Searching for the one item that has the potential to enhance even the largest and most diverse collection, fans of the Beastie Boys have begun to buy up RIAA gold and platinum record awards. These awards, which were originally intended for the recording industrys elite are now finding their way into the hands of fans. In the past, collectors had few opportunities to purchase RIAA plaques. Sure there may have been a few advertised in magazines like Goldmine and Discoveries, but even with the occasional celebrity benefit auction; the prospect of actually finding a Beastie Boys award was very unlikely. Then with the advent of eBay.com things changed and periodically Beastie Boys awards came up for public auction.
You may be curious as to why anyone would spend upwards of five hundred dollars to own a RIAA award. To answer that question a little explanation is required. First off, one needs to know that RIAA stands for the Recording Industry Artists Association. There are other organizations similar to the RIAA outside of the United States, for example the CRIA in Canada. Each organization sets a level of sales upon which an album is certified gold and then later certified platinum. In the United States, sales of 500,000 units is the level at which an album is certified gold. Whereas in Canada, it only takes 50,000 units to obtain the same honor and garner a gold plaque. Historically CRIA awards look very similar to their American counterparts, yet for some unknown reason they often sell in the secondary market for much less.
The next piece of information vital to understanding the RIAA craze is calculating just how many times a specific artist has been presented with a specific award. Fortunately the RIAAs website lists how many gold and platinum awards the Beastie Boys have earned, as well as the dates they were certified gold, platinum, or multi-platinum. To the collector firsts are always important, so in order to own the first Beastie Boys record award one would have to track down the Licensed to Ill plaque which was certified gold on February 2nd, 1987. A much newer, but still very cool piece would be the Licensed to Ill 9X platinum award which was certified 14 years later on September 5th, 2001. Some award displays will have one platinum record in the plaque for each time the recording has sold a million copies. Other platinum awards are much simpler and may only have a compact disc and cassette tape in the layout. Perhaps the most spectacular the custom layouts like one of those that Money Mark was given for his work on Check Your Head. It has two platinum records behind the glass and comes complete with a turntable arm which further enhances the display.
Now you may wonder who in addition to the actual members of the band may be eligible to receive a RIAA award. The answer is somewhat hazy though. In short, anyone who was influential with seeing to it that an album sold well is entitled to receive one of the awards. This would then include anyone from producer Mario Caldato, Jr. to the manager of a Los Angeles, CA Tower Records store. Marios contribution to the success of a Beastie Boys record is quite obvious; however the contribution of a music store manager is not as evident. Regardless though, if a manager of a Tower Records held a mid-night sale, decorated the store with Beastie Boys promotional posters, and thus sold an outstanding number of units during an albums opening week; that person went the extra mile and therefore earned his or her RIAA award.
A disc jockey and the radio station that he or she works for may also be presented with a RIAA award. In this situation the station may have made it a point to put a particular single into heavy rotation on the air, thus influencing regional record sales. To the collector, this matter of who the plaque was originally presented to can be of great significance or not make any difference at all. Record collector extraordinaire Mike Weiser owns two Beastie Boys RIAA awards and said the following, sure it would be nice to have an award which was presented to someone closer to the band. However, an unknown name on a plaque would in no way discourage me from bidding on an award that I wanted for my collection.
Each plaque has a small engraved portion on it where it states who the award was presented to and whether it is a gold or platinum award. On eBay.com, you may at times see a seller who wants to protect the identity of a previous owner. In an auction listing of this nature, the photos within the advertisement will have the area showing the name blurred out. Other sellers may insist upon taking the plaque apart and having a trophy shop engrave the buyers name over the original inscription. As a rule, awards increase in value based upon how close to the band they are. For example an Ill Communication award given to Eric Bobo would be deemed more valuable than one presented to David Pinsky. However, the award presented to Pinsky would in turn be more valuable than one presented to the Fat Beats store in New York.
Condition is also very important in determining value. RIAA awards are comprised largely out of fragile materials, so visible damage or wear is not uncommon. An award with a crack in the glass or a tear in the backing fabric should sell at a discount on eBay.com. Yet with such a high demand for certain plaques, imperfections may not significantly affect the final price. In the fall of 2000, the ninthbeastie paid $300 for a less than perfect Licensed to Ill gold record award with eBay.coms Buy It Now option. It had a slight tear on the back in addition to a few scuffs on the glass. I had been waiting awhile to purchase that award in particular, so its condition did not discourage me from paying top dollar for it. With postage and insurance charges, the plaque ended up costing me $350.00. A first time bidder may not be aware of it, but the shipping charges on RIAA awards can be at times outrageous. I have paid as much as $50.00 and as little as $12.00 in postage for the five awards that I have bought over the last couple of years. Most times the extra money does not go to waste, especially if the seller wraps generous amounts of bubble wrap around the plaque and insures the package for the purchase price.
Money Mark's Check Your Head Platinum Plaque
Prospective buyers should be aware of fake awards that may surface online or in gift shops. If a plaque does not have a RIAA seal somewhere on it, be suspicious of its origin. It does not take much effort or imagination to construct a non-RIAA award with the help of a local trophy shop. With all of the unlicensed copies of Country Mikes Greatest Hits surfacing, it will be interesting to see if an online entrepreneur creates a record award to commemorate Country Mikes soaring sales. If you are interested in buying a record award off of eBay, it is always a good idea to contact the seller before placing a bid. This way any questions can be answered upfront before a bidding war ensues. On the topic of bidding wars, one should never bid unless they are willing to complete the transaction. Over the years a few of eBay.coms more interesting Beastie Boys listings have been bid up to ludicrous sums, only to be re-listed the following week due to a dead-beat bidder.