Written by Howard E. Fischer
[©2007 Article used with permission]

Have you studied your ABCs lately – that is

Attics,
Basements and
Closets?

They could yield up some extra money and free up some valuable space in your home for other uses. LPs (long-playing 10 and 12 inch discs), 78s and 45s may be valuable.

Record collecting as a hobby is just beginning to grow after many other collectibles have been prominently featured in antique stores and the media. It is not an expensive hobby to establish, but disposing of them can be expensive in many ways.

HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE VALUE

Many people think that just because a record is old that it has great value. Very few records have any real value to collectors or dealers.[1]Value is based on a combination of three factors –

1) 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 in many homes. The scarcity factor must be present. There must be a demand for that record because of the artist performing (e.g. a major talent who died young and 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 (e.g. a V-disc, wartime government recording or air-check – 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 and neither released in any other format) thereby decreasing the supply. “Bootlegs” (records illegally produced from live concerts or broadcasts) are also valuable to collectors.

2) Condition of the record. Those with surface noise and scratch will be of little or no value. 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 will have obvious sound impairment and detract from your enjoyment and the value of the record. Some dealers may have a slightly different grading scale.

3) Content of the recording. Generally speaking there is more interest in music than in spoken word or comedy records and the value therefor would be greater. Certain kinds of musical recordings bring high sales prices. Jazz, 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 and solo vocal and operatic arias and finally complete operas. To some collectors, whether a record is mono or stereo affects the value. 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. Great interest maintains in rare and unusual (foreign issues, etc.,) in Elvis and the Beatles. However, most of their records have little value because so many were produced without any distinguishing characteristics. In other words they were all the same.

WHO WILL BUY YOUR RECORDS?

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. For truly rare records the best prices will come from dealers who know the market and for how much they can resell them. Collectors are emotional and sometimes fanatical 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. Painstaking research and 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.

WHAT WILL THEY PAY?

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. Remember, value rests in the mind of the buyer.

HOW DO YOU FIND A BUYER?

A buyer for every record you wish to sell probably exists somewhere in the world. How to find that person is a big problem. It is not uncommon for people to discover old records in their homes and proceed to spend many dollars (far in excess of the eventual sale price) as well as untold hours in pursuit of a buyer. It can become very frustrating and sometimes obsessive. Expectations almost always exceed reality.

Records can be sold by advertising – in local classifieds or collectors’ publications, by selling to local used record stores, selling at flea markets or bazaars or by promoting a garage sale.

✓  Start by cataloging the records.

✓  List the artist, the title of the record, LP, 45 or 78rpm, the record catalog number and its condition.

✓  Take the list to a record librarian and some used record stores for offers and indications as to rarity.

✓  Talk to friends and associates.

Selling involves prospective buyers visiting your home. Or, you may have to pack and cart the records to a store for a price quote and no sale or prepare them for sale online. Damage in transit can make them worthless. Out-of-town prospects requires mail correspondence, packing, insurance, carting to the post office, placing postage and sending C.O.D. The buyer may refuse to accept upon receipt.

NOTES
1 See: Volume 2, No.3 issue of the Discographer Magazine for a detailed and comprehensive article on collecting and valuing 78rpms (pages 17-30) – Editor




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