How to sell Grandpa's records at the best possible price
by Ronny Forslund
I regularly get several mails along the line of 'just found a box of old albums in the attic… what are they worth and where can I sell them…' and 'can you help value my records…' Obviously I don't have the time to do this for free to everybody who asks, but hopefully this article will give you some guidelines.
You can actually make good money from Grandpa's old records if you put some work into it and the records are in good shape and have some collecting value. But you have to realize that you won't get paid top dollars unless you are prepared to give the matter some time. You can dispose of the lot in no time by going to your local used vinyl dealer - and probably get paid a fraction of what the records are really worth. Vinyl dealers are no different from second hand car dealers in this respect….
Naturally you will be in a better position to negociate about the price if you have some idea about the value of the records. You can get some guidelines from various price guides but all price guides really have a limited value. It is always a question of supply and demand, and unless you have a customer ready to pay the listed price it doesn't matter what the price guides says. They can, however, save you from selling a top rarity for a few cents. Another way is to visit a number of second hand record shops selling the same category of material that you have and checking their prices out. This is no guarantee as to the real value of the records, either - it's one thing putting a price tag on a record but a totally different matter to get it sold. You may notice that over a long time some records will be gathering dust in the shelves while the price is reduced again and again. Once again: it's the law of supply and demand.
A better bet would be advertising your stuff (after you have sorted the records and cleaned them, if necessary). Please take note that the value of a record is drastically reduced by poor quality. If the picture sleeves or jackets are missing or are in bad shape.. if the records are scratchy.. then they will be almost totally worthless even if they are original 50's Elvis releases. Also, please keep in mind that many 50's and 60's records have been reissued several times over the years and so the Elvis or Beatles albums you have may only be worth about the same as your 70's Fleetwood Mac albums - a few dollars each, if they are reissues. Identifying a first pressing is a science in itself and takes a lot of learning and experience. But, of course, if you know for sure what year the records were bought it's another matter.
So, where do you advertise in order to get the best money for your records? I wouldn't recommend your local newspaper, as their classified sections will be browsed mainly by people looking for bargains. You will find a number of 'wanted' ads for vinyl records and they will be placed by professional or semi-professional dealers looking for new stock. So.. don't expect to get much for your records here. Specialist magazines, like Goldmine, Record Collector etc will give you access to a much wider audience, which is also a very targeted one, as these magazines are read by record collectors. On the other hand, if you want to list all the records you have in an ad in one of these magazines, the advertising costs will be high.
One interesting option is advertising in a 'free ads' paper (these are available in many countries and you can also advertise abroad). Here you will find special listings for records and a multitude of collectors browsing the record ads each week. The ad will cost you nothing and you can put higher prices on your items. Whichever way you choose to advertise, be sure that you talk to a number of prospective customers before you let the records go. If you're not desperate for the money there is no need to rush anything.
Another very popular form of selling collectors items is selling them through an auction site, like GEMM or eBay. This can give you good prices if you have some interesting material - actually it only takes two interested bidders to make the bids skyrocket. This can also be done through Usenet discussion forums, for example rec.music.marketplace.vinyl. Usenet groups can be found at http://groups.google.com/googlegroups/deja_announcement.html
I read somewhere on the Web an article where the author wrote something like 'just because you want to sell your used 70's Fleetwood Mac albums don't expect there will be any interest in them from buyers'. Well, I think he was wrong. There is definitely an interest in any types of records but the trick is to locate the buyers for the type of material you happen to have. Or, using marketing lingo, targeting your customers. How do you to that most efficiently?
Free ads papers and record collecting magazines are good places to target specific niches of customers. Specialist magazines issued by fan clubs of certain artists can be very valuable places to advertise your material. If you have the time you can get a website built and list your stuff for sale there. The web is a great place for selling used records, but with zillions of other vinyl sites out there it takes some knowledge and strategy to be successful. We will look about some practical advice how to sell vinyl records on the Web in coming articles. Sufficient to say, though… the customers won't come rushing just because you put your list of records on the Web. It's like opening a second hand record store out in the wilderness, where nobody knows of its existence. To succeed in selling anything on the Web takes a lot of patience, hard work - and, most importantly: marketing skills. But a web-based vinyl business can be very successful… and there are 1000's of dealers all over the world doing it full-time, for a living.
You can sell the collection piece by piece or as a whole lot. In the latter case, you will probably only get a fraction of the price compared with selling it one by one. Whichever way you choose, you should start by listing your records, their quality, any defects etc. This list can then be copied and sent to collectors or dealers responding to your ads. You may have some rare stuff in the collection and you can either sell these separately or use them as baits to make the collection more attractive. If you know for a fact that you do have some rarities in your hands, this will give you a good bargaining position. If selling to a dealer you will have to accept that he's making a profit from it, as well… but if you can squeeze a couple of hundred dollars out of a collection you have got for free, that's not too bad. Never mind if the dealer can sell the records for several times what he paid for it. After all, a business must make profit to survive and it takes time building a network of clients willing to pay collector's prices for the items you have.
An alternative could be to ask a dealer to sell the records on your behalf and then split the profits with you. This can be very lucrative if the dealers has good contacts and knowledge about the value of your records. Again, shop around a bit before you decide what to do.
If you are interested in music and would like a part-time income, the records Grandpa left you may well form the foundation for a new business: your very own second hand vinyl business. Should this be the case, check out my site again, as several articles of How To Establish Your Own Record Business will be published. Good luck!
© Ronny Forslund 2001
All Rights Reserved
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