Vinyl – How to Climb On the Band Wagon Part 1 – Buying Vinyl

We keep hearing it – the resurgence of Vinyl. But if you’ve never owned vinyl or sadly disposed of the vinyl from your youth, how do you get back in the game?

Part 1 covers building your vinyl collection.

There is no one correct or best way to do this, but here are some suggestions.

Buy Some New Albums

OK – this is obvious, but what is not always obvious is the tremendous price variations on-line. If you are buying at a local store, you probably only have a limited number to choose from and price will not vary greatly for new albums. On-line is a very different story, but what you’ve got to keep in mind are the exchange rates, shipping charges and import costs. Exchange rates you can figure out pretty fast using on-line calculators. Shipping charges are usually very clearly stated – remember to figure in the currency exchange rate. Import costs are often not so easy to determine. Some on-line retailers offer international shipping services that include all import and brokerage fees. That said, my experience when albums are shipped to Canada, they often slip through with no import fees, but that’s hit and miss.

Shopping around on-line is time consuming but not really difficult. To use Amazon as an example, Sgt Pepper 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe 2 LP Edition: $39.99 + $0 shipping = $39.99 CDN $44.95 + $7.98 shipping + $6.03 Import fees = $58.96 US (~ $78.42 CDN) £29.16 + £3.08 shipping = £32.24 (~$56.00 CDN)

Looking on ebay, I found this item for $39.99 US = $25.50 US shipping

These are just a few examples, but you can see the value in doing a bit of searching.

Another thing to watch for is the version you are purchasing. There are many versions of this recording including very pricing Japanese mono pressing (around $100) and single album remastered versions. Be careful what you are buying. I’m not saying merchants are trying to scam you. Its a matter of multiple versions of albums are available.

Buy Used
There are many ways to buy used albums.

#1 – Buy What You Like

“Don’t worry about where you should start or what you should get. Nothing is more valuable than your personal favorites that you know and love that hit your soul.”

This may seem obvious when compared to the opposite – buying what you dislike – but too often new collectors buy with the intention of making money so they try to buy what others may like in order to turn a profit.  This may have worked ten years ago when vinyl was seen as a dead format and entire collections were being discarded.  Some people found gems and managed to sell them for a tidy profit.  Now you are much more likely to buy high and sell low.

“Discover what you’re passionate about, is it the music,  the album art covers or what.”

This is another very good point.  Buying what you love does not necessarily refer only to the music.  You may want to buy for the love of the album cover art.  One of the first albums I added (or I should honestly say – re-added because I gave it away when I was moving to CD’s) was Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy in part because I have fond memories of dissecting every square inch of that elaborate cover.  I’ve got a couple of framed albums on the living room wall just because I love the album cover.

That said, you may not be sure exactly what you love musically or artistically, so you could start with some of the more notable lists of top 100 recordings from sources like Rolling Stone or Absolute Sound.

A variant of just buying what you love is to buy a larger collection that someone wants to sell as a whole. Keep what you like and love, and swap the others with collectors you meet at local shows or on-line.

“When I started, I bought a couple of collections of 50-150.  Once I had a few hundred, I started trading out the ones I didn’t want and the ones in not good shape, replacing with ones I really wanted.  Then, I was willing to pay a little more for each one.  At the start, I was getting them for under $1 each.  Prices have gone up now, but you can still get a good deal if you buy a larger quantity.  This way you have enough to listen to while you build your own collection.”

“Maybe when browsing pick up stuff that you’ve never seen before.”

#2 – Spread The Word

“Number one rule as a collector..tell people in every conversation what you collect.  Next thing you will know everybody has vinyl or know someone who has some somewhere.  Yesterday my neighbor gave me all her Beatles records.”

Nothing like word of mouth.  Many people are reluctant to try and sell their albums because of they really don’t know values and don’t have the interest to invest the time in selling, but they would be quite happy to give their collection to someone like you who would love their albums as much as they one did.

“Make a public facing wishlist on Amazon to make it easy for friends and family to gift you vinyl.”  Ebay has a similar feature as does Indigo in Canada.

“Keep track of your collection.  It’s easy to buy the same thing twice because you can’t remember if you have it or not.  I use to track my collection, and it has a phone app, so you always have your list of records in your pocket.  Friends can also see my collection on Discogs, so if they find something at a yard sale or thrift shop, they can check if it’s already in my collection.  Friends often come over with a record to add to the collection.”

Most importantly – “Look everywhere all the time.”

#3 – Its A Journey

Talk to any serious collector and they will takes hours of you life telling you about their finds – how long they looked and the obscure places they searched.  You learn quickly that in many ways, it it the hunt for the special pressing or rate piece of vinyl that is the pure enjoyment of collecting.

“Finding vinyl, just as all of life, is about the journey – not the destination. The goal is to have a collection of music that you love – not to have a whole bunch of LPs.”

Sometimes the journey needs a map.  Here are some suggestions for scoping out your journey.

“Look at your geographic location.  Draw a 50 mile radius around it.  Hit every goddamn thrift shop / junk shop / etc.  You will find one or two honey holes that just keep producing.  I’ve built my entire collection like this.  I live in plantation fl, and only bother going to 2 thrift shops in Miami.  Sooooo much good vinyl!”

“I really enjoy doing a monthly tour of record shops within a 20 mile radius. There are plenty enough for a great selection. The charity shops where I am tend to be the same old same old.”

– A Few More Tips –

Like any hobby, there is lingo that you need to understand.  I’d suggest picking up a directory of vinyl recordings.  These are usually genre-specific (i.e., Rock, Jazz, Classical etc.).  You may be able to find one in a used book store.  Of course, that may start you on a whole of collection of rate books – life is too short – focus!

“Quality means more than quantity.  Many people fall into the trap of getting as many as possible.  Why bring someone ‘s junk home.  A $2 record does not seem much and is attractive but 2000 of them add the cost plus they take space.”

“Buy used, buy nothing after about 88, it’s all digital masterings.  Don’t worry about MINT records, find someone with a proper vacuum record cleaner.”

“Beware of digital mastered sound pressings. The digital sound profile lack the expansive soundstage than finer analog pressings. Yet, many analog recordings lack ideal characteristics. Layla is a prime example. RSO pressings are superior to subsequent atco pressings. Still, my newly pressed  Kind of Blue sounds great. But my “speakers corner” Caravan Serai sounds poor compared my original pressing era version. Scope out desired recordings on YouTube to see if you might like some sound production. Then buy their record. No one can tell you what you can or can’t hear. But for me, I’ve had many fun discoveries. See website Diacogs for biographic info on pressings.”

“First before you start ask yourself if you want first pressing and in what country is the album made in or re-issues and the letters and numbers will tell you on the spine of the cover and discogs is a great site to find the info and more info is added on the dead wax on the vinyl itself and you will find that at the end of the vinyl just after the last song but you have to shine the album into the sun light to see the numbers and letters. This will tell you all kinds of info.”

And as this article demonstrates, there are lots of people on-line who are more than willing to share their valuable experience and advice – just try asking.
Always remember to enjoy the journey with a little music.