Most people spend decades building up a record collection.
Most then sell the whole thing off in one job lot.
This can be a big mistake, as what you consider the embarrassing relics of a teenage fad might, in fact, be very valuable.
More than the digitally re-mastered CD, and much more than the compressed audio file downloaded onto your portable media player, the vinyl record is a physical archive (or indeed record) of a particular moment in time.
From the pantheon of 1950s jazz, to the acid-steeped psych covers of the 1960s, vinyl records in their original sleeves and dust covers deliver sound as well as sensibility.
Many people mistakenly believe that record collecting as a hobby is dying out.
In fact, the reverse appears to be true. New generations of collectors, born at the digital age's advent, are increasingly hooked on a medium that seemingly flies in the face of decades of technological progress.
After slowing to a trickle in the early 2000s, record sales have been making a sizeable comeback over the past decade, with an increase of 16.3% witnessed in 2012.
Analogue recordings feel richer and warmer than digital recordings to many listeners, while album art is often cited as a major draw. Besides, according to British novelist and self-confessed vinyl obsessive Nick Hornby, record collecting, unlike its geekier brothers, stamp and coin collecting, is still considered pretty cool.
Hornby's record-shop-owning creation Rob Fleming argues of his expansive record collection in High Fidelity: "It's not like collecting records is like collecting stamps, or beermats, or antique thimbles. There's a whole world in here, a nicer, dirtier, more violent, more peaceful, more colourful, sleazier, more dangerous, more loving world than the world I live in; there is history, and geography, and poetry, and countless other things I should have studied at school, including music."
If you are considering selling all, or parts of your record collection, you have several important choices ahead of you. Firstly, whether to sell privately, or through a reputable dealer.
Selling through a dealer is advisable if you want to cash-in on your collection quickly and easily.
If you do not have a great deal of spare time, and wish to get rid of a large number of records, visit your local record shop and ask for a fair offer. You are not obliged to sell if you are unhappy with this offer, but if you get a good price, it will be much simpler than individually grading and listing your records.
About 80% of the average record collection is very difficult for a dealer to sell on. Therefore, if you sell your entire collection to a shop, your treasured records are likely to earn you relatively little.
Another approach would be to take only your most valuable records to a convention or record fair and try to sell to buyers or dealers there. This way, you are likely to make more per record.
Private selling, specifically online selling, suits those with fewer time constraints who want to get the very best price for their records. Although individually grading, listing, pricing and describing your records may take a while, you are likely to make a much healthier profit from your collection than if you sell to a dealer.
How to grade a vinyl record
Light is very important when examining vinyl records. The best light to use is a single bright source, though never direct sunlight. Hold the record so that the reflection of the light is hidden by the label, and then tilt it gently so that the light catches in the grooves. Move the record back and forth under the light source, watching to see where the light picks up on any scratches or grime. You are looking mainly for scratches, though warps and needle damage should also be taken into account.
If you have a record that you know has high "book value" (meaning mint issues consistently sell for substantial sums), but it is not in the best condition, how do you arrive at a fair price?
A guide to condition and value
- Mint and Excellent + 100%
This record looks like it has just left the manufacturer. It has no flaws and looks as if it has never been handled.
- Excellent 80-90%
This record shows minor scuffs which are only slightly visible. The flaw is difficult to see and the record plays flawlessly. The cover looks close to perfect. The corners can show white.
- Excellent - 60-75%
This record shows wear such as surface scuffs. The vinyl still has great lustre, but the flaws are visible to the naked eye. There might be some minor wear to the seams and spine of the cover, and some discolouration.
- Very Good 40-60%
This record is good enough - it looks as if it has been played and shows some wear.
- Good 30-40%
A Good record might have a distracting surface noise such as a crackle. It will look very well played and lack lustre. A Good cover will have split seams, which might have been repaired with tape.
Bear in mind, this is only a guide. Very rare issues, such as rare Beatles records, hold their value whatever their condition as collectors know they may never get an opportunity to own a better copy.
Describing your records
The better your item description, the more likely it is to sell. As well as artist and title, you should include format, condition and as much additional information as possible, such as any information on special formatting (poster sleeves, for instance), country of origin, and details of any non-album tracks on singles.
Sending you records through the post? Pack them carefully. Packing is about making sure your records arrive in the condition they were sent in. Although it can be tempting to scrimp on packaging for cheaper postage, don't. Records need to be properly protected, while providing a bad service will damage your reputation as a seller.