So, you’ve come across some dusty old boxes of vinyl albums that were tucked away in the corner of the attic or basement. The first inclination might be to shout, “Eureka, I’ve hit collectible gold!”
Once the fanny pack of recorded music, outmoded at times by the rise of CDs, cassettes and digital music, vinyl records have reclaimed their must-have status over the past decade. Audiophiles, collectors and music fans who are looking for a more tactile experience than click-and-choose downloading have since cherry-picked the bins of used record stores to find vinyl albums that might’ve once been deemed throwaways.
According to research from Deloitte Global, vinyl records – combined with turntables and other accessories – are predicted to approach $1 billion in sales around the world, and likely reap its seventh consecutive year of double-digit growth.
The hunt for rare records and relics of youth has intensified. At the recent KDVS Record Swap in Davis, record collectors from around Northern California rummaged through bins and boxes of records, at times jostling in the aisles while scouring for picks.
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One collector had a cell phone pressed to her ear, asking her son on the other end if an original pressing of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” was a deal for $30. (It didn’t have the original lyric sheet, so they took a pass).
But just because music is recorded on a 12-inch or 7-inch platter, that doesn’t automatically translate to vinyl treasure. The condition of a record will always be a crucial determining factor of its value, whether the vinyl is marked with scratches, or pristine like new and accompanied with any of its original posters, lyric inserts and other swag.
Some genres are simply more collectible than others. Like pop music itself, what’s hot one moment might be destined for the budget bin as collective tastes morph and change at the speed of 33 or 45 rpm.
To find out what’s considered a score in the used vinyl market, The Sacramento Bee turned to a guy who knows vinyl. Rick Daprato is co-owner of Delta Breeze Records in West Sacramento and the former owner of Esoteric Records in Sacramento. Have any of these sitting around? Take a look:
1980s rock and heavy metal: Sitting on some original vinyl pressings by Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Slayer and other bands that were rocking the Reagan Years? If so, there’s likely a record collector who’d like to meet up with you. 1980s rock records are one of the most desired genres in the used vinyl market, and tend to go quick when they emerge at record shops. Albums from this era were released as CDs were becoming the choice music format for consumers, meaning that fewer vinyl versions were being pressed. Combined with the legacy nature of many artists, and that enduring appeal of heavy metal and hard rock, these kinds of albums have become a must for many collections.
“Metal is really hot right now,” Daprato said. “That was the CD era, so there weren’t many copies of the vinyl. They’ve reissued a lot of stuff, but we’ve sold Metallica albums for up to $50 for the originals.”
Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd: Each of these artists sold millions of albums in the 1970s, and their records are still deemed hot by collectors. The multigenerational appeal by both these bands leads to plenty of competition to find used versions in stores, especially vintage pressings with their original inserts, such as the poster that came with “Dark Side of the Moon” and a postcard inserted inside the sleeve of “Wish You Were Here.” Even more bonus points if you own or found a copy of Led Zeppelin “II” with the original mix by Robert Ludwig. That mix was deemed inferior and a repress was ordered after the record tended to skip on some turntables, leaving about 200,000 copies of that version in circulation.
How do you tell if you have a Robert Ludwig mix?
“The fade out (etching on the vinyl) says ‘RL,’” Daprato said. “I looked online for one of those and it was $1,000.”
Tracks that were sampled on rap songs: Think of these as the source materials, or the original songs that were sampled and reconfigured for hip-hop hits. This could be a vinyl pressing of “Rise” by Herb Alpert, a snippet of which that was sampled in “Hypnotize” by the Notorious B.I.G., or Joe Cocker’s “Woman to Woman,” which was sampled in the Tupac Shakur anthem “California Love.” Rap producer types and DJs are always on the lookout for these kinds of finds.
“Anything that has samples makes it collectible,” Daprato said. “Al Hirt, you might see his albums a million times, but there might be that one album (with a sample) and when we get it, we’ll sell it for $30 or $40.”
Punk rock: The combination is one that’s inherently collectible. In most cases you’re looking at limited releases on small labels, many of which may long be out of business. For aging punks, reconnecting with the vinyl of their mowhawked youth can be an especially strong pull. Whether it’s a classic punk album from a major label, such as The Clash’s “London Calling,” or an original copy of Dead Kennedys’ “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables,” these kinds of albums are bound to find a home quickly when they hit used record stores.
“We just bought a punk collection and we sold a lot of it for decent money,” Daprato said. “A lot of that early stuff is just hard to get.”
Jazz: Ah, to wind down after a long day with a glass of Cabernet and Miles Davis’ “Someday My Prince Will Come” on the turntable ... Plenty of jazz vinyl is available via reissue, but for most, a true score is a copy of a classic album in its original pressings. Releases from such vaunted labels as Blue Note, Prestige Records, Columbia and others are like the vinyl equivalent of a vintage bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, especially if they’ve remained in pristine condition over the years.
“People don’t want the reissues too much,” Daprato said. “They want the original. It’s a matter of authenticity, and some insist that it sounds better.”