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Putting A Value On Vinyl Records - Part Two

Apr 13, 2008
In part one we discussed the most important element of vinyl record appraising, the condition of the record and LP jacket or sleeve and the methods used in grading a vinyl record. In this section we will explore other elements that factor into the value of a record.

Scarcity

Many, many millions of vinyl records are in circulation, with almost every household in the US, either having some vinyl records at one time or another. We even had a vinyl record 'boon' from around 1955-1980. But, how many of those records are still around and more importantly, what condition are they in?

For instance, rhythm and blues records from the 1950's suffered from poor promotion and publicity, therefore there were fewer of these that were pressed. The record companies that produced these particular records were small and lacked the resources that the larger record companies enjoyed, some may have been limited to only one or two thousand being pressed, On the other hand, the Beatles records were massed produced and they benefited from much larger pressings and are a fairly common record (depending on the label) and some are not worth as much as one might think. This brings us to another element-demand.

Demand

Like any other commodity, vinyl records are subject to the old supply and demand adage that is prevalent in any free market society. Record values were affected by the Internet age, especially with the many online auction sites. Records that were thought to be rare and valuable suddenly came out of the closets and basements and were put up for sale and brought some prices down.

But, that has evened out at this time and the record guides and prices reflect that. If there is a demand for a certain genre or artist, chances are the price will go up, more people want these type of record and there is more competition for them. For instance, the music genre called Northern Soul (commonly known as Motown) enjoyed resurgence in sales in the past few years, driving up the prices. Conversely, there is not a lot of demand for classical music (in fact, there aren't even any price guides for this genre of music); therefore you cannot expect to get much for the records.

History

This element of putting a value on a vinyl record goes hand in hand with the relative scarcity of the record. Many special musical genres in recorded music often command a higher price because of their place in music history. For instance, the early roots of country music from the early 1930s and 1940's, early jazz recordings, the rock and roll 'infancy' recordings (including rockabilly, rhythm and blues, the 'girl' groups of the 60's, ) are often highly sought after and therefore of more value. Some early Motown, psychedelic music, surf music, garage band rock and doo wop often command a higher price because these are records that have a prominent historical value in recorded sound.

Artist or Group

Obviously there are some musical icons that sell better than others and are in command. Early Elvis records, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix just to name a few all command top dollar because there is always a demand for these records. But that is not to say that some obscure bands or artists are precluded from being valuable, on the contrary, there may be an artist that you have never heard of and the record may be selling for thousands of dollars.

LP Jacket, Inserts, Picture Sleeves

When issued, some records came with an added incentive and that is also collected and can add value to a record. LP's came with fantastic artwork, inner sleeves with liner notes, lyrics, posters, cut out and all these elements are included when establishing a resale price. Again, the condition of these 'extras' must be taken into account when ascertaining the value of the record. 45rpm records came with picture sleeves and some of them are even more valuable than the record that they may hold.

The Year of Release

First pressings may be of more value than a reissue of the same record ten years later. For instance, a Beatles record that was released in 1965 is of more value to a collector than a reissue that was released in 1980.

The Record Label

Some record labels are also more collectible than others. Old R & B or jazz on the record label Bluenote is generally worth more than if the same music and artist are released on another label. Another example is Beatles' records released on the Capitol record label as opposed to the Vee Jay label. For instance, if you were to the record "I Want To Hold Your Hand" on the Capitol label, it will generally be worth more than the same record on the Apple label (which was formed after the record was issued). Certainly there are exceptions, but there are a lot of record labels that suffered from poor distribution and, quite frankly, there are not that many to be had.

Stereo vs. Mono

As a general statement, all 45's manufactured by all record labels after 1970 were pressed in stereo. But there were labels that issued records between 1957-1970 that were issued in both formats, and you would have to check the catalog number of the record to find out which one you may have. Some mono versions may be worth more than there stereo counterparts, while some records in stereo may be worth more than mono; it all depends on the artist and label.

As we review this two part article, we see that there are many elements that can factor into ascertaining what a record may be worth. We have covered the basics, there are more like picture discs, colored vinyl, promotional releases, misprints, why even the color of the record label may affect the price; but this is a good starting point. One element we should highlight is what you get for a record can also be determined to who you are selling the record to, a dealer will probably give you only a portion of what the record may be worth, or you may be able to find a rare and valuable record at a garage sale for pennies on the dollar. And that is the fun part for record collectors!
About the Author
Robert Benson writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates http://www.collectingvinylrecords.com, where you can pick up a copy of his ebook called "The Fascinating Hobby Of Vinyl Record Collecting." Have your records appraised at http://www.vinylrecordappraisals.com
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