The first hard-to-find album Joe D?Agostino ever sought out was Black Sabbath?s Live at Last, in 1981, when the unofficial release was only available in the U.S. as an import. He was 12 years old at the time, and had already become a fan of the heavy-metal pioneers from listening to his older brother?s records. From there, a passion that, at times, bordered on obsession was sparked.
By the late ?80s, D?Agostino was engaged in a constant global search for the rarest of the rare, eventually earning a reputation as one of the world?s top collectors of heavy metal on vinyl. With about 4,500 total albums, including 150 from Iron Maiden alone, the sheer size of D?Agostino?s collection is remarkable enough. But it?s the quality, not the quantity, that makes it truly impressive: private pressings featuring obscure bands, pressings from different countries on colored vinyl, Japanese releases still containing the obi strip, an original recording of Iron Maiden?s 1979 EP The Soundhouse Tapes, of which only 5,000 were pressed. ?They?re the killer pressings, the desirable ones,? he says.
But the most prized item in the collection is essentially the Holy Grail of heavy metal. In 2003, D?Agostino acquired a one-of-a-kind Black Sabbath acetate disc (pictured below) that was recorded and pressed in late 1969, about a month after the band changed its name from Earth. The acetate, basically a test pressing, features the previously unheard song ?When I Came Down,? a cover tune that the band never recorded afterward, on one side and ?The Wizard,? with different lyrics from the version on their debut album, on the other. D?Agostino purchased it from an Englishman who said he received it as a gift from Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi soon after its recording. Ozzy Osbourne himself confirmed the authenticity of the acetate?which D?Agostino keeps in a vault?at a 2010 book signing in Las Vegas, as did Sabbath?s original manager, Jim Simpson, whose handwriting is on the acetate?s label.
D?Agostino stopped collecting albums in 2004 and has even begun to sell off a few pieces here and there. He is waiting for the right buyer to make him a fair offer for the acetate, but until that time comes, he is in no hurry to part with the crown jewel in his valuable collection.
?The band members don?t even have this,? D?Agostino says. ?So, in this case, the more it changes hands, in a way it would diminish the value. I?ve got the recording locked, so this is a unique collectible.?