In the last decade, record collecting has made a major comeback! As music fans and collectors, we absolutely couldn’t be happier about that – we love that warm sound vinyl brings to music and nothing beats a 12” in terms of collectible music. That renewed interest has driven up prices on vintage releases, but not all records are created equal. What are some factors that affect the value of vintage vinyl? Let’s find out!
Popularity Lowers Value
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: popular records aren’t generally worth as much. Or at least records that were popular in their time. For example, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is one of the most iconic and influential albums ever made. It is still a popular fixture in record collections. This is, in part, because it sold over three million copies in its original release. You can easily find vintage copies in good shape for $10-20.
That’s not worthless, but it’s not the payday that many original owners are hoping for. This applies to most legendary albums of the vinyl era. While droves of collectors want a copy, there are still enough copies to satisfy demand. Big band music suffers a similar problem, but without the modern popularity. Millions of people in the 1930s bought Glenn Miller records. There are not millions of people looking for them now, meaning the supply far outweighs the demand and that’s reflected in their monetary value.
Rare Releases of Popular Acts Are Best
Elvis Presley is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, sharing the top three with The Beatles and Michael Jackson. It will be a very long time before anyone dethrones him from that lofty perch. This firmly puts him in the “too ubiquitous to be valuable” category…with five very notable exceptions.
See, Elvis got his start on Sun Records. He was only on that label for two years before his contract was sold to RCA Victor in 1955. His first album was released shortly thereafter, and the rest is history. Sun Records put out five singles by Elvis, a total of ten songs. Since these were put out by a small label for a then-unknown artist, they are very rare. Since that artist went on to become the King of Rock ‘N Roll, those singles easily fetch four figure sums at auction.
Gimmicks Help Value
The zipper fly on the cover of The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. The peel-off banana on the cover of The Velvet Underground & Nico. The paper panties covering Alice Cooper’s School’s Out. There are quite a few classic records with some “gimmick” meant to delight fans and shock their parents. And the thing about those gimmicks is that the original owner wanted to use them! They wanted to open the fly or peel the banana the same way a kid wants to play with the prize inside their cereal.
That means that no matter how well those records sold, copies with the original gimmicks untouched can be valuable. An unpeeled copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico, for example, can sell for hundreds of dollars. One near inconsequential decision made over half a century ago pays dividends today. You love to see it.
Checking The Record
There are other ways to find value in popular records or artists. Foreign pressings, special edition releases, and other distinguishing features can help overcome market saturation. The problem becomes identifying those differences. Sometimes, they’re plainly obvious – the liner notes on “Who’s Next” aren’t usually in German, for example. But other differences are more subtle and easy to miss, requiring expert eyes to spot.
And Back to the Past has those expert eyes! Let them work for you when it comes time to sell your collection. You can also hit us up with questions on this or any other collectibles topic below or on socials @b2pcollect.
I have about 3 or 4 hundred records a mix of 45’s and 33’s they are mostly old country can you tell me where I can sell them don’t want them to just be thrown away after I pass.
Carol, I will pass your message and email address along to my evaluation team so they can reach out to you. Watch that inbox!
I have alot of old vinyl albums some country and other ones