Need some help estimating the value of collectible records

My parents recently moved from the old homestead, so I finally had to pick up a whole bunch of LPs and 45s that I’d left in the basement ages ago. I literally hadn’t looked at what was in these boxes in over 10 years, and it was fun to rediscover what I had left, and in some cases had completely forgotten that I ever had.

I figure, though, that if I haven’t missed anything in 10 years, it’s probably time to just get rid of most of it. Most of the stuff was New Wave or alternative of some kind (early to middle 80s), and while someone might have gotten excited over a promo-stamped Lou Reed album back in the day, I doubt it’s worth very much now. However, I do have some colored vinyl/picture disc sorts of things that might still be of interest to someone out there. (e.g., a Band-Aid picture 45 that features a guitar shaped like Africa). Before I plunk these things on eBay, I would like to get a clue as to how much the collector’s market will bear. Any ideas where I can get more information?

There are several collector magazines around- on some newstands- Goldmine is good for 60s - present, Discoveries pre 60s . But there are many price guides around ,just like for baseball cards.

You might also just take a good look at the listings on eBay to see what this kind of stuff is generaly going for.

Are these things in excellent or mint condition? Condition is a crucial factor in pricing collectibles. A collectible in excellent condition will often fetch much, much more than a collectible in very good or fair condition. Price guides often give tips as to grading condition, although the grading is often pretty subjective.

Price guides are practically worthless now that it has become so easy to find things on the web. Records that once were rated as highly collectible are now easy to find at reasonable prices, while albums that no guide would rate as valuable fetch high prices. I just paid $3.50 on eBay for a 45 that books for $100, and there is a particular album I would like to buy that books for $10-$15 but routinely sells for $100. If you do a Google search to see how much vinyl retailers are selling your titles for, and they can be widely found for a few dollars each, you’ll be lucky to sell them at all if you list them on eBay.

Just from the little bit of information you provide in the OP, I’m guessing that practically none of your albums are particularly valuable. Some of your 45s, if they contain non-album cuts that have not been reissued, might sell for a few dollars. As LonesomePolecat said, condition is important. Considering the effort involved in listing them on eBay, packing them up and mailing them, you’d probably be better off trying to sell them to a local store that deals in used vinyl. Some people think vinyl is intrinsically valuable but, really, the demand has tapered off to the point where it is a very good time to buy collectible vinyl for cheap if you want it. Some extremely rare items have retained their value, but in the post-internet age a lot of highly-rated items have come way down in price.

** Live Better, ** haven’t CD re-issues undercut the value of a lot of collectibles? My impression is that LP’s were never really all that collectible in the first place (generally speaking). Sure, if you’ve got the first Beatles LP in mint condition, you’ve probably got something. But the last time I paid any attention to this sort of thing, it seemed to me that the really collectible stuff were blues, jazz and country 78’s. It also seemed to me that novelty stuff (such as LP’s pressed on clear or colored vinyl), and ** Sunfish ** seems to have a number of those.

It’s true most of my stuff really wouldn’t have much value now, the artists having faded into obscurity. Those LP’s and 45’s I’ll just ditch once I record the songs I’m still interested in. It was more the novelty stuff and imports I was thinking of, and most of that is in fact in excellent condition.

Just for grins I looked through eBay for Echo and the Bunnymen as an example, since one of the picture discs I have is for their Bring on the Dancing Horses single. I was rather surprised to see people bidding a fair amount (by which I mean more than $5) for regular releases by the band. I certainly don’t expect to get rich from any of the items I have, but I think I’ll try posting a few items and just see what happens. Thanks for the input, folks.

[sub]LonesomePolecat wrote:[/sub]

Yes, I see that all the time–as soon as an album is reissued on CD, the demand for the vinyl plummets. When dealing with vinyl from the last 30 years, its value is often based on whether or not the music is or has been available on CD. Even 78s aren’t necessarily valuable; as time goes on, fewer and fewer people have the equipment and desire to play them. Picture discs and colored vinyl are often resellable for their novelty value, but even then there is no guarantee, it just depends on the artist. I have colored vinyl 45s that are worthless, but you could probably find a buyer for most picture discs.

[sub]sunfish wrote:[/sub]

Obscurity isn’t a factor assuming that there are people looking for it. Some vanity pressings of records and CDs by local hair metal bands from the '80s are selling for $100 each (I would never have predicted the cult of interest in this area); rockabilly and R&B 45s by obscure artists who made, in some cases, only one record can sell for hundreds or thousands; certain early indie-label punk records by regional artists sell for a lot.

A decent guide to determing the value of your alternative music records from the last thirty years is: If it has been reissued on CD at any time anywhere in the world, the vinyl probably isn’t worth a lot. If there has been a CD, even if it is now out of print, most collectors of music from that era will strongly prefer the CD and will pay much more for the CD than the vinyl. This obviously doesn’t apply to picture discs, etched vinyl, limited editions, etc.

The value of records is generally determined by the following (in generally this order):

(NOTE: any prices mentioned below are from when I collected records in the 80s and 90s. The prices have almost certainly changed, but the principles still apply.)

  1. The popularity of the artist - if you’re the only person in the whole world that likes “Elan and The Post Nasal Drips”, then your record is worth zilch to everyone except you. Note that this also can work against you, as the Elvis and Beatles markets are flooded with stuff so price pressures mean that only their rarest stuff is worth a mint. Note that this phenomenon is constantly changing: since the original Duran Duran went back on tour this year, prices for their stuff on eBay have skyrocketed - compared to what they were before the tour anyway.

  2. The number of records made - If the record company made 100,000 copies of it, it is by definition “not rare”. Generally, if the record says “Limited Edition”, it’s not. Example: Eddie Murphy made a picture disc of his 1984(?) “Comedian” album. They were so “rare” that they ended up in the $2.99 bin back in the day.

  3. Condition - the most obvious factor. A record that’s still sealed or in pristine condition is worth more than one that’s in “not as good” shape. Also consider the inside sleeve of the record. Most collectors prefer that you use a paper “throwaway” sleeve to store the records so as not to possibly tear the bottom of the inner sleeve (if it’s one of those ‘picture sleeves’.)

  4. Geography - Generally speaking, records made in Japan and the UK are worth more than their domestic counterparts and vice-versa. So a UK copy of Duran Duran’s “Rio” is worth a couple of bucks more in the US than a domestic one. But also note that some records are worth more outside their country of origin. For example, a U.S. promo copy of R.E.M’s “Driver 8” 12" single sold at one time in the US for around $25 but £60 (around $80 at the time) in the UK. At the same time prices for Bauhaus’ first single on Axis records cost around £25 over there but $115 over here.

  5. Age - As time passes, records get thrown out, basements flood and people have children that like to draw on things with markers. So the numbers of any particular album are decreasing over time. BUT this doesn’t mean that just because a record is old that it’s valuable. Back when I was a teen-aged collector, adults just couldn’t\wouldn’t believe that their copy of some Beatles album was only worth a buck or two. “But it’s original!” That’s great, but they made 2 million copies! Same thing goes with 78s. As the number of record players that can play 78s has decreased to almost nothing, 78s are only worth money as home decoration or “by the pound” to people that collect only such things.

More later.

I hope so. This is interesting.

Hey, this thread might turn into a debate! I disagree with three of Rex Fenestrarum’s five criteria for valuation:

Doesn’t mean squat unless you’re talking about an artist so unpopular literally no one wants his or her records. Lawrence Welk sold millions more records than the ‘50s R&B group The Crows, and yet you will not find any record by Welk that sells for anywhere near the $1000 book price commanded by The Crows’ “Miss You” 45 on red vinyl, a single that wasn’t even a hit.

Bob Marley’s Songs of Freedom box set was a numbered “limited edition” of a million copies. After it sold out but before it was reissued as an unlimited edition, copies were selling for a couple hundred dollars. Also, as noted in Billboard: “Although it may be easier to find a copy of a million-selling hit of the past, it is difficult to find one in near-mint condition; because popular records are usually played more, they sustain more scratching and damage.” So a near mint copy of a million-selling record conceivably could be quite rare.

That’s just not true. There are many genuinely limited pressings that become highly collectible. I have 45s that are numbered editions of 200 or 300 copies that are now very valuable, and I already mentioned the Marley box (a huge limited edition that nonetheless increased in value). Sometimes the number of copies pressed within a limited edition will exceed the demand, creating a worthless “collectible” of the sort Rex Fenestrarum is talking about, but I don’t think that happens most of the time.

This was true in the '80s, but now imports can be obtained so easily via the internet they have lost their former mystique. Import copies of domestically-available titles are no longer given higher values in the secondary market unless there are bonus tracks or the packaging is different (as is frequently the case with Japanese pressings). I don’t know anyone who continues to pay the exhorbitant prices imports fetched in the '80s–it’s too easy to buy internationally and cut out the pricey importers. And, with regard to the specific example given, I bought my West German CD copy of Duran Duran’s Rio for the same price as all the other used CDs in the record store.

I also noticed that we are going back and forth between discussing vinyl and CD values when the OP is specifically about vinyl, but their values are related and many of the same observations apply to both formats.

Well, that’s true. Sort of. It’s not really a fair comparison, is it? Does LW even have collectors? I’m sure he does, but not nearly as many as 50’s R&B fans. My point was that a record is really only worth what someone wil give you - regardless of what any ‘price book’ says - so finding that someone is easier if the band is popular. I realize this isn’t always the case: I mean, The Romantics sold far more records than Dirty Rotten Imbiciles, but I’d be hard pressed to find someone that would pay $100 for any Romantics vinyl, unlike DRI’s “Violent Pacification” single.

Generally it is true though. Most of the time a record stamped “limited edition” is pressed in quantities of 10,000, 50,000 or 100,000. So they’re not really limited. The thing with records is that most of the time they don’t become valuable until it’s too late. Some band’s early single, or an album of a band one of whose members becomes more popular later on is what I’m thinking about here. Sure, there are many LEs that are valueable, but I was thinking about the mass-produced stuff that he’s likely to have.

Well, I agree to a point. With the Internet I no longer have to make lots of long distance calls or wait for the new issue of Goldmine to find something. I think that’s depressed prices in general. But still, if you were to buy the new Britney Spears CD (pfffttt! As if) from Amazon US and Amazon UK, shipping and exchange rates will still make it more expensive than a domestic copy, and that’s what I alluded to.

I was going to post this link earlier but couldn’t remember what it was.

Mighty John Marshall is going to be giving free appraisals on KTRS in about 30 minutes.