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"it's not the world that's heavy,
it's just the things that you save"

Collecting Pearl Jam

part 2: spin the black circle: collecting vinyl
part 3: the lesser evil: cd's and cassettes

part 2: spin the black circle: collecting vinyl

Due to their love of the aforementioned black circle, many Pearl Jam collectibles are, predictably, vinyl-based. We don't want to start a pro-vinyl or anti-vinyl argument - either you love it or you don't, and if you don't, that's fine. The fact remains, however, that more than a few of Pearl Jam's most desirable collectibles are on vinyl, and despite considerable demand from the fan base, the fan club singles are still on vinyl and only on vinyl. This band digs vinyl. Get used to it.

The albums, and so-called "first pressings": First pressing means the first run from the factory. This was more of an issue in the 60's and 70's, when later pressings would skimp on package quality, but it's less of an issue now when so little vinyl is actually pressed; in fact, in the case of PJ, we wouldn't hesitate to say that most of the vinyl out there is likely first or second pressing at the most. In the early 90s, vinyl was no longer a preferred format. PJ did help this along by making the vinyl albums available earlier than the CD (in the case of, say, Vitalogy or No Code) but that's no longer the case.

At this stage in Pearl Jam's career, unless you are an absolute completist, there is little to no value to a first pressing, unless it is still sealed in the original factory shrink wrap (which is of course hard to prove) - and even then, the additional value is negligible. Perhaps in 20 or 30 years this might bring a small premium, but since there is no noticeable difference between a first pressing and later pressings in terms of packaging, it is doubtful. (We hear that they may have discontinued some of the albums without inserts overseas.) At some point in the future, it is possible that Sony might do away with the elaborate packaging and inserts - this hasn't happened yet. Until then, first pressings are 1) almost impossible to validate and 2) not as rare as eBay dorkweed is trying to say it is. Do NOT pay more money for these.

If you are looking for copies of the albums on vinyl, you can pick them up directly from Sony Music Direct, or You don't need to spend $20 or $30 on these. Even if you don't have a turntable, it is wonderful to see the artwork in this large size. The only release that was disappointing in terms of vinyl packaging was, surprisingly, Yield. If you have to own one and one only, go for No Code; unbelievable the amount of care that went into that package; and, of course, you get the polaroids full size!

The rarest vinyl album release is the alleged blue vinyl version of Vs., supposedly released in Colombia, South America. No one we know has ever seen this. (But if you've got one... we could make it worth your while!)

The most popular vinyl collectible (besides the fan club singles) is probably the lovely Ten picture disc from the UK, known to most fans as the "Basketball vinyl". This was named because the A-side was an image of a basketball with "Pearl Jam" writTen on it (like the promotional basketballs, more on those later). It also came in a clear sleeve with the Ten artwork silkscreened in one color (purple). It's very cool. (Click here to see this on There were 5,000 of these made and going price is anywhere from $75 (if you're lucky) to $125.

Next on our list would most likely be the "Jeremy" 12" picture disc, also released by our friends in the UK. (Click here to see this on Ten and Vs. also spawned a whole slew of colored 7" singles from the UK - "Alive" (white vinyl), "Evenflow" (white, also a 12" single in white vinyl), and "Daughter" (red!). Additionally, the UK had a series of 12" singles accompanied by fold-out "poster bags" -- basically, the packaging the record came in folded out into a full-size poster (such as the "Daughter" single click here to check it out.) These can all be found fairly easily if you look, the picture discs are usually harder to find and more pricey. Expect to pay anywhere from $5-20 for the 7" and double that for the 12" picture discs; the posterbags should be in the $5-20 range as well.

The release of Binaural gave us two lovely colored vinyl singles to collect from the UK (and Australia). These were numbered and limited, but you can pick 'em up on eBay these days for around $5. So much for limited.

Picture discs of the Vs. album, that look very legit and have a Sony UK serial number, have shown upon eBay recently, going for about $25. We have since verified via Sony UK that these are not legitimate releases. They are basically 'bootlegs' that were printed in Eastern Europe. They may be cool, but they are not official, and not that difficult to find or rare.

Fan Club singles: It's amazing to us to watch the going rates on these singles; the "Angel" single, of which 50,000 were pressed, sometimes sells for three to four times of the "Who Killed Rudolph" single, of which half that number exists. Keep these numbers in mind when shopping:

So it's safe to assume that after 1995, the band were producing and mailing out probably close to 100,000 copies of each single. One of the main factors that determines an item's rarity is quantity. So it makes no sense whatsoever to pay more money for a 1996, 1997, 1998 or 1999 single than you would for "Let Me Sleep" -- they will also be easier to find.

There are a lot of bootleg copies of the fan club singles being sold out there, both CD and vinyl. There is NO official cd release of the fan club singles, no matter what anyone says, and there is no other release of the fan club singles besides the official releases. There are some plain black vinyl reprints that have a few of the singles on them - know what you're buying - ask for photos or detail - if you don't know what they look like, go to and educate yourself before buying something fake.

part 3: the lesser evil: cd's and cassettes

Rare CD's

Never fear, vinyl haters, there are also rare CD's in the collector's book. The first on the list is the infamous "Reenk Roink" CD, which was a first run pressing copy of "Ten" that was hand-decorated by the band (Jeff and Ed seem to have shared chores) and handed out to clubs, radio stations, etc. (Check these out on - the first listing in this category.) These are super-rare; there were allegedly only 10, but I've seen more than that turn up on eBay over the past few years. There are probably no more than two dozen. You need to be VERY CAREFUL that you are buying a real one, and not a fake, as I've seen several questionable examples of this CD float around. If you're in the market for one of these, get to know what they are supposed to look like by watching and not bidding on some auctions. Ask around, see if people on a mailing list or BBS have one that they can scan for you. These are super-pricey, but if you know what you are doing, you can pick on up for as little as $100. However, they have gone as high as $500. This is my favorite collectible; it's like holding a piece of Pearl Jam history in your hand.

For sheer coolness, you can't beat some of the Japanese CD releases. The most infamous is likely Freak, a compilation released around the Vitalogy era. Impossible to find and incredibly expensive when you do. Last time I saw it, it was priced at $400. Someone will likely consider that a bargain. There was also a "Singles" collection from Japan that was released to commemorate Yield. (Check this out here. Last time I saw this it went for around $300. If you don't collect, you will think these prices are insane. Trust me when I say that for these items, these are fairly reasonable figures.

Before the 2000 tour and the bootleg era, official, promo-only soundboard releases of live shows were very popular items. First on that list would be "Rarified and Live," which is an official soundboard release of the 3/17/95 show from Melbourne, Australia. It was limited to 1,000 copies. This was promotional-only and released only in Australia. This one shows up on eBay pretty regularly and with some patience, you can pick it up for around $100. It's worth probably closer to $250 but the market seems to have dropped on this item.

There were also legal versions of the Atlanta broadcast, Self-Pollution Radio and Monkeywrench radio released, under the auspices of various radio stations. If you're in the market for these, BE CAREFUL. There are official ones and then there are bullshit bootleg ones, and then there are those enterprising folks who burn copies of the official radio station versions and try to pass them off as the real thing. Know what you're buying. If you don't, hold back and watch for six months until you get to know what's out there.

For items that aren't promo-only, first on the list would have to be the yellow digipak of "Ten". There were allegedly only 5000 of these printed; they were commercially available. Then there is the infamous promo CD "Cultivate The Tour". This was issued by Sony to promote PJ's appearance on the RHCP/SP tour in 91. Also of note would be the 3" "Daughter" CD released in Japan, and the Japanese version of the "Alive" single, which has the "Evenflow" video edit.

Finally, what seems to be the most commonly sought after CD is the entire "Dissident" set, which has tracks from the Easter 94 Fox Theater radio broadcast. Getting all three CD's in the set is somewhat of an accomplishment these days, but it can be done. Keep in mind that this is not the entire show. It's still a popular item.

In the early days, Sony released many import-only CD singles, with tracks that you couldn't get anywhere else. Most of the old-school fans paid *way* more money than we should for a CD single (as much as $20, if we could find them). Then, PJ got wind of this and released all of the singles domestically. If you joined late in the game, you have no idea what I'm talking about, because you can get them all for $4.99. Thank you PJ! (This, however, does not explain the "Off He Goes" debacle of 1996, when the aforementioned single was only released on 7" vinyl in the States and was very difficult to find at the time, while the Australians and Europeans got a CD single, and also got another single ("Hail Hail") with "Black Red Yellow" as a b-side. Go figure.)

You'll hear a lot of talk about "radio only singles." These are CD singles with one song on them, no artwork, generic label, that are sent out to radio stations. The "In Hiding" single (which was never released) that got everyone in an uproar because it appeared on an Epic Records release calendar is an example of this. These are usually only interesting to the real diehards. These turn up on eBay with regularity.

One of the more recent, and most infamous CD collectibles would have to be the aborted 1998 "Give Way" Best Buy promotion. This was to be an exclusive giveaway when you bought Single Video Theory at Best Buy stores; the CD itself was the 3/5/98 JJJ broadcast. This was pulled at the very last second, and was not given out with the video purchase. Allegedly, Sony served Best Buy with a cease-and-desist to prevent them from giving away the CD, as Best Buy allegedly negotiated directly with PJ for this promotion and did not get permission from Sony. This story was never confirmed or denied by the PJ camp, so to this day, no one knows what really happened. All the copies of this CD were supposed to be destroyed, but as you can imagine, a handful made it out onto the open market. This item goes for approximately $250 and up -- for a show that everyone has in good quality (due to the FM broadcast - and there's even a pre-FM feed of this show widely circulating amongst the trading community) and for very ugly artwork (which you can see here).

The most recent CD collectible of note was a compilation CD from the live boot series. They're mildly difficult to find right now but are going for about $20 or so. (You can check this out here.)

There is NO additional value to a first pressing of a cd, unless there was some special edition or artwork or something that wasn't on subsequent pressings (such as No Code in Europe). Don't be misled.

Valuations: Aside from the "Reenk Roink" cd and "Give Way," and the Japanese releases, the only super pricey thing in this lot is the yellow digipak, which can run you $50-75 if you can find it. The Atlanta set can be picked up for $20-25 if you pick them up one by one. The rest shouldn't run any more than $10-15.


The rarest and most sought after item is the original "Alive" cassette single (check it out here on, which was mailed out to all the members of the Mother Love Bone fan club at the birth of PJ. The prices on these vary; you can get lucky and pick one up for $5, but $25 is probably a fairer and reasonable price.

What is neither rare, nor all that exciting, are the first pressings of Vs. that are labelled Five Against One (which was set to be the title of that release, but was changed at the last minute). There are so many of them out there that you should be paid for taking it off someone's hands. This is literally not worth more than a buck or two and definitely don't pay more than $5 for it. Sellers on eBay can get *really* worked up about this item and will try to convince you that they have one of only a dozen or so that "made it out". That's bullshit; the entire first run of cassettes (which is probably several hundred thousand) has this misprint. (And the cd's with no title are also not worth anything either.)

Thanks to Ferry Groen and for his hard work and dedication.

Next: Part 4: Posters, or all the cool kids are doing it!
back to part 1

Copyright © 2004 Five Horizons