Since 1974, Goldmine magazine has been a leading, renowned source for record collectors across genres, featuring interviews with recording stars of the past and present, reviews of new releases, and music collecting news and tips. The publication also created the standard for grading records — kind of a big deal — so when we wanted to pull together a guide on all things vinyl, we reached out to editor-in-chief Patrick Prince for insights.
For starters, we wondered how the industry’s evolved since he took his role in 2015. “With every year, more and more vinyl records are being pressed and marketed by record companies as collectibles,” Prince shares. “Colored vinyl, picture discs, box sets and 180-gram high-quality vinyl pressings are produced to create special limited-edition excitement. In this way, vinyl has been a bit of a saving grace for the music industry post-Napster.”
Because vinyl production is expanding, more people have been drawn to collecting. Recent reporting from Rolling Stone, which featured a mid-year report from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), revealed that vinyl is set to outsell CDs for the first time since 1986 — daaamn. This boom is based on interest that spans several generations, according to this data which found that 31% of US adults said they’re willing to pay for vinyl records. How do these buyers breakdown by generation? The demographics are as follows: Most likely to pay for vinyl are the Boomers at 36%, while 33% of Gen Xers, 28% of Millennials, and 26% of Gen Zers are willing to spend on ‘em as well.
For those who are just beginning to collect, Prince offers a few pro tips.
“There are really only two types of collecting: collecting for personal value as, say, a hobby, and collecting for a monetary investment,” he says. “Obviously, the first one is a lot more fun. In fact, I might get a record in not-so-great shape for mere historical reference and relevance—especially if it’s an artist I rarely listen to.” But, if you’re collecting for any monetary investment, “then much like the real estate field recommends ‘location, location, location,’ the mantra for vinyl is ‘condition, condition, condition.’”
Apparently our teenage collections probably wouldn’t be worth that much anyway, even if we had kept them. Even if you have a collectible record as a keepsake, it won’t be worth nearly as much as you might think unless it’s in near mint condition. Prince’s advice is to look at and, if possible, actually play what you are buying beforehand, preferably at a record store or show—except if you absolutely trust the reputation of the seller/dealer. Lastly, beware of the overpriced record unless you absolutely have to have it.
If you’ve already got albums and are looking to sell, Prince reveals several things to be aware of. “To sell records, you need a keen understanding of the marketplace. It comes with experiential knowledge, really; but if you are starting out and want to price accordingly, always go by what has already been sold in the marketplace,” he notes. “Sure, you can average out what is currently selling on say, Discogs, but it’s always good to remember that sellers can often inflate their prices—especially with hot items.” For example, records following an artist’s death or limited-edition Record Store Day releases trend higher for a certain period of time. “It’s better to go by what has sold,” he says, “that’s the true demand of the market.” To help, Goldmine researches these trends and shares the data in its Record Album Price Guides.
Be honest with every detail of a record you’re selling. “Grade the condition of a record fairly and conservatively. Buyers will respect you for that, as it’s so important for collectors,” he emphasizes. Condition can’t seem to be emphasized enough, so if you need help grading, you can use Goldmine’s grading system to help.
If you’ve already got a collection, curating and maintaining its growth is real important too (but you already knew that). You probably started with collecting the artists and albums you love, and maybe then you expanded into other genres and eras. But as Prince’s mentioned, collecting for pleasure and for investment can often mean different things. “If you are focused only as a monetary investment, it’s always a safe bet to collect The Beatles,” he concludes. “Their music is timeless, and there are certainly Beatles record pressings that will always remain valuable.”
While vinyl and the art of collecting it may have experienced its heyday a few generations back, the current resurgence and fresh interest is bringing in new generations and connecting the sweet sound of music between them.
by Stefanie Schwalb