How To Shop for Vinyl Records

Vinyl records have stood the test of time. From eight tracks to cassettes to CDs, Vinyl still lingers on and refuses to die. There is even a small but devout cult of collectors today who all share passion for the plastic fantastic. And why not? Records not only have a certain sound quality which can’t be imitated, record covers are also artistic statements.

This all makes for a collector’s and seller’s market where records can appreciate in value significantly. So, for the uninitiated, what should one look for when purchasing vinyl?

Where Oh Where?

Where to shop for vinyl? While its true that record shops just don’t abound like they used to, they are to be found. The renewed interest in records has caused a little spike in the number of stores selling records and the number of pure vinyl stores. Look in the phone book or the internet and you are bound to find something in your area.

The not so Black Market

Thrift stores are a little known source of vinyl. Of course, it is all used material. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find a hidden gem, here and there. Plus, you simply can’t beat the cost. Most thrift stores sell albums from 99cents to five dollars. If you are just looking to buy cheap and collecting for yourself, thift stores are the way to go.

What if I can’t?

There is no such word as can’t. Seriously, if you are having a hard time finding something or something close by, then travel, if you are serious. There are annual record conventions sprouting all over the States and they are a great resource and means of networking to find dealers and sources. Now, off to the races.

Shine On

The first thing to examine is the record surface. What does the surface look like? Is it dingy and not very shiny? This should automatically tip you off to looking elsewhere. Not only is the dull look out, it is not re-sellable. Find a fresh copy that will catch your eye with the look of “new.” Not only will your buyers thank you for it, your record needle will too.


Scratches are another defect to look out for. Examine the record closely for any scratches. great or small, on any part of the album. This too has a significant effect on the overall value of the piece. Some people tolerate smaller scratches when the music is cheap and there is nothing to lose. For the serious collector, going cheap is not an option to be excercised and scratches are a serious compromise. Again, the record needle is a precious thing to waste.

The Artist

You may in the market just for yourself or you may be a seller. At any rate, choice of artist is a serious consideration in the final decision to purchase. For the individual, there is no limit, there is just the instant gratification of finding and buying the desired music. For the seller/collector, supply and demand dicitates what the ultimate asking price will be. Some artists will always be in demand. Bob Dylan, AC/DC, Neil Young, T. Rex, The Rolling Stones are all popular artists and will remain so. Collecting albums from artists like these are like staples to anyone’s diet and are bound to sell.


There are the famous and the not so famous. While the Beatles will remain forever a household name, blues artist Son House may not be. Son House is however prized amoung certain collectors and buyers. His historical and musical influence is undeniable among those who know. His records are not widely available. Therefore, a fetching price for one of his albums could go into the hundreds of dollars.

Speaking of Albums

Have you ever found a song or a CD you liked but you really didn’t like the artist? These are albums of particular interest and have a value all their own. An artist may have hit his artistic stride on just this one album and sold millions of copies, never to be heard from again. Or the album didn’t sell, but it’s rarity and artistic value are still very high. These are single items that are gems in the world of vinyl, like Son Volt’s Trace. This record is very in demand and hard to find. It’s valued in the hundreds of dollars. If you have a knack for finding these kinds of deals, then you’re golden in the vinyl world.

Research, Research, Research

If you don’t know much about music or records, look up different websites for information. There are plenty of articles and stores online. Get a feel for the kinds of albums that you might want to buy, what the price ranges are, and why they cost the amount they do. I have found that my general musical knowledge has increased exponentially due to the advent of the internet. Yours can increase too.

What about now?

Yes- the new resurgence in vinyl has cause some record companies to release their music, new and old, on vinyl. And you can find many old albums resurfacing as remastered on vinyl. So this may be the golden era that we are living in. You can still use these general rules of thumb and successful complete the buying process. Happy hunting and good luck!

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