“How much are my records worth?” In the last 24 hours that same question was entered into Google’s search bar 41,301 times so there are quite a number of people interested in what their records are worth.
There are probably about that number of answers too. Well I am joking a little but there are quite a few things to consider and the most common answer is probably “It depends.” Depends on what you might ask. Well read on and I’ll touch on a few (in no particular order) of the answers and also try to keep this post from becoming a book. In fact, I think someone would need to write a book in order to cover all the various factors that determine a records value.
Condition, Condition, Condition
Much like the success of a business depends on location, location, location, condition, condition, condition is a huge factor that determines the value of a record. I don’t care what the record is, if it is in lousy condition the value of the record will plummet like a lead balloon. Even if it is one of only ten records made the value will be greatly diminished.
Of course you always want to keep your records clean. Click HERE for my tips on how to deep clean your dirty records so they maintain their value and sound quality.
Now a rare and highly sought out record will still be worth much more than a normal everyday common record but, it will sell for far less money in lousy condition than if it were in mint condition. Collectors seek out records in the best condition possible and finding old records in great condition is difficult so a mint copy of a particular record might sell for 40 or 50 times more than a worn out copy.
So, if your copy is pretty worn and beat up you might get “scrap” value from a crafter looking to re purpose old vinyl into decorations. To put it rather bluntly this means if you are someone who just found a box of old records in the basement that used to be your dad’s you will more than likely discover that they are just common records in rather poor condition. They are likely not worth much money at all. But, you never know until you take a good look at them.
The age of a record is also a factor as is the artist. One must keep in mind that “older” is not necessarily more valuable and although the artist or band may be famous there are other factors involved in determining value. It goes back to supply and demand. Many people think most “classic” music from the 60s and 70s is valuable and that is not the case.
The 1960s through 1980s was the heyday of vinyl record production so there was an abundance of records pressed during that time period resulting in them being rather easy to find. Granted when you get that far back it is rather difficult to find those records in “Very Good” to Mint” condition so that is where “Condition” comes into play.
You may find that a particular artist first songs to be of some value. Often when a new artist first begins recording the record company had no idea if the artist wold actually sell so limited copies were pressed. This is the case with Elvis by first 4 or 5 records released by Sun records. Not many were released so his recordings on Sun will fetch a nice price, even in condition less than mint.
The Sun Record Label is Worth noting as this label is quite collectible currently. Sun was started by Sam Phillips in 1952 and was the first record company to record Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
In 1955 when Sun Records was experiencing financial difficulties they sold Presley’s contract to RCA Victor for $35,000. I know of some record collectors who seek out any of Sun’s recordings to add to their collection and several months ago I did sell a Sun copy of a Johnny Cash song in not too good of condition recently.
Who is the artist? This is a huge factor. Thousands and thousands of artists have released records and most of them have very little widespread interest to most buyers. Although there is a small exception.
Some buyers seek out obscure artist or the “One hit Wonders”. I have sold a few demos or promos of a few obscure artists to family members or old friends of the artist who happen to run across my listings on eBay but, that is not the norm. But, it’s just a fact that some artists are more popular than others hence they are more sought after and command a higher price.
The more collectible artists are the ones in the rock, blues, jazz, soul and some classical categories. These seem to be more collectible rather than easy listening, country, comedy or spoken word.Although I have discovered that some old gospel records in good condition will sell for a modest price.
Some artist or bands remain popular well after their last recordings and then there are some who were very popular when they were recording but afterwards their interest wains after they stop recording.
I also notice a sudden increase in interest in the days and weeks following the death of some artists as their fans seem to want to grab a memento when they hear of the passing of an old favorite. As an example I remember a few years ago when Joe Cocker died I did an Ebay search of his “sold’ records. The day before his death there was a total of 5 Joe Cocker records sold. The following day there were over 500 of his records sold. I also noticed after someone dies many sellers will raise the price of their offerings to “cash in” on the sentimental purchases of a deceased artist. Supply and demand I suppose. But to sum up the obvious, famous artist’s records tend to be more valuable!
Another factor that can influence the value of a record is if the record is a PROMOTIONAL or DEMO copy as opposed to the regular release. Some of these are called “white label promo” because they have white labels.
These were advanced copies designed to reach the radio station in advance of the regular consumer copy as a way to promote an artist’s upcoming release. In the days when local radio stations actually had a real DJ playing the records the record companies hired guys to drive to various areas dropping off promo copies of the records they were promoting.
I have made bulk purchases of old radio station stock and in quite a few record sleeves along with the record was a promotional hand written note from the promoter left for the DJ to hype the song when they would play them. I even have a copy of a hand written promo note from Johnny Cash when he helped promote a new artist’s version of his song “I Walk The Line”.
A promo release was usually a very limited number of records so they are not as common as the regular stock release, thus adding some value to the record.
What Pressing is the record? After an initial release some albums are re-issued again and again depending on the demand. Like a 1st edition of an old book is worth more than a 2nd or 3rd edition, the same holds true for records. First pressings are worth more than any subsequent pressing (usually).
How do you determine if a record is a first issue? That is not easy to answer as it can take years to learn all the matrix markings of the record industry and how the record matrix is coded. Each record company has their own distinct method of marking their releases. I do have another blog post HERE (opens in a new window) that explains the matrix etchings in rather great detail, especially if you watch the video I have embedded.
An example of how difficult determining pressings and issues can be, if you look up Led Zeppelin’s “Houses Of The Holy” you will see that there are over 500 different releases of that one album! If you really want to know what pressing you have and do not know how to go about it, there are a few online companies that will do the research for you. There are some audio forums where different pressings are discussed. Steve Hoffman forums is one of the better music discussion forums I have seen.
Country Of Origin
Another factor would be the country in which the record was pressed. Some releases from other countries have something other pressings do not have. Perhaps different cover artwork or a song or two is different from other releases. A Beatles record released in the UK is more valuable that one released in the US for example. It slips my mind which album it was but the Stones had a concert tour album release in one particular country to support that particular tour that has a unique track listing and cover, hence it is very desirable to overseas collectors.
Discogs is an online cataloging and record marketplace that is an invaluable resource for helping to identity pressings and value of your records. Give the a visit HERE.
How much are my records worth? It depends. I know this is not a complete answer but I have explained just a few of the factors that factor how much money a record can be worth. If I can be of help on a more personal level or you have any comments or questions please leave them in the comment section below.
And of course there’s the old saying that they are worth whatever someone is willing to pay. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below.