How to Collect Picture Disc Record Albums

Collecting picture disc record albums is a hobby that can be enjoyed by the young and old alike. They come in all shapes and sizes, and by every type of recording artist imaginable. There are classic picture discs from yesterday that can be found and new ones still being produced today.

What is a Record Album?

A record album is the device commonly used in ancient times ( twenty-five-years ago) to hold recordings of music for audio playback. For those not familiar with the concept, a record album is a twelve-inch disc made of vinyl. They have a hole in the middle to hold them onto the turntable of a phonograph (record player) and delicate, intricate grooves which when rolled over by a needle (or a diamond chip) spinning in a circular pattern at 33 1/3 rpm (revolutions per minute) produce music which can be heard through gigantic speakers.

A record album differs from your standard record in that it usually contains a collection of songs by one particular group, such as the Beatles. A standard record, 7 inches wide and played at 45 rpm, holds only two songs, one on the front and one on the back. These were much cheaper and would enable you to purchase only the specific songs that you liked, which proved to be the downfall of certain recording artists now known as, one hit wonders.

A record album is similar to the modern compact disc (CD) only they were much larger and had music grooves on both sides of the disc. A brand-new record album would produce superior playback, the first couple of times you played it, but the tiniest nick in one of the grooves would create scratchy irritating sounds that over time would become worse and worse. Within a few months of repeated playback you would need to replace your favorite record album with a new one.

How Record Albums were Packaged and Sold

Record albums were produced in mass quantities in the standard black vinyl color with a paper sticker, pasted in the middle, telling you the name of the group, the name of the album and the order in which the songs it included was recorded. They came in cardboard holders (or covers, as they were referred to) with pictures of the band on the front and a list of the songs included, on the back.

The record album itself was wrapped in a paper envelope, to protect it, which usually held the lyrics to the songs, making it easier for you to sing along with your favorite idols. I believe this was a trap set by the record producers because these paper envelopes would self destruct rather quickly, causing your albums to become scratched simply by reinserting them into the cardboard cover, and increasing the repeat sale of the same album to the same people, over and over again.

Finding one of these original paper envelopes now-a-days is a rarity and people who collect record albums would pay a good penny to get one of them, by their favorite artist, in good condition.

What is a Picture Disc Record Album?

A picture disc record album is different from a regular record album in that the picture of the group, or anything that you would normally find on the cardboard record album cover, was imprinted right into the vinyl of the album. The vinyl used to make these was clear colored instead of black. These were more expensive to produce and so less of them were made.

The sound quality on picture discs is not as good as the standard black vinyl recordings and was purchased more for looks than for playback. In other words, they were just cool to own and even when first released were considered collectibles.

Picture discs come in the standard, round, 12 inch, and 7 inch sizes along with just about any other shape and size you can imagine such as square, heart-shaped, butterfly-shaped, cutouts of the artist’s themselves, along with car-shaped, triangular and even shaped like radios.

Where to Find Picture Disc Record Albums

Back in the olden days collecting picture discs was hard. You had to spend a lot of time lurking in record stores or have a friend that worked in one who would be willing to hold them for you when they came in. Today with the help of eBay, the world’s online marketplace, collecting picture discs is much easier. On any given day you can find hundreds of them listed. You can also find picture discs in record stores, at rummage sales, yard sales and at flea markets.

To start our own collection, the first thing you need to do is decide which type of picture discs you’d enjoy collecting the most.

Ideas for Picture Disc Collections

1. Oddly-shaped discs by any artist
2. Only picture discs of your favorite recording star or group
3. Picture discs from your favorite era (disco, rock, or jazz for example)
4. Children’s albums
5. Favorite songs
6. Most valuable as per other collector’s standards
7. Picture discs depicting scenes from movies or shows
8. Picture discs that were created as promotional items
9. Picture discs that match your home decor
10. Picture discs that are autographed by the artists

Once you’ve decided which type of collection you’d like to own, you’ll need to think about where you will keep your collection and how you will protect your investment.

How to Store and Protect your Picture Disc Collection

Record albums are thin and so it is possible to keep a fairly large collection in a small space. To protect your albums, you will need to purchase heavy duty vinyl sleeves, that are large enough to slip the record and cover into. These sleeves are clear so you can view the picture disc without worrying about causing wear and tear to the delicate recorded grooves.

Always keep your picture discs stored flat, to prevent them from warping and out of the sun or extreme heat and dampness. If they need to be cleaned, wipe them gently with a slightly damp, soft, cotton rag. Never use cleaning solvents as this can cause irreparable damage to them.

Placing your picture discs into photo frames is a nice way to keep them protected and on display at the same time. Though they can be difficult to find, there are frames that are specifically designed for record albums and have glass on both sides, so that you would be able to view either side of your picture disc which is nice because most picture discs have great pictures on both sides.

Determining the Value of Picture Discs

As with anything that is collectible, the value will depend on the demand for the picture disc in question and its condition. An older picture disc, recorded by a popular artist, that was produced in small quantity and is in mint, never opened condition, will fetch top dollar, as will one that has been verifiably autographed. The standard grading system for record albums is, mint, excellent, very good, good, fair and poor, with poor condition being the least valuable, of course.

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, or collector, and someone who has been searching for a specific album by a particular artist will indeed pay more than it might be worth just to get that album into their hands.


Remember that your picture discs are very delicate and more valuable in good condition. Listening to them can cause damage. It is best to keep them in unused condition and buy the compact disc for playback purposes.

For Fun or Profit

Collecting picture discs can be profitable if you are willing to spend a lot of time and energy searching for and buying all the right records. In most cases it is just a really great hobby that can be enjoyed by just about anyone. The prices for most picture discs are reasonable and affordable. They come in all shapes, colors and by every type of recording star. They are easy to take care of and take up very little space. Stop by eBay and check some of them out. I dare you not to find one that you want.

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