Buying vinyl records online can seem like a hit-and-miss endeavor, in this first article about online buying I will try to clear up some misconceptions, steer you in the right direction, and give you ideas on what to look for. Can you negotiate prices online? Will I get ripped off?
I’ll try to alleviate your fears and give you tips to minimize your chances of getting ripped off. Just like buying anything online, or even in a brick and mortar store, there is always the chance that your purchase may not turn out as good as you were anticipating. If that turns out to be the case then knowing how to deal with the problem is your next best option.
EBay-Why I Love EBay
I have to mention EBay first simply because I love eBay. I have an eBay store and this is where I sell the majority of my vinyl records. Don’t worry I’m not going to list my store here because selling my records is not the purpose of this website. I have not bought many records on eBay but as a seller I’ll tell you how to buy there and not get ripped off.
The reason I say you can’t get ripped off using eBay is because they have, (along with Amazon below), a buyer’s protection program second to none. If you receive an item from an eBay seller that is not as described all you have to do is file a “NAD” claim if the buyer is reluctant to work with you to fix the problem. If the item is not as described eBay will back the buyer 100% of the time.
You also get extra protection if you pay with PayPal as you can file for your money back up to 6 months after a purchase if the item is bad. PayPal has an excellent buyers protection too.
As a seller I have an ironclad guarantee. Simply stated, if your not happy with the record you buy I refund and you keep the record. Most decent sellers on EBay will work just like that too.
- Look at the seller’s feedback.
- Carefully look at the item description
- Is the record play graded or visually grade?
- Are any flaws mentioned in the “condition” box? (they should be)
- Are there plenty of photos?
Look at their feedback score
If have over a couple hundred transactions and 99-100% positive feedback they are probably good to go. You can see if they have any negatives and read what the problem was that other buyer’s may have had with them.
Look carefully at the record description. Is it detailed? Does it list any flaws that the record might have, such as light surface scuffs or scratches.
See if it is “play graded” or just “visually graded”. Play grading is always better than sight grading and it means the seller actually has a turntable and listens to records. I’m not saying those who sight grade don’t have a turntable as high volume sellers simply do not have the time to listen to each record they list for sale. I’m not high volume and cannot listen to them all but I do look for spots that may be an issue and play that portion to see how it sounds and if I hear some pops or clicks I will list that in my description.
Is The Record Really In Mint Condition?
If you ever see someone listing a record as in “mint” condition it had better be unopened and unplayed. A record that is used and played cannot be in “mint” condition. Many sellers will over grade, especially the ones who do not listen to vinyl but just buy records from garage sales, estate sales or off of craigslist for the specific reason to resell them at a profit. So, once again be sure to read the description. If the record is simply listed and there are no details you may want to just pass on it. A good seller will at least have a small description detailing the condition.
Jacket condition is another factor that the seller should grade and describe. Does it still have the original shrink wrap on? If so it’s probably pretty nice looking still and that fact can add a few dollars to the price of a record. If there are seam splits that should be mentioned and will detract from its value. Is there writing on the cover, such as the owners name? Are there old price stickers on the jacket? All those sort of things should be mentioned in the description.
Hopefully the seller has at least five or six images but keep in mind even a pretty worn vinyl record will look pretty nice and shiny in a photo. Scratches really don’t show up. But any flaws on the jacket should be shown in at least one of the photos.
Make Me An Offer
Many eBay sellers will have a “best offer” option in their record listings so if you really don’t think a record is worth what they are asking you can make them an offer. Don’t low ball them but asking for 10-20% off is reasonable and a lot of sellers will intentionally list their item a few dollars higher than what they want to allow some wiggle room to negotiate so do not be afraid to make an offer.
Keep in mind if they have free shipping offered they may not want to come down very much because when free shipping is offered it is really not free. The seller will know how much shipping costs and will add that cost into his item price. They do that to draw more attention to their item since buyer’s like to find items that say “free shipping”. Don’t overpay for shipping. Typically a record can be shipped media mail anywhere in the US for $3.12. Priority will cost more depending on your location but I’ve never had a problem with media mail.
One way to get records pretty cheap on eBay is to look at the auctions. Filter your search to ” ending soonest”. A lot of these auctions have a starting price of .99 cents and no one bids on them so you can pick them up for 99 cents a record. Just be sure to check their shipping as some will try to make up a dollar or two in extra shipping so keep in mind the shipping prices I talked about earlier.
Amazon-You Can’t Beat Amazon
I’ve sold some records on Amazon and buying vinyl records online from Amazon is pretty much rip off proof as well. Buying anything on Amazon is pretty much rip off proof. They have their A-Z guarantee so if you have any problems you can pretty much be assured you can file a claim and get a refund if there is something wrong with the record. Keep in mind that unless you are buying new vinyl records when you buy records from Amazon you are usually buying from sellers like me.
There are two ways to sell on Amazon, “Fulfilled by Amazon” or “Merchant fulfilled. Some sellers will box up their records and send them to Amazon and when you buy one of their records then Amazon pulls it from their shelf and sends it to you. Merchant fulfilled would be when I list the record on Amazon and keep it at my house. Then when someone purchases my record Amazon will email me your name and address and I will pack the record and ship it to you. I always sell my records on Amazon merchant fulfilled as I then have control over how I pack the record to ship. I trust my packing of a breakable item more than I trust Amazon.
There is not much more to say about Amazon. I’m sure most of you have bought there before and you know you can pretty much buy with confidence. Again though, when buying a used record look at the description as the record should be accurately described.
With both Amazon and eBay if you have any questions about the item you can message the seller with your question. Most sellers will respond within 24 hours or faster. With cell phones we can usually respond within minutes,
Discogs-This Is More Than A Buying Source
Discogs is a completely different type of record source for buyer’s and sellers of vinyl. I could make a whole page or two post about discogs. If you are a collector if nothing else you want to look at discogs simply for the information that site provides. If you do a search on Discogs on Led Zeppelin you will see there are around 350 different pressings on that particular record. Some are more valuable than others and some are more rare than others. I will go into more of that sort of discussion in another post about how to spot rare or valuable pressing of certain records. If you are already a collector then you will almost certainly know of discogs already.
I will explain discogs in detail in another post but in a nutshell anyone can list a record for sale there and buyer’s looking for a particular record will search the site for what they are looking for. It is a bit more involved listing one for sale there as opposed to EBay or Amazon but then again you do not need to have an account set up like ebay or Amazon. Well actually you do need an account but setting one up is a lot easier than EBay or Amazon set up.
Discogs in itself does not have a return policy like EBay and Amazon but they do have a feedback system so you can check a sellers feedback to see if you want to take a chance. The only thing is there are a lot of new sellers that do not have any feedback so if you had a dispute you would have to rely on the seller to do you right. But with that said in all the forum discussions I have read about Discogs most of what I have read is very favorable.
Some buyer’s swear by Discogs and say they prefer buying there rather than EBay. Being completely honest here among many record collectors EBay is the place they avoid and in a way I see there point. EBay used to have a lot of bad sellers and to their credit they are getting some of them weeded out, but any selling platform, even Amazon will have their share of bad sellers.
Well enough of Discogs for now, I will go into great detail about them in a later post.
Soundstage Direct-Source For New Vinyl
Soundstage Direct is a place I admit I have no experience with as I have never bought from them. You won’t find cheap used records there. They deal in new vinyl. You can get old records there but they have not been opened. And they sell a lot of new releases.
Since vinyl is making a bit of a comeback the last few years more and more artists are starting to release on vinyl again but you will be hard-pressed to find records under $20 there and most are a lot more than that. But if you are looking for new unplayed, vinyl Soundstage Direct may be your source to go to. If anyone has experience with them I’d love to hear what you think.
So Where Do I Go To Buy?
So where do I go for buying vinyl records online you ask? that’s the million dollar question. I have thrown out a few places that are the most common so my suggestion is take a good look at them all.
When you look for a record on Discogs you will see how many of them are currently for sale along with the highest sale price paid and the lowest price paid along with the average price, which is a nice feature. Looking on eBay, instead of looking at active listings, filter your search on “sold” and you will get all the prices the record has actually sold for in the last 90 days and not the “asking” price. So either of those searches will give you a good idea of the relative value of the record you are looking for.
Leave me a comment or question below and I’ll get back to you pretty quick.