CALIFORNIA PHILANTHROPIST JIM COPELAND ASSEMBLED ONLY THE BEST OF THE BEST, INCLUDING FIRST PRESSINGS, PROMOS, SIGNED COPIES AND SHRINK-WRAPPED GEMS SPANNING EVERY CLASSIC FROM EVERY GENRE
By Eric Grubbs
During his long life, Jim Copeland loved his family most, but music was his constant companion. From the day he met wife Sandy in 1962 while stationed at an Army base in South Dakota, listening to the radio was one of the couple’s favorite pastimes. As the decade progressed (and the music industry did, too), Jim began collecting records – a hobby that would become a lifelong passion. “We started listening to records in 1965,” Sandy says now, a year after Jim’s death at 80. “From that time on, he always had records. We lived in the tiniest apartment, and we had a giant stereo in it.”
Jim would go on to become a successful businessman in San Luis Obispo, California, co-owning a sporting goods chain and pursuing many philanthropic endeavors around the city. As his business grew, so did his vinyl collection, which eventually comprised nearly 8,000 records by artists spanning John Coltrane to Black Sabbath, Etta James to the Velvet Underground, Rodriguez to The Rolling Stones.
“He loved music,” Sandy says of her husband, who could often be found combing through the inventory at local store Boo Boo Records. “He had favorites from every genre.” Though he appreciated all kinds of music, from jazz to classic rock to blues to classical to hip-hop, Jim collected only the best versions of the best records – first pressings, radio promos, mono versions of stereo releases, signed copies, test pressings, shrink-wrapped gems.
Such special records required an equally special space in which to enjoy them. For Jim, it was his music room, a hallowed place housing a laser turntable, record-cleaning machines, acoustic panels on the wall and ceiling, and special drawers built to store 7-inches, 10-inches and 12-inches. To enter the music room, an invitation was required, but Jim was always ready to spin his beloved records for his wife and three children. “He taught me a lot about music,” Sandy says. “There were genres I didn’t listen to before I met him, and one was jazz.”
While Jim’s collecting introduced Sandy to Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and other jazz greats, for the couple’s daughter and two sons, it was their dad’s rock records that got the most requests. Daughter Kathy says one of her earliest childhood memories is of being 5 years old and listening to Cream’s Disraeli Gears. “I can picture that album and know the music from it,” she says. “There was always music, and there were different versions of the stereo in the different houses we lived in. The rooms got remodeled for the stereo.”
Befitting Jim’s reputation as a philanthropist – so much so that San Luis Obispo Mayor Erica Stewart ordered flags on city property be flown at half-staff in his honor – his music will soon become available to anyone. From May 11-14, during its Music Memorabilia & Concert Posters Signature® Auction, Heritage Auctions will offer nearly 300 albums from Jim Copeland’s Crush On Vinyl Ultimate Audiophile Archive. This will be just the first of several auctions because, as Garry Shrum, Director of Entertainment & Music Memorabilia, recently said, “People’s heads would explode if we did it all at once.”
“I’ve been doing this for decades, and never before has a record collection like this ever come to auction,” Shrum says. “It has everything the collector could want, from the condition to the quality of the selections to the particular copies he had. These are in excellent condition. And Jim Copeland had everything, down to multiple copies of a single title. He bought the mono copy, the stereo copy, the DJ promo copy, the still-sealed copy, the German copy.”
Some of the great rarities in Jim’s collection are copies of Miles Davis’ milestone Kind of Blue – in mono and with a rare misprint on the back cover and sleeve – as well as a test pressing of Led Zeppelin II, an original UK pressing of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, a mono white-label promo copy of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, a dark red vinyl copy of Charlie Parker’s 1949 collection The Bird Blows the Blues and a retracted white-label promo copy of Queen’s 1980 Greatest Hits.
“For him, it was about learning,” Kathy says. “He learned everything he could about a record. He would search for it. He would keep searching until he found a better one. He could tell you everything there was to know about each particular record.”
Sandy says putting Jim’s collection up for auction is a way of sharing the music her husband loved sharing for so many decades. Her hope for the records? “To have them land in the hands of someone who will love them as he did.”
ERIC GRUBBS is a pop music cataloger at Heritage Auctions.