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How can non-collectors deal with inherited collections?

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.

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:
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• Check out a download of the Top 50 Vinyl Records

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