How can non-collectors deal with inherited collections?

By Dave Thompson

Question: A relative, who is disabled, has several thousand records in New York City. He had some prospective buyers who found little interest to them, and others who selected 400 or 500 records.
It seems that how good the collection is depends on the particular buyer and whether they have a limited or broad-based interest regarding genres, etc. He desperately needs to sell the entire collection, or large segments. What are his options to sell them in large quantities, given that he is very flexible on the price? Do you have any suggestions as to where he should go, whom to contact, and what he might expect to get for them? In the worst case scenario, and for any remaining quantity following future sales, is recycling an option? Thanks.

— Ezra, via e-mail

Answer: There comes a time in every collector’s life, and not necessarily at the end of it, where that lifelong horde begins to seem extraneous. This is true across the board – stamps, books, coins, antique parking meters, jukeboxes, the lot. And, very often, the old maxim about one man’s meat being another man’s poison is lurking just around the corner. You may have spent a small fortune, and half your adult life, gathering together every single 45 release on the London label, but take them to the average dealer, and not only will he cherrypick the “good” ones, the return on the rest probably won’t even buy you a cup of coffee.

The wider, and more “personal” a collection, the harder it gets to dispose of it – your observation that the worth of a collection “depends on the particular buyer” is a rule that every collector should bear in mind when the time comes to sell, and that’s as true of an attic full of mint condition Elvis movie soundtracks, as it is a basement filled with anything and everything.

The first step, if at all possible, is to catalog the collection, and then spend some time with a price guide, to get at least a rough idea of whether the collection has any worth as a collection, or if it’s simply an accumulation of common and generally worthless vinyl – of which there is an awful lot out there!

Assuming there is some value here, condition is next — are the records in good shape, or have they obviously been played a lot, and treated as a part of the furniture?

With all this information to hand, there are several options. Ideally, a private sale would be optimum, but of course not everybody has the time (or, indeed, the patience) to place multiple listings up on eBay, all the more so since they’ve added so many new hoops for the prospective seller to leap through. A yard sale is also a thought, although with both of these, you are guaranteed only to sell a handful of discs at a time, and you give the impression that an immediate, and all-encompassing sale is preferable.

In that case, an ad in the local paper, or in Goldmine, might be worth considering — of course, possible buyers will need some idea of what is in the collection, while the size of the collection would seem to demand that the buyer is able to pick it up in person. Another alternative would be to contact a dealer who specializes in bulk lots, and offer him the entire collection in one lot, again offering to fax or e-mail him the inventory ahead of time.

The third choice… or the first, assuming the collection is essentially valueless… would be to arrange for it to be donated to a charity store or similar outfit. Or even place the boxes, a few at a time, on the street with a big “FREE” sign on them. You won’t only be attracting vinyl collectors, after all — there’s a world full of arts-and-crafty people out there who have found some fascinating uses for old records!

As for your worst case scenario — recycling … I must confess, I don’t know, and I’ve been unable to find any concrete information from anybody who does. Hopefully, any readers who can definitively answer this question will get in touch, and let us know.


For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
• Download Goldmine’s Secrets to Buying & Selling Records: Pay Less and Make More (Webinar Recording Download)

• 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

• And click here to check out the latest album price guides from Goldmine. They’re worth every penny!

3 thoughts on “How can non-collectors deal with inherited collections?

  1. Selling a Collection Comment:

    All through the years most collectors sell their collections to reliable record dealers. If the records are of a collectible nature then the collection should bring a worthwhile amount (price)from a dealer. Of course, it would be a wholesale price, where the dealer has a fair market markup. True collectors items should brings app. 50% of their fair value. Average non collector items would bring less than 50% (most likely app 25% of value).

    I have purchased many collections thruout the years (early 70′s on), and everyone has been happy.

    Finding the old time (and newer) dealers isn’t that hard, just ask around and check who has record stores, and/or does record shows, or a mail order record business.

  2. Ezra and Dave,

    I’d like to expound on Dave’s suggestion of donating the collection to a charitable organization. Apart from the well-known organizations such as Goodwill or The Salvation Army, there are indeed charities working specifically to preserve vinyl records.

    My organization, the Audio Preservation Fund, is one of them, but unfortunately we are located in Austin, TX, far away from NYC. The good news is, one of our partners is in NYC! The Archive of Contemporary Music is a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to archiving and preserving music. They are located in NYC at 54 White Street. You can reach them by phone at (212) 226-6967.

    They will likely accept your entire collection and because they are a 501(c)(3) you can use your donation as a tax deduction! I understand that your relative prefers to sell his collection, but if he could use the tax deduction, or if he is planning on recycling the collection, please consider donating it first!!!

    I wish you the best of luck. If you do end up donating to the Archive of Contemporary Music, please mention we sent you and if you know anyone in Texas, or more generally the south, that needs to liquidate a collection, please sned them our way!

    Good Luck!

    William Vanden Dries
    Chair, Audio Preservation Fund

  3. Many people do not realize there are basically only two ways to sell a record collection. 1.. – - Wholesale price – - One shouldn’t catalog or “look up” prices in a guide, but decide upfront if they want to sell all-or-nothing before advertising or contacting a store or re-seller. “cherry-picking” is an ugly term used by non-dealers and uninformed, one-time sellers of a collection that have some resentment about some experience. A “cherry-picked” collection leaves behind a much less valuable lot that may be easy to sell, but for much, much less. 2.. – -Retail price – - the person wanted to get rid of a collection will have to open an Ebay account and learn to sell records.
    This will take many days of work to get going. Or they can have a succession of yard sales, starting off at $5 a disc, then dropping the price for each following sale.
    One must be careful giving to charities, as some charities are owned by hospitals with a track record for bankrupting 100′s of families with outrageous bills. even some smaller thrift stores are non-profits whose board-of-directors members make 3-4 times what a record store owner will. Some thrift stores are besieged with dealers who have an “in”, so the store will make very little of the records anyway. – - Phil

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