Do you have a stash of old records you'd like to sell? Whether you call them vinyl, phonograph, LP, or gramophone records, here is a primer on how to make a treasure out of them. This guide specifically applies to 78 rpm, 45 rpm, and 33 1/3 rpm (LP) records.
Study your ABCs -- Attics, Basements and Closets. They could yield some extra money and free up some valuable space in your home for other uses. LPs (long-playing 10 and 12 inch discs, playing at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute), 78s (somewhat breakable discs, playing at 78 revolutions per minute with one tune on each side) and 45s (7 inch discs playing at 45 revolutions per minute) could prove valuable.
Gather together all the records you think you may want to get rid of, and prepare to profit off your past.
Consider supply and demand. How available is the record? If millions were initially sold, it is likely that many will turn up in thrift shops, used record stores, and many homes. The scarcity factor must be present. There must be a demand for that record because of the artist performing (for example, a major talent who died young, before being able to make many records), the label on which it was recorded (the original recording as distinguished from a "reissue"), or an oddity concerning the record (for example, a V-disc, wartime government recording, an aircheck taken from a radio broadcast, an original picture disc, or a 10-inch LP). The scarcity factor can also be affected by whether a record is "out-of-print" (no longer available from the manufacturer), thereby decreasing the supply. "Bootlegs" (records illegally produced from live concerts or broadcasts) are also valuable to collectors.
Check the condition of the record. If it is in "mint" condition (perfect) or "near mint" condition, it will have the highest possible value. A record in "very good" condition should not have any distorted sounds or loss of sound quality. "Good" means it may have some imperfections, but can be readily enjoyed. "Fair" means it can play, but it will have obvious sound impairment and detract from your enjoyment and the value of the record. Those with surface noise and scratches will be of little or no value. Some dealers may have a slightly different grading scale.
Think about the content of the recording. Generally speaking, there is more interest in music than in spoken word or comedy records and the value would therefore be greater. Certain kinds of musical recordings bring high sales prices. Jazz records and original Broadway cast and movie soundtracks tend to provide a more active market and greater value. Also, early rhythm and blues records and the doowop sound are highly valued and collectible. Among classical records, the most valuable are orchestral performances, then solo instrumental, chamber music and concertos, solo vocal and operatic arias, and finally, complete operas. To some collectors, whether a record is mono or stereo affects the value. See the Tips below for emerging trends.
Find the right purchaser for your treasure. Records are purchased by collectors, mail order dealers, used records stores, and the general public (sometimes on a nostalgic impulse or because of a favorite artist. Also, some audiophiles believe the sound quality produced by vinyl is greater than that of a CD or other media format). For truly rare records, the best prices will come from dealers who know the market and how much they can resell them for.
Collectors are emotional and sometimes fanatical about collecting their specialties. They may pay top prices for particular idiosyncrasies. It is unusual to get top dollar for a rare record from the "general public," where only the performance value is recognized, not the resale or trading value.
Do your research before initiating a transaction. Painstaking research along with knowledge of the record industry and its artists is required to determine the value of a particular recording. It may be possible to determine a value for a "rare" record once you have determined that it is truly rare. For more on pricing, check the tips below.
Catalog your records. List the artist, the title of the record, LP, 45 or 78rpm, the record catalog number, and its condition.
Find buyers. Take the list to a record librarian, a local record store or some used record stores for offers and indications as to rarity. Talk to friends and associates. Advertise in local classifieds or collectors' publications. Go to record shows, local used record stores, flea markets or bazaars, or garage sales.
Recently, a market began developing for rock records of early vintage, especially those of deceased cult figures such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. Also, brisk trading now occurs among collectors of 45s, especially among the 1950s rhythm and blues and early rock artists. There is great interest in rare and unusual records (foreign issues, etc) from Elvis and the Beatles. However, most of their records have little value (because so many copies were produced). In other words, they were all the same. There is also significant interest in records that came with enclosures, such as posters of the artists.
Know that most records that are not "rare" can bring only pennies - 25 cents to a dollar - from dealers. The "general public" may pay $1 or $2. Rare records can bring from $25 to the thousands. There are a number of price guides published, but values indicated are generally highly inflated or based on an isolated sale. Obviously, collectors and dealers want to read that records can bring high prices. Internet marketplaces such as Ebay can be a source of information about what a record might sell for. Remember, value rests in the mind of the buyer.