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Bob Birr ’86
The actual value of your sheet music might not measure up to its sentimental value, Bob. Appraisers consider a variety of factors when valuing sheet music, a popular commodity among collectors. In general, “the older, the better,” says Don Cresswell, owner of The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. and an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. As such, 1909 is not old by most collecting standards. By the turn of the 20th century, print shops could produce thousands of copies of a single piece. Other factors in valuing sheet music are the aesthetics of the cover — illustrations and attractive text make a difference, as well as the condition of the pages: is the cover illustration faded? Are the pages bent or torn with pen or pencil marks? By looking at the demographics of the university in 1909, you can get an idea of how many people would want such a thing. “From the good vibrations I always receive about the campus at Madison, I suspect demand would be high,” says Cresswell, who stops in Madison with the Antiques Roadshow tour on July 11, 2009. “On, Wisconsin” composer William Purdy originally planned to submit the tune to the University of Minnesota for a $100 prize. When his friend Carl Beck, a former UW student, heard the music, he wrote lyrics for Wisconsin. Sung for the first time during 1909 Homecoming, “On, Wisconsin” was an instant hit on campus and the song spread throughout the country. More than 2,500 high schools and colleges have since adopted the melody and changed the words to suit their campuses. The original Wisconsin version was played unchanged until UW Band Director Michael Leckrone adapted the music in 1969 to engage Badger fans more quickly. Our beloved fight song celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Beck and Purdy printed the early copies but when they started to get more requests for the song, they negotiated with Joseph Flanner to print them. Flanner issued more than 10,000 band and orchestra copies and 100,000 piano solo copies between 1909 and 1912. So if you could prove that your copy was from the first printing run, it should be more valuable. University Archives has a copy of the sheet music autographed by Beck, and signature usually adds value. After considering all the factors listed above, you could also see if any have sold at public sales, which could provide a benchmark of its value.

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