When you’re starting a collection, you’ve got a lot of options on your table. You could collect rocks, magnets, or hundreds of other items, including vinyl records. As vinyl records soar in popularity, you may wonder whether it’s worth it to start collecting them.
Vinyl records are worth collecting for any music lover, although they aren’t likely to give you great resale value. People collect vinyl records because of the unique experience of searching for and listening to them.
In this article, we’ll discuss why vinyl record sales declined and when and why they came back. By the end of this article, you might just want to become a record collector.
Things to Consider
1. How Much Do You Have To Spend Upfront?
Cost is a major factor in whether or not you should begin collecting vinyl records. Typically, building up a sizable collection is going to cost you pretty heavily.
Records have almost always been on the pricier side, apart from their brief stint where inflation dropped their price, and this has caused them to be a bit of a rarity for many people. This is primarily because of supply and demand and the cost of producing them.
You can expect to spend between $35 and $40 for most records in 2022. This can add up quickly, so you’ll want to think through how much you have to spend on the records.
2. How Much Use Will You Get Out of the Records?
Some collections are meant to only be on display, but if you invest in a record collection, you’ll probably want to use them.
There may be better options than starting a record collection for someone who rarely has spare time to sit and enjoy them. After all, one of the biggest benefits of having records is that it allows us to escape the constant busyness of life and remain present for an hour or two.
3. What Are You Planning To Do With the Records Eventually?
When starting any collection, you should think about its future. This is especially true when collecting something that holds high value, such as records. With this in mind, know what you plan to do with your records.
For example, you may be planning to pass your records down to the next generation in your family, creating a family treasure that can be moved through the years. You may also plan to resell your collection at higher prices than you originally paid. This is a great idea if you collect niche records.
Or maybe you don’t plan to ever sell your collection and simply want to enjoy your analog music.
Just keep in mind that if your main priority is leaving something of monetary value for future generations, you’ll be better off investing in something else.
The Rise in Popularity
Vinyl records first became widespread in the 1950s, and they remained ubiquitous until the 1980s. Compact disks slowly phased vinyl away, until the industry disappeared by 1995.
While CDs were very popular, they began to present major issues with time. One of the biggest problems the companies faced was that CDs could easily be duplicated. Anyone with a computer, also becoming quite popular during this time, could reproduce a CD and market it to others.
A lot took place since that time. CDs were phased out, and music became almost exclusively digital.
While digital music had yet to leave the scene, something new began happening. People began to miss music that they could hold in their hands. Record companies began sending out a test. Would people begin purchasing records again if they were high quality?
To their pleasant surprise, record players and records are now at the top of everyone’s “must-buy” list.
The more popular records have become, the more people are beginning to collect them.
In general, people prefer to collect things that will increase in value, and there’s no argument that records are drastically increasing in value. Let’s talk about why this is happening.
- Records can’t be taken from consumers. This isn’t the case with digital music. While digital music is cheaper and quicker to obtain, there’s always the risk that the music can be taken without notice, no matter how much money has been spent on a subscription service. With records, however, you are the sole owner. Regardless of what happens in the digital world, you’ll still be able to maintain the collection.
- Records last a long time. While quality records have a hefty price tag attached upfront, their quality far outweighs other media forms. Even many years later, a high-quality record will continue to play with the same sound quality it originally had.
- Records are in high demand. As a result, they also have a very high resale value. Everyone wants to collect things that are in high demand.
- Records have better sound quality. Lovers of music everywhere want to be able to collect something music-related. For example, you may see these people collecting instruments or books on music. More often, however, you see them collecting music in one form or another. Records are some of the most popular because they are uniquely tactile and visually appealing.
- Records provide an opportunity to be fully engaged with music. We can all openly admit that digital music is sometimes hard to remain present in. All too often, it’s nothing more than background noise to our ever-moving lives. Records offer something different, forcing us to be conscious of our movements in setting up the record and listening through without skipping from song to song.
Rummaging through endless rows of records in a record shop is an entertaining and exciting activity for many music lovers. There’s nothing like getting lucky and finding a rare record where you less expect it.
If that doesn’t sound all that exciting to you, you might be better off collecting something else—and more lucrative.
To learn more about why you should collect vinyl records, check out my article discussing the topic in depth: What’s the Point of Collecting Vinyls?
Potential for Investment
If you want to start a vinyl record collection solely as an investment, you’ll be better off collecting something else.
The truth is that most vinyl records end up being sold on eBay for less than $40, usually around $15.
Records from recent years by popular artists are produced in massive numbers, which means they won’t be as valuable in the future. Don’t expect that Taylor Swift record to be worth selling anytime soon.
You could try predicting which small band will be the next big thing in the future, but of course, that’s hardly a reliable science.
You might find the occasional hidden gem in a pile of old records, but it’s difficult to determine the price of any given record. Even if you find something valuable, don’t expect it to be worth much more than a couple hundred dollars.
Overall, vinyl records are not a good investment if resale value is your first priority.
Storage and Maintenance
Although collecting vinyl records can be very enjoyable, it can have its challenges. One of them is keeping them free from defects and display-worthy.
Records that aren’t kept in top shape aren’t likely to retain their value. Their sound quality will also degrade, which is a problem even if you don’t plan to sell them anytime soon.
Maintaining your vinyl records involves:
- Cleaning them regularly
- Investing in outer sleeves to protect the jacket
- Storing them as soon as you’re done listening to them
- Keeping them upright
- Storing them in a cool place away from the sun
Determining the Value
Whether you’re trying to appraise your collection or deciding if you should get that rare find, you should know about what makes a record valuable.
- The condition of the record. A warped record will decrease its sound quality, thus lowering its value. The same goes for scratches, which is why you should be careful when listening to your records. Needless to say, if a record is cracked, it will be a tough sale unless it’s extremely rare.
- The condition of the jacket. The closer a record is to being brand new, including its inserts and jacked, the more valuable it will be. Discolored or damaged artwork can decrease the value of a record.
- Its availability. Records that were produced in small quantities are more scarce and thus more valuable for collectors. For example, the first pressing of God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols.
- Rare mixes. Some records were briefly released in their original mix before being replaced with a different mix in a second pressing.
- Age. Most records from before the 70s were produced in smaller quantities, and many have been lost over time, so they are usually worth more.
- Autographs. Needless to say, a pressing of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, autographed by one of The Beatles, could make you a fortune.
Vinyl records have gone up and down throughout the years, first soaring in popularity in the 1950s. In the 1990s, they rapidly declined, but they made a huge comeback in the 2000s. Since then, there’s been a steady rise.
Vinyl records don’t appear to be going anywhere in the near future and can make an excellent collectible item.
You’ll want to consider three main things when deciding whether to collect vinyl records.
- The cost of the records.
- How much use you’ll get out of them.
- What are your future plans for the records are.