The Elton John Collection, sold by the artist to fund his Aids Charity, was originally believed to consist of 50,000 items. In actuality, the personal collection, which the artist enhanced with the purchase of legendary BBC Producer, Bernie Andrews personal collection; contains more than 70,000 items consisting of singles, albums, 8 track cassettes, compact discs and unique studio tapes.
The Collection was created from the artist's prolific personal record purchasing, personal gifts and material from his record company Rocket Records. Especially notable are singles from his youth, signed as Reg Dwight and in sleeves he customized with newspaper and magazine clippings from artists of the time.
"The richness of the collection clearly reflects a passion and curiosity for all genres of music. It is not only comprehensive, but arguably a definitive portrait of the 50's through the 80's and possesses an enduring value and importance. With the Collection's rarities, unique editions and historical releases, I can't imagine there is another collection quite like it in the world," said Stephen M. H. Braitman of musicappraisals.com, the Collection's appraiser.
Unlocking a Historical Collection's Secrets
Jeanine Patrick, of Patrick and Patrick CPA's, was tasked with valuing the Collection, which arrived with minimal accompanying data, making a full inventory essential. So why did that take 20 years?
Patrick explains: "Evaluating a collection of this size and historical significance is not something that's embarked on easily. Along with the necessary security requirements it is cumbersome, risky and labor intensive, and you can easily spend more on it than a collection is worth. Over the past two decades, I investigated many solutions that were simply unfeasible, flawed, high-risk or cost prohibitive, or all of the above."
That all changed when a discussion with a business associate resulted in an ingenious solution. Creativity, teamwork and completely throwing away all conventions of how to inventory a collection saw them develop a system that began a modern day treasure hunt. Their solution, I-Stream, has created a complete visual 'virtual collection' that is accessible on the client's desktop. The I-Stream process integrates asset protection, security protocols, layered processing and allows for remote live monitoring of the inventorying process in a fast, affordable, reliable and accurate way.
Patrick explains: "Being able to literally view the items brings the collection to life and also offers detail that cannot be accessed via a simple data inventory sheet. To see the quality of an item on screen and actually read a sleeve note or a signature is unbelievably exciting."
From a business feasibility perspective, I-Stream allowed Patrick to provide an inventory and valuation in record time. And the process laid bare unexpected and previously undocumented rarities, such as 30 year old studio reel to reel tapes of rough mixes and copies of Elton John's studio sessions.
Leveraging the archival expertise of Abbey Road Studios, the team at I-Stream, transferred the reel to reel content into studio quality digital files to be stored with the Collection, and created MP3 copies, which can be played on the virtual collection software.
Appraiser Stephen Braitman suggests: "The ability to manipulate, manage and catalog such a robust collection and make it accessible to archivists, scholars and collectors for further study and discography will be invaluable to pop historians. This collection is of profound historical significance. As a collector, I am insanely jealous to find so many of the touchstones of music history and its legacy in one collection. This work also begs another question: What other uncovered treasures are hidden in unevaluated collections? "
- Digital Journal