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The Spin On The Vinyl Record Collection Market

Vinyl records are making a comeback, with everyone from Jack White to Daft Punk releasing new albums on vinyl and LP sales growing by 32 percent in 2013 and by 40 percent in 2014. Despite such incredible growth, vinyl still pales in comparison to the digital music market as it commands less than two percent of market share; still, the trend is glaring evidence that vinyl is enjoying popularity not seen for 30 years.

The rising interest in vinyl records increases demand for collectible vintage pressings. The following offers an overview of the vinyl record collection market, including where to buy and sell vinyl records, how to determine the value of old vinyl records, and which vinyl records are worth the most money so you know what to look out for the next time you're sifting through a box of garage sale LPs.

New vinyl versus old vinyl

Before we delve into the nuts and bolts of collecting vinyl records, it's important to make a distinction between highly-collectible vintage records and today's new vinyls. The vinyl records released by contemporary artists might prove to be valuable one day, but right now they're only as valuable as their sticker prices. That much should be obvious; what might be less obvious is that reissues of old albums aren't the same as the originals.

Led Zeppelin reissues, for example, are set to be huge sellers in 2014, but they're not nearly as valuable as the original albums. Moreover, some reissues use digital recordings as masters since their original pressings are lost or inaccessible. That's a big red flag for audiophiles, who demand the warm sounds attributed to vinyl records that digital recordings can't match.

All of this is to say: if you're interested in collecting vinyl records, always know what you're buying before you lay money down.

How to determine the value of vinyl records

The market value of a collectible vinyl record depends on the album and artist, issue, special features (such as colored vinyl and add-ons such as posters), rarity, and condition, primarily; that said, what someone is willing to pay for a given LP could actually be greater than its market value, particularly for albums with historical significance. This is especially true for the most rare albums, which can command high prices via bidding wars and auctions. Still, it's relatively easy to determine the value of most collectible records using online research tools and price guides.

Here's how to determine the value of a vinyl record:

STEP 1: Before you price a vinyl record, be sure to know what you have. You can't go by album title and artist alone, because you could have a reissue that isn't worth as much as the original. Instead, look for the record's serial number (also referred to as a matrix or stamper number) – it will be stamped directly on the vinyl toward the center ring, just outside the center label. This is a unique number that identifies precisely which album and issue you have.

STEP 2: Determine the condition of your record, its cover sleeve, and whether you have any additional materials that were originally included – promotional posters, for example. Vinyl record conditions are typically graded on the following scale:

● Mint (M) – perfect condition, maybe even still sealed
● Near Mint (NM or M-) – near perfect condition; it's probably never been played and most dealers won't give a higher rating than near mint
● Very Good Plus (VG+) – shows signs of being played but otherwise very well cared for; typically worth half of the same album in near mint condition
● Very Good (VG) – a good guideline for determining the value of your records, as many collectible records fall within this condition. Imperfections and groove wearing are noticeable, but the record is still very playable and aesthetically appealing. Typically worth around 25 percent of the same album in near mint condition
● Good (G) and Good Plus (G+) – the average record, worth 10 to 15 percent of the near mint condition value
Poor (P) and Fair (F) – cracked, warped, and water damaged records fall in this condition, which typically earns zero to five percent of the near mint condition value

STEP 3: Search online vinyl record price guides and consult print vinyl record price guides for condition-based values. Some of the most popular price guides are:

Goldmine Record Album Price Guide, 7th Edition by Dave Thompson

Rockin' Records Buyers-Sellers Reference and Price Guide, by Jerry Osborne

The Main Street Record Fair


Music Price Guide

Vinyl Beat

Record Master

It's a good idea to check pricing on several of these guides to see if they are consistent. In addition, you can see what your record is selling for in the same condition on Amazon and Ebay. With a little bit of research, you should be able to determine what your record is worth so you can set a fair selling price.

Where to buy and sell collectible vinyl records

There are many places you can buy and sell vinyl records; some resources are dedicated solely to vinyl, others are hit-and-miss. The following lists several places to buy and sell vinyl records:

Record Collectors Guild, specifically, the forum
Amoeba Music
Music Price Guide
Vinyl Record Fair
record dealers and collectors
record stores/music stores
garage sales
flea markets
thrift/consignment stores

This is not an exhaustive list of every place you can buy and sell vinyl records; however, these are among the most popular. You should also take time to check out the Record Collectors Guild, which has tons of links, resources, collector listings, and community forums to help answer your questions about record collecting.

What are the most valuable vinyl records?

Some records sell for a few dollars, some sell for a few hundred dollars. Others are extremely valuable, worth thousands of dollars or even more (Wu-Tang Clan's "The Wu – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin,” which has only one copy, has reportedly commanded an offer as high as $5 million). Creating a list of the most valuable records, in order, is difficult because values are always in flux and collectors do not always agree on pricing. However, the following lists eight of the most valuable records today. Consult The Main Street Record Fair for additional details on each, since much of the value comes from special circumstances (“The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan,” for example, has to include four tracks that were included in the original issue but deleted from subsequent releases).

The Quarrymen – “That’ll Be the Day”/ In Spite Of All The Danger” – $180,000
The Beatles – "Yesterday and Today" – $38,500
Bob Dylan – "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" – $35,000
Long Cleve Reed & Little Harvey Hull – “Original Stack O’Lee Blues” – $30,000
Frank Wilson – “Do I Love You?” – $30,000
Velvet Underground & Nico – "The Velvet Underground and Nico" – $25,200
Elvis Presley – "Stay Away, Joe" – $25,000
The Five Sharps – “Stormy Weather” – $25,000

You don't need one of these albums to have a valuable vinyl record or to start a valuable collection. Other than old, classic albums, many LPs from the 1990s and 2000s are valuable because few LPs were pressed in the CD era. Jazz records and international records are also popular today. In addition, a comprehensive record collection can be worth more than the collective values of the records it contains – more than the sum of its parts, so to speak – because a collector would value being able to add so many volumes to their collection in a single sale.

If you have a record you think might be valuable or you want to start a vinyl record collection of your own, use the tips and resources included in this guide to determine market values so you can buy and sell collectible vinyl records at fair prices.



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