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Collecting Info: Emphemera

Collecting Sheet Music

Collecting sheet music is something that anyone can enjoy. There are thousands of different songs to meet any interest and budget. This article will have a few suggestions on how to start your collection and what to look for when purchasing sheet music.

When you begin collecting sheet music the most important thing is condition. The front and back covers should be attached. Often there are page numbers so check that the music is complete. The middle page is usually a single sheet so it is easy to get lost. Often there will be slight wear at the edges but there should be no large tears. It was very common for the owner to write their name on the cover or for there to be a gift inscription. If a name or gift inscription is small and does not detract from the cover design it will not reduce the value of the piece too much. Even if you are collecting for decorative value of the cover you should never detach them. Keep the sheet music intact to retain the value of your collection. .

There are thousands different categories of sheet music to collect. Some of the most popular subjects are cover illustrators, Movies, Composers, Dixie, Black Face, Patriotic, Cowboy, Transportation, and World War I. These covers are often beautiful works of art by such artists as Barbelle, Andre Detakacs, E. T. Paul, E. H. Pfeiffer, Starmer, Harrison Fisher, James Montgomery Flagg, and Norman Rockwell. .

Many collectors like to assemble works by their favorite stars from movies and theater. You can collect Fred and Ginger, Shirley Temple, Rudy Vallee, Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Disney or any other star. Often the sheet music for every song in the movie would be published individually with the same cover. The titles available are often listed on the front cover. Cover illustrations are photographs of the major stars in scenes from the movies, sometimes a single photo or photo collages. .

Collectible composers include Irving Berlin, George M. Cohen, Stephen Foster, Scott Joplin and John Phillip Sousa. Collectors will also focus on a favorite name, state, city or even one word that interests them. .

Blues and Jazz sheet music is hard to find. A few of the more popular band leaders such as Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington are available. .

Most sheet music is worth $3-$10 making it a very affordable collectible. Many of the illustrator covers, black face, World War I and Transportation sheet music are in the $25-$35 range. It was also common to have the singer sign your sheet music. Signatures can add $20-$40 to the value depending on the star. Rare or one of a kind sheet music can bring high prices. Keep Smiling a rare Irving Berlin sheet music brought $2,640 at a recent auction. .

Auctions and estate sales often sell sheet music in box lots so it is easy to build up a large collection. Antique stores, online auctions and online ephemera sites are good if you are looking for a single title. You should store your sheet music flat in a dry ventilated area. Keep it away from dampness and bugs and you will be able to enjoy your collection for a long time.
Content provided by Kari Gibson, Gibson Books.

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