Are Your Old Vinyl Records Worth Thousands? Here’s How to Sell Them
Find out how much your vinyl records are worth and where to sell them for cash
Do you have stacks of old vinyl records packed away or collecting dust on your shelf? Ever wonder if your vinyl records are worth anything? We enlisted the help of three experts to show you which are the most valuable records in the world, how to find record values, and where to sell records so you can cash in on your old vinyl.
|The average eBay selling price for vinyl records is around $15, though vinyl record values vary significantly: from 50 cents to $50 or more. You need to do some research to determine exactly how much your vinyl records are worth. Here are some highly-valuable vinyl records.|
|RECORD||VALUE (up to)|
|Do I Love You – Frank Wilson (original copy)||$40,000|
|Yesterday and Today – The Beatles (the butcher album)||$125,000|
|Good Luck Charm – Elvis Presley||$20,000|
|Hell Hound on My Trail – Robert Johnson||$10,000|
|Velvet Underground (debut demo acetate)||$25,000|
|Hear the Beatles Tell All||$30,000|
|Moody Blue – Elvis Presley (experimental colors)||$2,000|
|Street Fighting Man – The Rolling Stones||$18,000|
- The most valuable records in the world
- What makes vinyl records valuable?
- How much are your records worth?
- Where to sell records online
- Vinyl record selling tips
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The most valuable records in the world
Getting tossed out of a record store might not be the best strategy for selling valuable vinyl records, but for John Marshall it was the catalyst that lead him to become one of the world’s preeminent record appraisers, even consulting for master horror novelist Stephen King.
More than 20 years ago, Marshall was browsing a record store when a young boy came in with a box of records to sell. The cashier offered the boy $5 for the entire lot, despite it containing a valuable Elvis 45 produced by Sun Records.
“I knew it was worth well over $1,000, so I spoke up and gave the boy a true appraisal of all his records. I was immediately thrown out of the store,” Marshall says. “It made me realize that most people have no idea about the value of records.”
|“I spoke up and gave the boy a true appraisal of all his records. I was immediately thrown out of the store.”|
Marshall’s love for old records began when he started collecting albums from the jukebox distributor down the street from his childhood home. His collection grew during a 30-year career in radio, when he would save promo records that flooded the station.
“I bought many of them purely for the love of music, not realizing then they could be worth a lot of money down the road,” he says. “It was probably in the mid-70’s that I became aware there was a collector’s market for records.”
Today, Marshall (aka Mighty John Marshall) operates Money Music, a website dedicated to record values.
He said most collectors consider the world’s current most valuable record to be Do I Love You by Frank Wilson on Soul Records (a division of Motown), for two reasons:
- The record falls into the category of collectible records known as “Northern Soul,” a term that came about several years ago when obscure soul music from the U.S. became in high demand in northern England.
- The record is legendary in rock ‘n roll circles. As the story goes, Frank Wilson, a record producer at Motown who had no interest in being a singer, was goaded into recording the song by Motown owner Barry Gordy. Eventually, Gordy prevailed and Wilson recorded the song, but when Gordy wanted Wilson to do shows to promote it Wilson refused. After an intense argument, Gordy demanded all copies be destroyed, so the only copies known to exist are promos sent to radio stations that bear the words “Promotional. Not For Sale.”
An original copy of this record is worth up to $40,000.
Credit: Long Live Vinyl
Of course, it’s not the only valuable record. As Marshall explains, the most collectible records are those recorded by the Beatles and Elvis Presley. Original stereo copies of the Beatles album Yesterday and Today can be worth as much as $25,000.
“Original copies of this album were made with a photo of the Beatles in butcher smocks, surrounded by pieces of toy dolls and raw meat. The album was withdrawn before release, but a handful of copies have survived,” Essmeier explains. “In addition, several hundred thousand copies were shipped to stores with a new cover photo pasted over the original. It’s possible – though not advised – to remove the second cover to reveal the first one. Prices can range from as little as $50 to as much as $75,000 depending on a number of factors. It’s the valuable record that members of the public are most likely to have the original pressing of.”
In fact, in 2016, a sealed mint copy of the record sold at auction for $125,000.
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Credit: Charlie Essmeier
The most valuable Elvis record is 1962’s Good Luck Charm. Regular 45’s that include the picture sleeve are worth up to $50; however, RCA also released a 7-inch 33 that’s valued at over $20,000 with the original picture sleeve.
Credit: John Marshall
Blues records released prior to World War II can also be extremely collectible. Robert Johnson’s 1937 Hell Hound on My Trail can be worth up to $10,000, as can other Robert Johnson recordings released between 1937 and 1939.
Genre-wise, the most valuable records are typically in rock ‘n roll, blues, soul, and jazz, with the 1950s and 1960s the most collectible years.
“There are certainly records before and after those decades that can be quite valuable, but most overall value is in the 50’s and 60’s,” Marshall says.
Essmeier says the most valuable records are almost all unique, one-of-a-kind items.
|“The most valuable records in general are those that were made by artists who became famous, but which were released before they became famous and therefore sold poorly.”|
“These are usually prototypes, acetates, test pressings, or some other item that was prepared for in-house use by the record companies, or perhaps a single example of something that was considered for release but ultimately not released for sale to the public,” Essmeier says.
- Elvis Presley’s Moody Blue. Copies sold in stores were pressed on blue vinyl, but a few experimental copies were made in white, green, red, and other colors. Those experimental versions are worth around $2,000
- A one-of-a-kind demo acetate containing a rough version of Velvet Underground’s 1966 debut album sold for $25,000
- The Beatles album Hear the Beatles Tell All, featuring a series of interviews with the band, was released to stores in 1964 – but promotional copies for radio station use were withdrawn prior to release. Only five or six copies are known to exist, and have sold for as much as $30,000
“Aside from such oddities, the most valuable records in general are those that were made by artists who became famous, but which were released before they became famous and therefore sold poorly,” Essmeier explains. “Good examples are singles by Elvis Presley on the Sun label and records by the Beatles on the Vee Jay label.”
“Historically, the Beatles and Elvis tend to dominate the market, along with other big-name acts such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones,” he says. “Most of their albums sold in the millions, however, and have little value – especially in typical, worn condition.”
Head-spinning Record Sales
Occasionally, an ultra-rare and highly-desirable record becomes available and commands enormous sums. Examples include:
In both cases, the record was the rarest of the rare: single copies by the world’s most famous artists with supreme historical significance. That is to say, you’re not going to find one in your basement.
Essmeier says other notable records are those pressed on colored vinyl as well as picture discs, which are records pressed on clear vinyl with a photo or other graphic embedded in the vinyl. Both colored vinyl and picture discs are usually limited editions and tend to sell for more money than their black vinyl counterparts.
In addition, copies of records made for radio station use (“promo copies”) are much rarer than copies pressed for commercial sale (“stock copies”).
“As a rule, a radio station copy of a particular album will be more valuable than a stock copy of the same album,” says Essmeier. “Keep in mind, however, that promo copies of records are not necessarily valuable themselves. A promo copy of a Led Zeppelin album may sell for $1,000, but a promo copy of an Andy Williams album likely has little value to anyone.”
What about shellac 78 records?
Prior to vinyl, which came in use during the 1940’s, records were pressed on shellac – a brittle material that cracks easily. Shellac records were primarily produced between 1896 and 1950. Most shellac records were pressed in the 78 RPM format.
Joe Lauro owns Old78s.com, and is perhaps the world’s foremost expert on shellac 78 records. He says playback quality varies significantly between the shellac records produced by record companies.
Credit: Joe Lauro
“The usage of shellac became the norm circa 1900’s, and the better the shellac, the better the sound of the record in terms of less surface noise,” he says. “The smaller record companies that offered expensive records often mixed the shellac with other particles like sand or wood, and the result was a very noisy playing surface. Better companies like Columbia and Victor used superior quality shellac and the records sounded much better. The circa 1920’s to early 30’s Columbia and Okeh labels were the best, as their records were laminated with a cardboard core and much purer shellac playing surface.”
Credit: Joe Lauro
Lauro says most shellac 78’s are not rare as they were mass produced and billions of copies still exist. However, some notable albums are rare and can be valuable. They include “race” records and country/folk records that were produced for specific ethnic and racial groups, and were manufactured in far fewer numbers than their pop counterparts; and 78’s produced by small labels during the Great Depression – specifically, between 1931 and 1933. For some, fewer than 500 copies were ever made.
Some blues, pre-1935 jazz, 1920’s to early 30’s string and country bands, and post-war blues (circa 1946 to 1960) recordings can also be valuable.
Credit: Joe Lauro
“The most valuable are rare Delta Blues recorded circa 1929 to 1932, which can run upwards of $500,” Lauro says. “The most ever paid for a one-of-a-kind Delta Blues record was $50,000, but there are few people that would pay anywhere near that price.”
Many valuable shellac 78 records were produced by labels like Paramount, Gennett, QRS, Herwin, Vocalion, and Black Patti.
Lauro says he will pay thousands of dollars for certain records on Paramount and other labels, but cautions: “Not all records on these labels are of value. It’s just that the rarest ones often turn up on these labels. Value is driven by rarity and desirability. Just because it’s 100 years old does not make it valuable. It’s a matter of what the record is.”
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What makes vinyl records valuable
Age has little to do with the value of a given vinyl record. As Essmeier puts it: “Old records may have some value, but as a rule, it’s not because they’re old. It’s because of something else.”
A combination of factors can make a given record valuable, including:
- Poor-selling albums recorded by famous artists before they became famous
- Albums produced by obscure labels
- Promotional copies made for radio stations
- Limited editions and foreign editions
- Unique picture sleeves
- Rare label variations
- Never-released copies (like acetates and test pressings)
- Recalled and withdrawn releases
- Colored vinyl and picture discs
- Still-sealed copies in excellent condition
- Autographed copies
- Format (mono, stereo, or quadrophonic)
Original sales volume
Poor-selling albums recorded by famous artists before they became famous can be valuable due to their modern-day scarcity and the fact that the artist is highly-collectible.
Albums produced by obscure labels or printed on rare label variations can be valuable. A prime example of this can be found in the label variations section on Rare Records, which discusses how finding a copy of the Beatles Yesterday and Today with a red Capital label can be the difference between a $10 record and a $10,000 record.
Credit: Charlie Essmeier
Promotional and never-released copies
Promo copies were released exclusively to radio stations and were not intended for public issue. They typically bear some variation of the text “Promotional copy, not for resale.”
Other copies weren’t released to anyone: they were acetates and test pressings, and if you manage to have one it could be valuable.
Limited and foreign editions
Limited editions and foreign editions with low distribution can make a given record valuable. Colored vinyl and picture discs are often limited editions.
Unique picture sleeves
As Marshall explains, in most cases the picture sleeve (or cover) represents half an album’s value – or more.
“For a 45, the picture sleeve is usually far more valuable than the 45 itself,” he says. “The most valuable picture sleeve is for Street Fighting Man by the Rolling Stones. It’s worth up to $18,000.”
Credit: John Marshall
Recalled and withdrawn releases
Records that were recalled or withdrawn after a limited release can have value, perhaps the most famous example being the Beatle’s “butcher album.”
Vinyl records can be released in one of three formats: mono, stereo, or quadrophonic. Depending on when it was released, the mono version might be worth more or less than the stereo version; and the quadrophonic version is almost always worth more than the stereo version. Check out this in-depth article on vinyl record formats and how they affect value.
You should also know whether you have 33 RPM LP (Long Play), 78 RPM, or 45 RPM records.
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If you have a record autographed by the artist – and can prove it – it can significantly increase the value of the record. In fact, the autograph might be more valuable than the record itself.
Condition plays a major role in the value of any record, even the most rare and desirable copies. The most valuable are sealed copies in mint condition.
“There are records that may sell for $1,000 in mint condition but are only worth $20 if the condition is poor,” Essmeier says.
Our experts discussed two different grading systems:
Goldmine grading system
This is the system used in the U.S. (the U.K. uses the Record Collector system). Although they use different terms, they represent the same grades, says Essmeier. Condition grades are given as follows:
- Mint (M): Perfect condition, looks brand new
- Very Good (VG): The record has been well cared for, but may have some small marks or slight scratches that do not significantly affect play
- Good (G): The record is fairly worn but will play all the way through without skipping
- Poor (P): A “filler” copy that most collectors try to avoid
The + and – symbols are used to indicate slight distinctions between the condition grades, and in-between grades such as M-, VG++, and VG- are common; however, Essmeier says records are never graded as G- or P+.
Numbered grading system
Marshall grades record conditions on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being near mint and 1 being worthless. He says if you are selling a record, the best way to accurately judge the condition is to approach it as if you were the buyer and not the seller.
“I always try to grade the record slightly below what I feel the true value is,” he says. “If you do that, you will have a happy customer who then, more than likely, will become a repeat customer and you’ll make more money in the long run.”
How much are your records worth?
Here are four ways to determine the value of a vinyl record or record collection:
1. Check record prices online
Use these online resources to check record values:
- eBay: Search recently sold listings for your record
- Popsike.com: This site tracks eBay sales and lets you find the most valuable records (in its system) of all time, the past year, and the past month
- Collectors Frenzy: This site likewise tracks eBay sales and lets you look up historical record values
- Music Stack: Music Stack lets you search for a record by artist and/or title, and features robust historical pricing data
- Value Your Music: View current prices for vinyl records based on completed auction sales
“Both Popsike and Collectors Frenzy track sales on eBay,” says Essmeier. “While eBay tends to be a buyer’s market, the sites offer a good barometer of what people are paying right now. Both sites have a search feature that will show prices for sales from the last ten years or so.”
2. Get a record price guide
You can purchase record price guides such as the following:
- Goldmine Record Album Price Guide: This is the official price guide created by Goldmine Magazine, a popular online resource for record collectors
- Mighty John’s Record Appraisal Guide: A price list compiled by John Marshall on CD, featuring values for more than one million records. The site also offers a picture sleeve price guide and a guide to valuable “records you should know about”
- Osborne Price Guides: The Rockin’ Records Reference Book and Price Guide can be purchased in hardcover edition or in a digital edition that can be accessed on mobile devices. Price guides specific to Elvis, the Beatles, and others are also sold
- Record Collector Magazine: Articles about record prices plus its own rare record price guide are U.K.-based
3. Get your records appraised
You can have your records appraised by experts like Marshall and Lauro. Appraisal fees vary; Marshall charges one dollar per record (though if the record isn’t worth at least $10 he refunds the fee), for example, while Lauro will only appraise large record collections and says some appraisals can cost more than one thousand dollars to complete.
Auction houses might be another source for appraisals, especially if you have a particularly valuable record or collection. Either way, if you’re looking to sell your records, an appraisal can help you get top dollar by verifying what you have and what it’s worth.
4. Ask record stores, online and off
Finally, you can consult local and online record stores to see if they offer appraisal services or will make you an offer for your collection. Keep in mind Marshall’s cautionary tale – if you do not at least have a general idea of the value of your records, you could get ripped off by unscrupulous buyers.
Where to sell vinyl records
Once you know how much your records are worth, you’re ready to sell. You can sell vinyl records directly to collectors or to a store.
Selling directly to collectors will typically net the most money, though it can take longer to sell. Selling to retailers and other stores is faster, but you’ll get less money since they need to resell at a profit.
Where to sell records online
Selling records online can help you connect with niche collectors who are willing to pay top dollar, but it also means you’ll have the hassle – and potential expense, unless the buyer covers it – of shipping.
Some online options are platforms that facilitate your sale (typically for a commission); while others leave the details to the sellers and buyers with no fees or moderation.
Record selling platforms
You can sell your records directly to collectors via eBay. Set a buy it now price; or, for more valuable records, try the auction format. eBay charges a 10% fee, but that could be offset by competitive auctions that drive prices up. You can have the buyer pay for shipping. Payment is submitted via PayPal before you ship your records.
Discogs is one of the most popular sites for buying and selling records online. Users contribute to a detailed record database, and you can add and track your personal collection. To sell your vinyl records, create a listing and add photos and videos. You can have the buyer pay for shipping.
Discogs charges an 8% fee on sales. Payments are issued via your choice of PayPal, Skrill, credit card, bank transfer, cash, check, money order, or cashier’s check. You only ship sold records after you’ve received payment.
The site has been called a “mini-eBay” that’s frequented by records enthusiasts and often recommended in online circles.
Although similar in concept to Discogs, Music Stack is quick to point out that it is “not Amazon, eBay, or Discogs” in that you should not expect fast or high-volume sales (sellers on the site average 1 sale in every 1,000 listings per month). Music Stack charges an 8% fee on completed sales, paid via PayPal Business.
Vinyl of the Day
Not a website, but an app that lets you list your records for sale to a community of record collectors, buyers, and sellers. It’s free to list, but you’ll pay an 8% commission on sales plus PayPal fees.
Though originally intended for handmade items, Etsy has a decent number of vinyl record sellers – and it can help you get your collection in front of a large audience. Pass shipping fees on to buyers and pay a 20-cent listing fee, plus 6.75% in transaction and payment processing fees when your records sell.
Online record stores
You can sell your records or complete record collections directly to online record stores. You won’t get the full value, since they need to resell for profit; however, you could get fast cash.
Most online record stores are extensions of locally-owned and operated record stores, and many will travel to take a look at the right record or collection. Others offer instant quotes and allow you to mail your records in.
Online record stores that deal nationwide include:
- DJ Records
- Used Kids Records
- Starry Night Records
- Dusty Groove
- Amoeba Music
- Hard To Find Records
- Sell My Records, which also offers consignment sales and appraisal services
You can contact collectors directly to see if they’re interested in purchasing your vinyl records. Search online for collectors by specialty:
- Record size/RPM
- Photo sleeves
Don’t limit your search to those who exclusively collect records. You might find willing buyers who consider records to be secondary pieces to their main collections. For example, a collector of Elvis memorabilia would certainly have interest in Elvis records, but not Beatles records.
Perform an online search for “SUBJECT collectors” and “SUBJECT collector forums” to help you find potential buyers (for example, a Google search for “Elvis collector forums” yields several results you can scour).
In addition, you can purchase Mighty John’s Directory of Collectors and Dealers on CD for $15.95. The directory lists collectors and dealers by state, as well as websites where you can find buyers.
Selling directly to collectors can be more tedious than selling on established marketplaces and to record stores, but it can also prove more financially fruitful.
Where to sell records locally
You can use both online and offline resources to sell your records locally.
Web- and app-based local options
These options let you sell directly to local buyers. There is little (if any) moderation and all are free. Of course, there is no guarantee of sale and you’ll need to work out details directly with the buyer, meet in person (in most cases), and risk the potential of time-wasting no-shows and scams.
That said, selling directly to local buyers can help you net the greatest payout: there are no middlemen or shipping fees to get in the way.
Local record stores and pawn shops
Local record stores and pawn shops can evaluate your collection and make an instant cash offer. In both cases, the buyer must pay below value so they can later mark it up to resell for a profit.
Use these free online tools to locate record stores and pawn shops in your area:
Record store search tools
- Record Store Day
- Goldmine Magazine Record Store Directory
- Vinyl Hunt
- Record Stores Love
- The Vinyl District (iOS and Android mobile app)
Pawn shop search tools
Vinyl record selling tips
These tips will help you enjoy the best record selling experience.
1. Know what you have
Spend time researching your records, and get an appraisal if you think you have a valuable record. Knowing exactly what you have and being able to properly articulate it to collectors will help you get the highest payout.
In addition, be sure you know whether you have original editions or reissues, which are worth significantly less than originals.
2. Properly care for your records
“Heat and moisture are the big enemies,” says Marshall. “Records should be stored at room temperature and vertically, like books on a shelf.”
He adds that serious collectors usually buy protective covers for the vinyl and picture sleeves – and they never leave the original vinyl inside the original picture sleeve.
“They don’t want to risk the vinyl pressing against the cover and leaving an impression. This is known as ‘ring wear’ and can severely hurt the value of the cover, which in most cases is half the value for an album.”
3. Consider insuring your valuable records
If it’s determined your records are valuable, consider purchasing insurance. If you have a large collection, you should have it appraised for insurance purposes whether you are in the market to sell it or not. The expense to add the insurance to your existing homeowner’s or renter’s policy is minimal, and you could lose a lot of money if you do not insure your records.
“If your records are lost or stolen it can be tough to get full value from the insurance company if you can’t prove what they’re worth,” says Marshall. “I’ve done several appraisals for insurance companies, and usually, without knowing condition and whether the records are originals or reissues, I have to take an average replacement value and that may mean the claimant is not getting full value.”
4. Compare multiple options
Unless you’re desperate for quick cash, take the time to consider all your record selling options. Get offers from multiple buyers to see which will pay the most money; at the minimum, set a price based on the true market value of your record and accept offers that meet or exceed it (or at least come close).
“When you sell, there are two things to remember: what’s the current value, and what did you pay for the record? Considering those two factors, you can make an informed decision on what to accept,” says Marshall.
5. Beware of scams
Essmeier warns: “Many valuable records, like anything else of value, have been counterfeited, and the practice of making counterfeit records continues today. Methods have improved over the years and many counterfeit records are very close in appearance to the original pressings.”
He said the “granddaddy” of counterfeit records is the Beatles first American album, Introducing the Beatles. The album sold well in 1964 but was deleted nine months after its initial release due to a court order. Many different variations of the album exist, but some versions have sold for as much as $15,000.
Credit: Charlie Essmeier
“Unfortunately, there are nearly as many counterfeit copies of Introducing the Beatles out there as there are genuine ones, and unlike the genuine ones, the counterfeits all seem to be in something close to mint condition,” Essmeier says. “People find these records, think they have something valuable, then become disappointed when they discover what they have is a fake that’s only worth $3 to $5.”
6. Know where to find valuable old vinyl records
If you want to find valuable records to resell, you need to know the best places to look – and what to ask.
“Most valuable records are still found at yard sales and thrift stores,” Marshall says. “The biggest tip I give people when they go to a yard sale looking for records is not to just drive by if they don’t see any. Always stop and ask if they have any records. In all the years I’ve been going to garage sales, asking that one question has netted me the most valuable records at a great price.”
Marshall offers these additional tips for record hunting:
- If the seller asks you about price, be honest. More than likely you’ll get a great deal anyway
- If you’re just starting to collect records, do not buy anything the first week. Instead, write down what you find, then go home and look up their values to see how you would have done. That way you’ll have a better feel for it next time
- If you buy and sell records, that’s a business and there are tax breaks – so you should consult an accountant to see what tax advantages you have
Old vinyl records are more than mere music delivery systems; tracking down the value of your records so you can sell them can be a cultural and historical journey. Follow the guidelines here, and that adventure could put cash in your pocket!
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