Craig Spalter collects punk rock memorabilia. The habit started in the 1980s when he was a guitar technician for several touring rock bands including The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Buffalo Tom and Bettie Serveert.
“I usually tried to find the local used record stores on tour looking for regional, hard to find vinyl and posters,” said Spalter. “Since I was in the biz, I’d come across a lot of famous artists. I’d just walk up to people. A lot of people don’t want to talk to celebrities for whatever reason. I could get them to sign things. The bands were usually really accessible at the shows I attended.”
He collects items from New York, New England and Midwest punk and pre-punk bands. “Sometimes I sell things, but if it’s really rare, I hang on to it. Or, if I have doubles, I’ll sell them. I sold a GG Allin single for $400 on eBay. That was a nice score.”
Lately he’s been trying to pick up low cost 1960s items. “I try to get the bargains,” he said. With eBay, you have to dive in really early to get BIN deals or get in really late on the auctions. The problem and the fun with auctions is that you never know who you’re battling.”
His collection includes rare items from The Rationals, Scot Richard Case and Detroit, all bands that were contemporaries of the MC5, who are more recognized. “They used to always play together,” said Spalter. “Blues-based, hard rock hippie stuff. A little craziness. Proto-punk.”
Spalter’s collection includes signed posters from The Dictators, Iggy Pop, The Plasmatics’ Wendy O. Williams, GG Allin (Jesus Christ Allin – his name at birth, no joke), and the Sex Pistols. “Johnny Rotten and the original bass player, Glen Matlock, signed the Sex Pistols posters,” said Spalter. He saw Matlock’s band in Los Angeles and asked the artist for his signature. “Matlock’s band was really good. He had Clem Burke on bass from Blondie in his band.”
Some of Spalter’s favorite posters are from a 1970s Australian band called Radio Birdman. “One of the guys in the band was a graphic artist who worked for Disney. Their stuff is really collectible in some circles. They have a very specific logo. People thought they were fascist, because they had armbands with logos that looked kind of like Nazi stuff.” He has a stash of their posters.
Spalter is the classic collector in every sense of the word. He hunts like a focused cat, knows exactly what he wants, and has a garage full of fascinating gems. In the next installment in this story series focused on eBay collectors, we’ll go a little deeper into the “big data” tips Spalter uses to authenticate records and obscure music collector niches.