Vinyl Record Albums: To Have and To Hold

“Sing along with Mitch”  was a show we used to watch and that memory reminds us of the ongoing love of music that many of us have. Whether we listen to radio or adjust our wireless headphones to the latest tracks on our mobile device, it started for many of us with records. Angela had a small box shaped record player in her room and sang along with the Mickey Mouse Club. Then when she got her first Beatles album she moved up to playing that on the family stereo console in the living room. After payday on a Friday, Tim would go to the local record store to treat himself to a new album, building up a collection he was proud of.

Even though we have so many digital ways to play music, there is renewed interest in vinyl records.

Even though we have so many digital ways to play music, there is renewed interest in vinyl records.

Today, even though we have so many digital ways to play music, there is renewed interest in vinyl records. You can buy vintage albums from private parties or browse through record stores. If you want to start a collection with brand new albums, you can shop at many of your local media stores. So, first you will want to think about why you want to buy records: personal use, favorite artists, resale. Second, how do you plan to play these records: vintage turntable; new turntable; digital turntable? Your purpose and equipment will affect the quality that you are looking for in albums and also where you might shop.

There are three basic types of vinyl records: 33 ? RPM 12-inch LP (long play) records usually feature 8 to 10 songs by an artist or group; 45 RPM 7-inch records with a large hole in the center that most likely has one song on each side, designed for jukebox play; 78 RPM 10- to 12-inch records are mostly earlier than vinyl and made of a more brittle substance. There are grading scales for both the jacket, sleeve and the record which affect price and sound quality.

Yard sales, estate sales and thrift shops will have a variety of types and quality.  At yard sales you will usually find 33 1/3 modern records. Estate sales will sometimes have a stack of 78s and maybe some 45s.

For all records, condition is almost everything for both use and value. The cover (jacket) needs to have clear colors and be free of tears, wear and damage. Is there a sleeve protecting the record? Are there added bonuses, like a poster? The record itself needs to be wear and scratch free for better sound quality. Records warp easily if they have been left in the sun or poorly stored which will affect sound quality. Jukebox records often have a huge amount of wear and you would need to be cautious about buying a lot that has been in a jukebox.

At yard sales you can expect to pay about $1 per album or maybe even a lot (15 to 20) for $10, the condition can range for new and untouched for many years, or beat up, scratched and warped. Estate sales may charge from $2 to $5 per album (but that will vary based on interest in the artist or band). You can buy online and at record stores where you will more easily find the title or artist you want, but expect to pay a higher price.

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Jackson Browne “For Everyman” by Asylum records.

To give you an example, I have in my collection a version of Jackson Browne “For Everyman” by Asylum records. The jacket is dated 1973 and says the album was recorded in 1973. The record inside matches the cover and is also dated 1973. (Watch out at yard sales for empty jackets or mismatched records—hate when that happens and I forget to look). By researching my album online, I found the cover is die-cut (mine has a few worn areas around the edges).

For buying that album I found that on eBay there were only two listings, although there were international listings, and the asking price is $9.99 plus shipping. Looking at sold listings showed that previous albums sold for $2.99 and $6.99. Amazon had about nine listings starting at $9.97. A vinyl record site had about 100 listings ranging from $4.49 to more than $20, depending on condition, which was clearly stated with a rating. I could sell my album on eBay or Amazon or other sites, but there are fees and packing and shipping. I could try to sell my albums to a store or an online dealer, but they are often looking for collections or pay a lower amount than if I sell it myself. A new album is listed on Amazon for $240!!

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Watch out at yard sales for empty jackets or mismatched records.

A great place to learn more about record collecting is attending a show dedicated to this specific interest. By looking at a website like Vinyl Times, you may find a show in your area where you can get firsthand knowledge of the collectible vinyl market.

Collecting record albums can be an enjoyable hobby and perhaps business venture if you like the hunt and have several options after your purchase, such as keep it and enjoy it, list it for sale and keep it safely stored until the right buyer comes along. You can also have the fun of attending shows to see the latest trends, check on the value of records in your collection, and get ideas about the “hot” items to look for.  Happy vinyl record collecting and enjoy singing along.


Tim and Angela Swift have been going to or conducting estate sales, flea markets, tag sales and yard sales, buying and selling antique and collectible, for the past 30 years. They live in the San Diego, Calif. area.

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