Have you heard of the Courtyard Music Group? If you are an ardent collector, you may well have done. The band’s 1974 privately pressed run of 100 copies of their one and only album – Just Our Way Of Saying Hello – didn’t disappear into obscurity as you might expect of a 1970s psychedelic folk record. Instead, it became a legendary rarity among album enthusiasts.
So when a copy came up as lot 630 at the 1818 Auctioneers sale in Cumbria on February 27, tucked between LPs for Thurston Harris and The Sharps’ Little Bitty One and Water the Garden from Count Lasher’s quintet, the £700-1000 estimate would not have raised eyebrows among aficioandos.
Nor the result: a £1200 hammer price (plus 19.66% buyer’s premium).
With copies apparently trading online at over £1000, it has appropriately become known to collectors as ‘The thousand-pound album’.
The teamrock.com website eloquently explains the background: “Once upon a moonbeam, when hair was long, trousers were purple and albums came in gatefold sleeves with madly grinning wizards on the front, an idealistic young teacher cut a lo-fi folk-rock record with a bunch of teenagers in the Utopian rural setting of Kilquhanity School in the Scottish borders.
“Recorded in 1974 under the collective name Courtyard Music Group, Just Our Way Of Saying Hello was then privately pressed in a run of 100 copies for band, family and friends. And they all lived happily ever after. The end.
“Well, not quite. Fast forward a few decades, and one of the most obscure albums in Britfolk history is now an ultra-rare collector’s item.”
The key to the album was the Kilquhanity ethos: a school with about 50 pupils where “students and teachers had equal votes in council meetings, lessons were fluid and children encouraged to fully explore their creative side”.
Kevin Kendal from 1818 Auctioneers said the album that made £1200 came “from the estate of a private collector – a substantial part of his collection, amassed over 15 years following his retirement, sold with us for over £25,000 in September 2016”.
On sale day, “we saw strong interest from the start in the form of commission bids, followed by competitive bids from two potential buyers in the room and two online bidders”.
One of the online bidders was successful, with the underbidder in the room.
The auctioneers have never seen one before. It is believed the album copies have been traded online rather than sold at auction when they have come up.
“Also, there aren’t many auction houses offering specialist vinyl sales,” said Kendal. “It is the rarest album to come through the 1818 saleroom – and also takes the tag of highest priced individual record that we’ve sold.”