By Todd Whitesel
How much is your record collection worth? It’s a question that demands some thought.
For most of us, our collections have two different values. There is the market value and then the personal value. And I’m guessing that for most of us, the personal value of our collections exceeds what the market can or is willing to pay. In reality, some of my most “valuable” records aren’t worth more than $10, but that doesn’t make them less important.
Sure, I could purchase a mint copy of Rush’s All The World’s A Stage from any number of record dealers, but it wouldn’t be the copy that I purchased at a record store/head shop in Dayton, Ohio, when I was a 10-year-old kid just getting into the hobby. It wouldn’t be the copy that first sent me over the edge to want to play drums like Neil Peart. And it wouldn’t be the same copy that resides in my collection today, more than 30 years later, and is stored proudly next to the many hundreds more albums that I’ve accumulated since that time.
Whether your collection is worth $100 or $100,000, its value is ultimately determined by its condition. And if you find value in your collection, which I’m assuming you do, it only makes sense to protect it.
Properly storing and preserving that dear vinyl is paramount to maintaining its value. Let’s look at three simple steps to help preserve your vinyl collection for years to come.
Like so many other tasks, the best first step to storing a record collection is to get organized.
Before storing your records, it’s best to organize them so it’s actually possible to find a given LP, 45 or 78. Many collectors, like myself, organize alphabetically by artist. Others may divide their records into genres — blues, jazz, country, rock, R&B. Collectors of 45s or a specific genre may want to go further, organizing them by record label. It’s not important how you organize, as long as you do organize.
It may not seem like a big deal if all you have are a few dozen LPs tucked away by a turntable; however, when your collection starts rising into the hundreds or thousands of items, it’s time to do something, for sanity’s sake.
Even the best organizational efforts are only as good as our memories.
I’d like to think that I can remember every album in my collection, but that’s probably wishful thinking. So I took the time to enter all my records into a simple spreadsheet, which I update as I add new items to the collection. Maintaining such a list really helps keep tabs on my inventory.
As well, there are several computer programs written specifically for record collectors, such as Kix Software’s Music Catalogue Master (http://kixsoftware.com/index.html), which automatically enters CDs and vinyl LP records (including track information) from four different online databases with no typing required. Other information and extras, including album art, band URLs, band member info, song titles and track times, are also shown making for handy reference. The program can generate reports in several common formats such as PDF, Word, Excel and HTML, making it easy to keep tabs on your collection, share with friends or upload to a Web site or blog.
While organizing a collection isn’t nearly as fun as collecting itself, it’s an undeniable pleasure to find an item or verify that you own it without tearing the house apart. The better organized you are, the more records you can buy and organize and enjoy!
We’ve all seen them — the records that have been abused badly by owners, damaged by actions such as leaving multiple albums stacked on one another, leaving records lying around on a couch so the kids or dog could easily grab them, or just stuffing an album back in the jacket without a protective sleeve.
Over time, these little indiscretions really take a toll. Soon, that shiny 12-inch music maker is reduced to a scratchy remnant doomed for a thrift-store donation, where it then lingers in oblivion. Don’t let this happen to your records!
After getting a collection organized, it’s time to take protective measures to ensure that each item remains in the best possible condition. Vinyl album sleeves are the first line of protection to keep covers from getting dinged, scratched or damaged in any number of ways. Bags Unlimited (www.bagsunlimited.com) has an excellent selection of record sleeves, ranging from a basic polyethylene sleeve to a museum-grade archival Mylar (polyester) sleeve with resealable flap.
Sleeves are sold in different thicknesses, from 1.5 millimeters to 6 millimeters, to cover single-, double- and triple-album sets.
To protect the records themselves, collectors can choose from a variety of inner sleeves, ranging from acid-free paper (with or without label holes) to poly-lined sleeves. If you want more protection, you can go with a heavier cardboard record jacket. Storing records in such a manner is easy and helps keep a collection in the best shape possible.
And never put dirty records in clean sleeves or place a clean record in a dirty sleeve. Other collecting nasties, such as record rings and those impressions on album jackets created by records pushing against each other in storage, can be avoided by using record jacket inserts to alleviate the pressure on the jacket.
Rule 1: Always store records vertically, with one spine providing vertical support, and other adjacent albums providing horizontal support. Laying records flat, one upon the other, is a surefire way to turn a beautiful collection to junk.
Rule 2: Where you store your records is as important as how you store them. A clean, dry and temperature-controlled environment is ideal. Some collectors go to greater lengths, requiring storage in a smoke- and/or pet-free room.
The most obvious cause of damage is often environmental. It’s important to keep records out of direct sunlight and away from rooms with very high or low humidity. Garages, basements and attics typically are very poor places to store vinyl records. Garage spaces must withstand auto traffic, dirt, insects and weather extremes; basements are notorious for taking on water after one of those “100-year floods” that now seem to happen every decade; and attics can get outrageously hot in summer and cold in winter. Don’t be tempted to toss your collection into any such space, thinking you’ll deal with it next weekend. Go for dry and clean and temperate, and you won’t be sorry.
Now that you’ve picked a space for your collection, it’s time to get those records into some type of container. For rooms with ample wall space, collectors can opt for a wooden or metal record shelving system. These are typically very sturdy and handsome, but they are also usually very expensive. Another downside is that it’s easy for a collection to outgrow its intended space.
Perhaps the best all-around (economical, portable) storage option is one of the many corrugated cardboard boxes available from dealers such as Bags Unlimited and FingerPop (www.fingerpop.com). These containers are sturdy, lightweight (important when you want to move a box full of records) and make it easy to keep a collection in order as it grows. They also protect record corners and edges from scuffing, bending and other unwanted harm. Also, the boxes are stackable, which helps collectors get the most storage from a given space.
Bags Unlimited even has a cool new product that allows collectors to stack boxes, while still providing access to each individual box, using a slide-out “file cabinet” outer box to protect the LP box. These 250-pound-test boxes can be stacked four high and are an excellent option if you access your collection often.
Once records are in the box, you’ll still want to be able to find individual recordings without spending 30 minutes going through the alphabet. LP record dividers are very handy to keep records organized, whether alphabetically or categorically. These tabbed dividers make it easy to find the “As” and “Bs” in your collection with just a quick look over.
Maybe you have an ultra-rare record or a mint copy of an album that has great sentimental value, and you just can’t stand to have it lingering in obscurity with the rest of your collection. Why not display it for you and others to enjoy?
After all, some of the greatest pop art graces many of those favorite record jackets and sleeves. Whether you want to display an album jacket, picture disc, record, record and jacket, or an inside gatefold, there is a product designed specifically for that purpose.
Or maybe you have several such records but not enough space to hang them all? Worldwide Marketing (www.albumframes.com) has the perfect solution: an album frame that can be changed from one record to another in less than 30 seconds. Each frame comes fully assembled with a protective Plexiglas front and a choice of three colors (black, silver, white). All formats — LPs, 12-inch picture discs, 7-inch picture discs, 45 rpms and picture sleeves, and 78 rpms and jackets — can be accommodated.
And there you have it — three simple steps to get your collection in order and keep it protected for a lifetime, and one way to show off your favorite records, as well. Happy collecting.
For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
Download our Goldmine Seminar Series: “Learn How to Condition Grade Your Records” (WMV file)
Get a book on the complicated world of auctions: “The Everything® Online Auctions Book, All you need to buy and sell with success – on eBay and beyond!”
Check out a download of the Top 50 Vinyl Records