What’s the best way to downsize a record collection?

By Susan Sliwicki

QUESTION: Help! I’ll try to keep this short. I’ve been buying LPs for exactly 50 years, and it’s time to downsize. Common stuff has been dispersed over the last two or three decades, but I’ve hung on to some vinyl that seemed more special to me. Many original Dylan and Blind Boy Grunt bootlegs, Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, Alexis Korner, Graham Bond, Pete Brown, Gong, Help Yourself, unreleased Firesign Theater, early T. Rex, Duo, The Move, Mouse and The Traps, Donovan, Warner Bros. Box Sampler, Original Chrysalis label press release box, Lonnie Donnegan, Tim Leary, American blues (ZZ Top), Beatles-related Rutles, Scaffold, Liverpool scene, Grims, Abbie Hoffman, A Child’s Garden of Grass … The list goes on.

To me, this is cool stuff, and I’d love to buy it. Oops, I did. Lots of import discs, promo copies, etc. None are mint, factory sealed. Some were played once, some five or six times. All the covers have wear, a little to a lot.stack of vinyl records

I bought and sold these for the love of the game, not for an investment. Had I purchased a $5,000 bottle of rare brandy, I’d still have the (empty) bottle, see?

So now to my question: Is there any market for this type of vinyl, or should I just lay it all out at my next garage sale with the antique furniture? Between staff and readership, Goldmine has hundreds of years of musical experience. That’s why we all subscribe! I would greatly appreciate any advice or feedback to aid me in this personal dilemma!

— Chris Cooper, Pittsburg, Texas

ANSWER: Chris, it sounds like you’ve had a great time amassing your collection. There are likely other music lovers out there who share your tastes.

Before you start listing or selling your records, start by making an inventory.

1. Putting together a thorough list of what you have, including the artist name, title, record label, catalog number and the condition (along with noted faults) of every disc, sleeve and cover.

(Not sure what condition your records are in? Click here for a quick overview.)

2. Take in-focus pictures of labels, sleeves and covers. These images can provide vital clues to help determine whether a pressing is a rarity, a common record, or, worse, a reissue or a fake.

3. Organize the information in an easy-to-use format that’s easy for you to access when you post listings or field questions from potential buyers. Digital images are especially useful if you need to e-mail a photo or post it online.

4. Use resources like “Goldmine’s Standard Catalog Of American Records,” “Record Collector’s Rare Records Price Guide” (for U.K. pressings) or the database of online auction results at Popsike (www.popsike.com) to help you set your prices. You can also consult results posted on eBay to get a sense of price ranges for common records.

Warning: Just because a guide says a record is valued at “X“ amount doesn’t guarantee its sale price will be the same. Condition, supply and demand are key factors.


Now, it’s time to figure out what matters most to you when it comes to dispersing your collection.
What are you willing and able to do?


Option 1: Do you want to get top dollar when selling the vinyl records you have, regardless of the time or effort needed?

You can sell individual records via websites like eBay (www.ebay.com) or Rock Square (www.rocksquare.com); via publications like Goldmine (www.goldminemag.com) or a record collecting club’s newsletter; by working with a consignment shop; or by going to record shows to sell them yourself.


Option 2: Do you value a tax deduction more than cold, hard cash for your record collection?
Consider donating your collection to a charity, like a museum, church rummage sale, Goodwill, The Salvation Army,  or St. Vincent de Paul, and then claim the tax deduction.Again, be sure you’ve document what you’ve donated and its worth (and you’ll definitely want to get a receipt or other documentation from the organization), just in case Uncle Sam or his pal, Aunt IRiS, decide to give you a pop quiz later on.


Option 3: Do you want to try to clear out the largest number of vinyl records from your collection in the fewest steps?

Consider selling the collection as a bulk lot to a dealer, shop or another collector. Craigslist, your community newspaper and social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter, can be useful tools to get the word out and attract buyers. eBay can work here, too; several large bulk lots have made previous Market Watch countdowns for the prices they’ve drawn. Checking dealers’ advertisements and web sites can help you find the best buyer for the records you have.

Just know that a dealer or shop may not want every record you have. And even if they are willing to buy it all, you may (or may not) be offered  a lower price than you’d get if you invested your time and money to sell the records individually. Remember: The buyer is taking on the risk, and a retailer couldn’t stay in business very long if he paid retail price for his merchandise.


Option 4: Do you want to sell your records along with a lot of other items at one time, and profit doesn’t matter?

Selling your records — with or without your antique furniture — at a garage sale is still an option, if you decide that works best for you. Be sure to mention records in your sales announcement or listing, and make it clear to passersby that you have vinyl records to sell. Many towns, including Goldmine’s hometown of Iola, Wis., have community-wide garage sales that last a weekend and are a destination event for shoppers.

Just don’t be disappointed if you fail to sell every record in a single garage sale. Consider teaming up with a friend or relative in another town to “swap out” merchandise after your initial sales. Each of you will get the items in front of a fresh audience.

Hints:
• If your garage-sale swap friend is unfamiliar with care and handling of records, please remind him or her to keep the records out of the elements and away from temperature extremes.
• College towns can offer fertile sales opportunities; many of today’s biggest fans of vinyl records are students and young adults who are discovering the format.
• References like “Antique Trader’s Antiques and Collectibles 2012 Price Guide” can help you set prices for other items at your sale, like furniture, glassware and collectibles.

Readers, what advice do you have for Chris?

2 thoughts on “What’s the best way to downsize a record collection?

  1. Under option 2: I would suggest adding donating your collection to a non-profit recorded sound research archive, there are many across North America and around the world. It is also a way to keep your collection as a named collection you’ve collected rather than seeing it scattered to the winds. I curate the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and we are always interested in accepting donations of sound recordings (from cylinders to CDs) relating to American Roots Music. Good luck!

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