I played it a lot when it came out, so it is very nostalgic for me.

Where have you bought the majority of your collection?

The majority of my collection is probably from Black Cat. There are some (particularly rarer Jackson records) that were online, but [I get] very specific ones online, ones that are harder to find. I tend to buy on eBay, and I will filter onto auctions because people list at 99p. 

Favourite format? 7", 12", LP or 10"?

I would probably say 12 inch singles, because they tend to be where the oddities are.

American Pie by Don McLean
HIStory by Michael Jackson

What three records would you pick out from your collection to introduce someone to your taste?

This one on the top [of the pile] - 'American Pie' by Don McLean. That's in my top three albums of all time. Another one would probably be 'HIStory - Past, Present and Future', which is this three record gatefold set by Michael Jackson. It's kind of like a new releases and compilation [of older hits] at the same time. 

My third is a special release picture disc of The Jackson's Greatest Hits. It was a European release that is quite limited in numbers. I think it shows that I quite like the more out there oddities and harder to get records.

How many records are in your collection?

I think my collection at the moment is pretty much bang on 100. Maybe give or take a couple.

What's the rarest record in your collection?

A Jackson record that I sold recently comes to mind. I sold it for exactly £700. I bought it for £360, so I made a good bit of money on it. It's a square 10 inch picture disc, but it is uncut meaning it still has the lacquer around it preserving its 12 inch size.

They weren't meant to exist. Somehow the uncut versions got through and made their way into the secondary market. 

Do you know how many of them there are?

There are forums debating it. The last one I saw said that there are probably only around 20 to 25 known to exist. But the problem is because there's so much speculation on it, people tend to just go by how many have been listed for auction or in private sale in a certain amount of time. So it's difficult to say, but not very many at all.

And what record actually is it?

 It's a 'Man in the Mirror' by Michael Jackson release from 1988.

Michael Jackson – Man In The Mirror

What's the most interesting coloured vinyl in your collection?

Eminem's release of 'Kamikaze'. It's on red and black camo vinyl, well it's technically a picture disc. That's probably the most intricate/complex one.

Do you own any signed records?

I've got a couple of signed bits. One of them that we just mentioned, the Eminem 'Kamikaze' record. I don't actually have any sort of authentication for it so it may or may not be authentic, but I thought it would make a cool display piece. I have a signed Don McLean 'American Pie' album, which I think is really cool.  And then I've got my Busted release of 'Half Way There' which gives me all the nostalgic feels. I also have a signed Chris De Burgh album. I bought that because we used to listen to the album all the time in my aunt's car when she [would] take us out for the weekend.

Pic of four signed records

How do you store your records? Do you do anything special to keep them protected/clean?

Tom stores most of his collection in an Ikea Kallax, but his most prized items are on display.

I've got all of The Jackson Five, The Jacksons and Michael Jackson's albums on the wall in chronological order. So from the first release of the Jackson Five up in the top left down to the last release of Michael Jackson in the bottom right. That's the most dominating display in this room.

They're just in plastic sleeves and then command stripped to the wall so they can come out of the sleeves really easily if I do want to play them. Or, if I need to take the display down at some point then they can just come off super easily, which is nice. I was looking for ways to still be able to play them if I wanted to. There isn't much that you can buy that lets you do that.

The Jackson wall
Tom's ​​'Jackson' Wall

What is your holy grail record?

There's a release of a song called 'Someone in the Dark' by Michael Jackson, it was recorded for the ET soundtrack.  As part of the promotional campaign for that film, Michael Jackson released, well, almost released a single of the song. But they had some contractual issues like a week before release, so they had to pull the plug. Some members of the distribution team got the finished article and so over time that has made its way into the secondary market. 

It is considered to be one of the holy grails of Michael Jackson collecting. It's just a picture sleeve seven inch single. But they go for £1200 to £1300.

Do you have a favourite bricks and mortar record store? Past or present...

It would be Black Cat. I would go between lessons every single day during college. 100%, Black Cat.

Black Cat Records was a highly popular shop in Taunton, Somerset. It closed down a few years ago, but the owner still runs a Discogs site.

What with Discogs and the internet, it can be easy to find almost anything if you're willing to spend the money. Have you ever managed to track something down at a fraction of its going price?

One of my tactics early on in my collecting days was to scour eBay for keywords and then find the newly listed things, message the seller and see if I could agree a price. This album here, 'Blood on the Dance Floor' by Michael Jackson. They were very, very limited in the printings because that was the time that they were shifting more towards cassette and into CDs. 

And so that one I found on eBay. I had loads of keyword filters [saved searches] set up to notify me if anything new was listed for those keywords. I messaged the guy and I was like "Hey, what do you want for it?"  And he was like, "25 quid. Call it 25 quid." I think it came to £25 plus £3.50 postage. Subsequent auctions of it have sold for £200 plus! 

I adore that album because it's my first real example of "Oh, wow. This worked really well for me." I probably wouldn't have stumbled across the album in another way, short of finding someone who had listed it for buying above market price. So that was really cool.

Michael Jackson – Blood On The Dance Floor

Do you document your collection on Discogs?

Yeah, although it needs updating. I need to sit down and look through exactly what I have and haven't got.

Would you like to share your Discogs with the world?

Sure, it's TomV178

What was your first ever and most recent gigs you've been to?

First, Busted. That was in 2004, I want to say in Manchester. I would have been like 7 years old, it was brilliant. But I haven't been to a gig in ages. My sister and I went to T4 on the Beach back in the day, maybe in 2007.

There are definitely some live performances that I really want to go to some day. I'd love to go and see Sam Fender. I definitely have a list, but it's just something I haven't done in such a long time.

I'd love to see James Taylor. A bit of an oldie, but he's still touring. Don McLean does tours in the UK, so that would be sick. A lot of my taste is that era and a lot of the people that I really love listening to aren't alive anymore.

You never got to see Michael Jackson.. 

No, I didn't get to see Jackson. Although a friend of mine in school had tickets to his This Is It concert. I was seething with jealousy for this guy, and he didn't even really care too much about Michael Jackson. But, you know, your Whitney Houston's and James Brown's, those kind of artists. It would have been amazing.

Do you collect anything other than vinyl?

Yeah, I collect retro video games and then a smattering of of any other cool memorabilia I can find from films or TV shows or whatever. So, yeah, if it's a tangible thing that is signed or graded in any way I'm all over it. I love it.

Cats or dogs?

Cats. Every time, every single time. Not even a question.

Retro games

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