You’ve got stacks of records you haven’t played in years, but you're not planning a nostalgic return to your vinyl listening roots.
Instead, you might wonder if any of the records in your collection can be converted to cash. Here’s how to find out:
1. What does your local record store say?
It’s tough to generalize about whether you’ll get a fair quote from a used record store in your area, says Charlie Essmeier, who owns RareRecords.net. But start with your local retailers. They inspect records all the time and regularly look at vinyl collections 30 years old or more.
“I know of dealers who will pay top dollar for high value records," he says. "And I know others who try to buy everything for as low a price as possible, usually assuming that the seller doesn't know what they're selling.”
2. How does your online research stack up?
An excellent place to start is Popsike.com. It has a searchable archive of more than 20 million vinyl record auctions dating to 2004, mostly on eBay.
The site is free for a limited number of daily queries. Six months of unlimited queries costs $17.90. You get a sense of a record’s value with the caveat that a secondhand record has no fixed price.
Discogs.com is another useful online resource. The site connects buyers and sellers and is like a Wikipedia for music, with nearly 43 million vinyl records in its marketplace.
Gobs of helpful information and strategies on valuing old records can also be found at Goldminemag.com, a magazine for music collectors.
3. Is the recording rare?
The scarcity of a record, coupled with someone else’s desire to have it, counts most — as with any collectible. And rarities are often from artists you may not have heard of.
The most valuable listing in the Popsike.com archive is a 1930 78 rpm record from influential blues musician Tommy Johnson on the long-defunct Paramount label. The two songs on the record are Alcohol and Jake Blues and Ridin’ Horse. It was rated in very good condition when it fetched $37,100 through a 2013 eBay auction.
Several other factors can influence a record’s collectibility, says Mark Michalek of Canadian turntable maker Fluance. Records may have been numbered by hand. They may have been “demo” recordings or test pressings from famous artists. If a musician dies, a performer's records could have a sudden, and perhaps temporary, spike in value.