Part 8 – Record collecting – the elusive ones…

Record collecting – the elusive ones…

There is nothing as thrilling for a record collector than eventually laying your hands on that one record that has eluded you for so long. Holding it for the first time, wondering what it will sound like, or being surprised by what the cover art actually looks like, after picturing it entirely and having envisaged something entirely different. Reading the liner notes and appreciating the art, feeling and touching the textured cover, all add to the general excitement and anticipation after having waited for so long.

The majority of vinyl lovers have decent sized collections, some bigger than others, but they all started with the simple process of actually purchasing a single record. Record stores were plentiful in the 70’s and 80’s, but with the CD disc becoming more dominant at the start of the 80’s and beyond, traditional record stores either became less dominant or changed their approach and started stocking more and more CD discs. Marketing forces also conspired in changing the way we purchased music, up to a point where we now have an electronic marketplace that sells through cyber space. Apart from the tangible nature of software we are actually in essence selling nothing. Although music can be heard it certainly cannot be seen unless we represent it by means of graphs and bars, colours and shifting shapes. Thus the concrete and physical nature of vinyl records is really quite reassuring in a digital age.

Apart from the very obvious fact that we need to purchase the records to be able to play them, the whole process of purchasing is actually a rather nice and pleasant one from start to finish. When one considers that the amount of records that has been produced over such a long period of time (more than 120 years, but only really relevant from roughly 1960 onwards for all of our practical considerations), there is a massive wealth of titles out there that can be purchased. Pre-owned record dealers and stockists have become plentiful in all countries and the majority of vinyl is sold in such a manner. With the Internet becoming so accessible and with country borders worldwide no longer being any deterrent to business the amount of vinyl that is traded all across the globe is far more significant than we actually realize. With a general standard being adhered to worldwide as far as condition of record sleeve and content is concerned it has become reasonable easy to purchase with fair confidence and find those titles you never got around to buying when initially released. With re-issues now coming at a fast and furious pace they can also be ordered new and reasonably quickly and without spending an absolute fortune.

The majority of records are now being ordered via on-line retailers. The most influential vendor has been Acoustic Sounds, now based in Salina in Kansas. This business model has generally been adopted by the majority of large vendors, and although many now also supply hardware and accessories, vinyl is still and will remain to be the most important part of their businesses. Orders can be dispatched quickly and efficiently and will reach just about any corner of the globe. The majority of vendors such as these will offer on-line ordering and payment with secure file servers and have decent and reasonable return policies and insurance options available. The majority of the stock sold is obviously new, but a small selection of pre-owned stock is also sold.

One of the more efficient and highly organized operations available for vinyl ordering has to be Musicstack. This a company that does not sell directly as a large vendor in own right, but rather represents multiple vendors from all over the world. The order is placed via their website after the search has been conducted through their registered vendors online, with the specific details as entered via the Musicstack site, and the order is then processed and sent on to the individual vendor that carries the stock. All further correspondence is then conducted between vendor and record recipient.

There are quite a number of new vinyl manufacturers that have started their operations in the past few years and have been re-releasing older titles, or releasing titles that were previously only available on CD. In virtually all cases these companies are very efficient and highly organized and the quality of their releases is paramount. Virgin vinyl is used throughout and only the best plating and mastering techniques are implemented to assure quality from start to finish and ensure a lasting and reliable product. The majority of these companies have re-issued titles where the rights have lapsed, or where they have express permission to do so from the artist/s directly. These companies are well worth singling out due to the exemplary quality on offer and also because of the wonderful catalogues on offer.

There are many specialist vendors that specialize in certain areas, be that psychedelia, progressive rock, folk, oldies (60 and earlier, also sometimes labeled vintage), jazz and others. These might be well worth searching for due to their most specialized areas of expertise or coverage. Some also specialize in collectible memorabilia of popular groups, e.g. Beattles, Rolling Stones, etc. Ones that we have found that are superb are as follows:

There are companies that specialize in supplying old and deleted titles on vinyl. With the upsurge in vinyl sales these companies are doing quite well, and vinyl stock is moving very quickly. Typically such companies buy old and deleted stock (overstock situations used to occur with many record companies, where either the vinyl did not sell as anticipated, or too much was produced and the market was flooded with too much stock following optimistic forecasts), and sell it at very low and decent prices. You know the feeling – you thought you would buy it at some point, in preference to other releases, and when you were eventually ready the record was no longer available.

The above should keep you busy for quite a while on the ordering and surfing side of things.

Alternative sources of records:

Records are sometimes found in the most interesting places, and sometimes you just have to be at the right place at the right time. It is not common to see records being thrown out into the dumpster anymore, but there are numerous places where records change hands on a regular basis. Some of these are as follows:

  1. Hospice events/community services and projects – very often a good source of really inexpensive records in reasonable condition. Mainly older recordings. Check before you buy.
  2. Flea markets – regular traders often set up shop at regular markets and have a loyal following. Prices are always reasonable and sometimes bartering can be done.
  3. Record fairs – Vinyl record fairs have grown strongly and some of the better and bigger ones have becomes serious events that people plan for well in advance and attend in big numbers.
  4. Pawn shops – only if you really have to have a title. Generally records sold at pawn shops are not in exceptional condition, but every now and then one can find little hidden gems.
  5. Private collections – in the general vinyl climate very few people are actually selling their records, but the odd exception still happens every now and then.
  6. Deceased estates – the advantage of purchasing an entire record collection is that the better stuff will not have been selectively pilfered or sold already, and one can take time in determining what is really good and what should be retained, and also what can be exchanged within one’s own system (duplicate titles can be replaced with better condition copies after extensive or detailed listening).
  7. Specialist second hand stores –although our country generally does not have many stores there are very good stores every here and there. You might have to get the information from other vinyl lovers as to where they find their regular fixes, as they might not want to divulge their treasure troves. Cape Town has a few good stores like Mabu Vinyl, and some others. Johannesburg is probably best known for Collector’s Treasury.
  8. Auctions – although not a very regular occurrence, records are often auctioned and the scarce items can fetch really high prices. If you are a really wealthy purchase or collector, advance notices are given on special items that come up for sale. It is a wise idea to get to know somebody at an auction house that specializes in records (or the item you collect), to get to know of upcoming events and at least stand a chance on getting to bid.
  9. Job lots – once again at auctions one could wind up buying some undesirable item of very little monetary or personal value in order to get to the collectible or desirable items. One man’s poison is another man’s magic.

The art of purchase:

The following is meant to be a guideline only. Generally there are two main approaches that apply here:

  1. The careful approach – we are all born with certain personal skills, so apply them judiciously and carefully. Read all the signs and then make an offer or pay the price if you believe it is fair and decent. Never let on that you know what the value of a record is (if it is really valuable), unless you want to pay more than what is being asked. Remember, there is always balance in life, but a shark is a shark and will eat you if you allow it. Generally though dealers that sell valuable records usually know if the record has value and will charge in accordance. There are numerous guides available that can give recommended guideline pricing for records, like Record Collector, Goldmine, etc. Please remember that the value might not be totally accurate because of exchange rate issues, but it certainly can give you a guideline. Also bear in mind that there are differences in the US and UK pressing as far as value and collectable nature are concerned.
  2. Throw money at the problem – not a wise idea, but sometimes it might work. You might wind up paying too much, however, if you have the money to burn – go for it! Just remember that you might not be received at the same store in the same manner again. They’ve got your number, boy. Expect to pay a lot every time. It probably depends more on how much you really want the item in question, I suppose? It is still possible to barter and haggle with certain vinyl vendors for second hand vinyl, even though the price that new vinyl is made available for will most likely remain the price. Building up a personal and business relationship with suppliers can be very fruitful and could also be very beneficial to procuring rare and scarce items like limited edition releases, low numbered special releases or promotional items, DJ releases, samplers, etc. In our next edition of the Vinyl Vault we will be covering interesting and rare records, unique pressings and valuable and weird records.