A few months ago, a neighbor died and his adult kids were having an estate sale. I got wind that a slew of his old records were being sold, so I dropped everything and hustled down the sidewalk straight to his collection. It was clear he was a fan of the classics — literally, every other thing was a classical piece I didn’t recognize. But in between the Chopins and the Tchaikovsky's were first pressings from the ‘60s of John Denver, Johnny Mathis, and the Chipmunk's Christmas for some reason. I walked away with Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and a Nat King Cole album, both in great condition.
The total cost was $2.
But quickly, I went morbid. I started thinking about my own death, and my growing vinyl collection. I only recently started buying vinyl, but it’s become addictive — and expensive. Most of my purchases aren't from estate sales or thrift stores, and new albums cost anywhere from $15 to $40 a pop. I’m embarrassed to say, hundreds of dollars have left my bank account every month since the new year to build my collection, and I was now having a tinge of buyer’s remorse.
I wondered: Will my kids be selling off my prized vinyl collection for $1 apiece one day in the future? Is my $40 semi-limited edition Father John Misty double LP going to someday cost the equivalent of a pack of gum or whatever future kids chew?
“It’s going to depend on whether Father John Misty has any fans 15 years from now,” says Carl Mello, the director of entertainment product merchandising at Newbury Comic in Boston. This store issues numerous exclusive releases each month, with limited pressings of older albums that feature special colored LPs and different artwork. I’d recently dropped $30 there on a copy of Paul Simon’s Graceland, limited to just 2,000, which I felt was a solid purchase that wouldn’t depreciate overnight. But now I'm not so sure.
“There’s lots of things that were collectible type releases from artists who were the bell of the ball 20 years ago, that aren’t worth anything now,” he said. “It’s a fluctuating market — and that’s what makes it interesting.”
That made sense but didn’t make me feel good about the wads of cash I’d dropped recently. He offered another example to drive the point home.
“R.E.M. used to be very big and collectible, and now you can’t give their records away to a 20-year-old,” Mello added.
That stung. I had recently bought the 25th-anniversary vinyl reissue of R.E.M.'s landmark Out of Time, and it looks like my ROI is less than nothing.
Confused, I approached another expert — Ben Blackwell, who co-founded Third Man Records with Jack White — with my concerns about the future monetary value of vinyl.
“To me, that seems dumb as s***,” he said bluntly. “You should think of resale value for a car or a house. But a record? If you’re getting into anything for any sort of monetary reasons, you should just be buying f***ing stocks.”
That made sense. Except it wasn’t what I was told way back when.
Growing up, I distinctly remember thinking that the pop culture items I bought could one day be worth a fortune. My father passed along this mentality, gifting me his baseball cards from the ‘50s: Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays. They weren’t in perfect condition, but they were heirlooms that, at the time, were worth several hundreds of dollars. (Nowadays, they could easily fetch several thousand bucks.) My childhood friends were jealous. I always had this cardboard nest egg if things got really tough.
It seems like everything is now collectible to someone. Original iPods — ones with click wheels that can’t stream any music — go for hundreds of dollars on eBay. A Japanese version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, on the long-defunct, Betamax tape, lists for $99. A Space Jam beach towel goes for $35.
No one really needs records today: You can access any album on your phone at any point in time, anywhere. But nobody needs any of the collectibles above either. So where does the leave me and my vinyl collection?
Clearly, I'm not the only person fascinated with vinyl. According to Forbes, vinyl sales are projected to reach $1 billion this year, with 40 million new pieces being sold. Collectors flock to subscription services like Vinyl Me, Please, which is like a Columbia House for vinyl nerds — except it isn’t cheap. For $75 every three months, you get an exclusive album delivered to your door monthly, plus some artwork and a cocktail recipe that’s supposed to match up with the album.
My own personal weakest (or proudest) moment as a newish collector came towards the end of January when I impulsively ordered an extremely limited-edition Ryan Adams box set for $179. The package featured 7-inch singles of every song on his new album, plus new, unheard B-sides. It also came with a box that became a concert stage and cardboard cutouts of him, his band, and his pet cat that you could position on the mock stage if you were feeling super bored or super lonely.
When it finally arrived, three months later, I contemplated not opening it. Could I maybe put my kids through college by keeping the box set in pristine condition and selling it for a mountain of cash down the road?
I still didn’t really understand what makes some records valuable and others worthless, so I asked DJ Cassidy. He’s a professional DJ who’s performed for Barack Obama, Jay Z, and Usher, and his collection of 35,000 records is insured. Vinyl’s worth, he said, is rooted in its personality, not whether or it’s limited or the color blue.
“MP3s have no character. CDs have no character,” he said. “Cassettes have character in the sense that a wise listener might be able to guess. But it was never looked upon as a desirable character. Vinyl has worldwide, agreed-upon praise on its character and its texture and its sound. People love that sound.”
Sound. That was comforting to hear.
With those words, I let go of the idea that I should keep my records sealed in plastic because listening to them would decrease their value. I also dropped my morbid curiosity on the likelihood of my kids profiting one day off a killer music collection. I decided, going forward, it would probably be just about the music. And who knows? Maybe that R.E.M. album will be the next Mickey Mantle.
Read the original article here ~
Written By Mike Ayers
Great article… But come on lets be serious… A large collection handed down to kids who dont appreciate the old music medium and music of days gone by – is going to be a burden rather a treaure. The fire sale or thrift store may be what goes down – oh no. 5000 cds… 2500 vinyl here…. Where will these end up. Does one sell them now to get most one can for those special items?? Its such an interesting topic…. Morbid but fascinating.
@Tyler Scott. 😂 Fleetwood Mac Rumors, Michael Jackson Thriller..100 bucks each?? That’s insane talk. Those are 2 of the most common records, with millions upon millions of copies pressed. They are worth next to nothing even if sealed they wouldn’t sell for over 20 bucks a piece unless you happend to find the biggest sucker ever.
I’m a big collector and have been for years. I manage my collection by keeping it capped at a specific size, which means as I buy I also sell. I never really try to turn a profit, but it does help my hobby become self sustaining. One day when I’m old I’ll probaby sell it all myself. It will be a fun way to enjoy each album again.
Its not about the money. I have two children and a stepson who are into music and will get a fair split of the 1500 albums I own. They will enjoy them as much as I do; unless, of course, some new technology comes along that reproduces sound/music exactly as intended, sounds “warm” and never deteriorates.
If you’re collecting records in hopes of a monetary payoff down the road, I suggest you sell it off, now and use the money for a lifetime subscription to Spotify. I’ve been collecting records since 1977 and I have seen the actions of people with this mindset do some pretty stupid shit because of bad assumptions. About twenty years ago, some jerk off paid a stupid amount of money for a Sun Records #209, artificially raising the price on a record that isn’t really that rare. I have no respect for people with that mentality. What’s the point of collecting if you aren’t enjoying them?
If you’re losing sleep over it, first thing I’d suggest you do is go to discogs and catalog your collection. there you’ll be able to see what copies of your records are going for (Hate to tell you this, but, your super cool 2LP Father John Misty VMP record is going for cost, and sometimes less, because several of us got that wretched thing and are trying to keep the suck from infecting the rest of our collections). After doing all that, I’d forget about all of this and just enjoy playing your records. By the time you go, your kid’s will be grown and how they deal with your mortal remains will be beyond your control and not worth the waste of energy.
Probably NO….kids today are lazy clueless and stupid and will not pull themselves away from the Xbox phone or chicken McNuggets, long enough to research and sort them into $1 $5 $10 and look for the $25-100 records and care to sell them to a real collector.
I am a 74year old musician.I have around 7000 pls , lots of which will never get onto cd or reproduced elsewhere.I have complete collections of jazz and other guitar players,Latin,Brazilian
I actually don’t have them catalogued,as I am separated from them except for a month each year,by 2500 miles!
I would eventually like to sell them,but not for peanuts.Alternatively,I might consider endowing them to a charity,if I could be assured that they would be taken care of and appreciated by other guitarists or musicians.
First, every album ever made is not available on your phone unless you’re downloading from pirate sites. Even then, they don’t offer everything.
The bulk of albums I purchase (notice I didn’t say vinyl) were never released on a modern format. Once in a while a reissue lable will take a chance on a lost masterpiece and lovingly craft a cd worthy of the Library of Congress. You gotta get it fast if you wanna pay retail.
So I told my daughter if she really, really wants we can find out how we can get to China so she can sit on a blanket with the baby pandas.
I told her I would sell off the bulk of of my music so we can go. She knows how much I love my music and rarely brings it up. When my wife yells about my record mess I tell her I’ll eventually listen to it all.
If you are buying it to cash in later, forget it. If there is that missed RSD release (I don’t participate anymore cause there is no longer special music for RSD, but repackaged, colored vinyl for the hipster that buys as many copies as he can to later flip on eBay) I’ll wait a year and shoot Mr Hipster an offer cause he couldn’t sell it. I can wait. I’ve waited 30 years for one of my favorite albums to finally get a cd version. Very few new releases and special mega versions will increase in price. I’ve noticed a lot of lps devalue before you can get the shrink split.
So play it or pass it on to someone who will.
Unfortunately, past about 1980, most people came to understand that things like baseball cards, comic books, old records and the like could become valuable somewhere down the line. At that point we entered the age of corporate created collectibles. The companies makimng the products would advertise and hype them saying they were collectible. People bought multiple copies of comic books, bagged and boarded everything, so now the rarity is a worn a tattered copy and most things are hermetically sealed and never even read, rather than read over and over again until the cover comes off. Similar things happen with records. People buy plastic sleeves by the bag full, clean their records, etc. And let’s face it, most of the records made 40 years ago aren’t worth more than $1. If you want a valuable collection, stick to 60’s and 70’s classic rock and buy first pressings and mono versions.
Original pressings of any important record will always retain value, and in most cases appreciate. Reissues no matter how limited will always go down in value unless there is something really special about it like (better sound than a poorly mixed original, bonus songs, etc.) As for limited editions. Anything over 500 copies is not rare. Companies are making roughly 2000-5000 copies of every popular record. If the record is really popular, they will press more, the rarity goes down, and it won’t be worth much. If they are not popular enough, odds are the 2000 limited editions will sell poorly, a bunch will be laying around, and then they will give the record away for a bargain online, and it’s not worth much.
Hard to predict what will be in demand 10-20-30 years down the road. It could be the equivalent of old newspapers. It could be the equivalent of tobacco baseball cards. Even if it has value in theory, if your kids have no clue how to effectively market it, it may as well be a cord of firewood.
You’re an asshole, and I hope your records melt in an electrical fire.
I have always been confused about what makes a record valuable. niche genre, limited, desirability, quality, how many people know of the record.
9 or 10 years ago I got this comp that had the band Atomic Forest on it, did some searching online and found someone selling the original pressing. I took a risk and gave someone in India around $200. right now someone has a copy on ebay for US $4,999.00??
I wonder that in another 10 years the if record will be worth $200 again, or nothing
My kids are concerned with this issue and think I should downsize. My response is that I spent 50 years collecting, and only now have the time to enjoy the music. I will not be downsizing. I will be dead and, frankly, see this as their issue ;-)
To answer the question in the headline, the short answer is “No.” The longer answer starts with knowing whether said kids have any knowledge of what’s in the collection and its current value. Time is important too, do they want to sell all at once or take some time? I was a secondhand vinyl dealer for fifteen years and got out of the business this past spring. I publicized my final sales to ever record store, record dealer, and vinyl enthusiast I know. I did not get as much out of my inventory as I knew they were worth. That took weeks of effort. Cashing out isn’t nearly as easy as you might think.
I was contemplating getting rid of my cd’s, holding on to a few local and special releases.
A friend talked me out of it. He said “Steve. Someday these will come back too. And things that were pressed back then may never get pressed again(vinyl or cd). If you have the space to to hold on to them, do it”.
I thought about it and it made sense. It’s what I did with my albums growing up and that was a chore lugging those around (as I added to them).
It’s good to learn from history.
I’m not sure why I buy albums. I have most of my collection from when I was a kid in the late 60’s, early 70’s and they are in good shape and I listen to them. I never really warmed up to CDs (although I have hundreds maybe thousands?) I have never actually stopped buying albums to this day. I like to digitize them which makes them more mobile for me. I think, maybe it the same compulsion that some women have towards shoes. I certainly don’t look at them as an investment and only hope my kids will spin them up and listen to the soundtrack of MY life.
I believe records should be played and not bought to be stored unopened. Music to me reminds me of past times in my life, first lives, jobs, cars etc. Jefferson Starships No Way Out reminds me of standing on a cliff with an old ex girlfriend in 1984 down in county Wexford (Ireland). The song was going through my head that day and every time I heard it over the years on the radio I was back standing with that old ex on a cliff. We can’t put a price on this. I’ll give my record collection to my eldest son and my only daughter. They will create their own memories too.
Hello Mike Ayers,
My dad collected records from an early age and also educated me on vinyl records. If you educate your kids they’ll have some serious pocket money when they get your collection one day. If the respect you and your passion/hobbies they’ll make smart decisions. If they don’t they might donate them or throw them out like I’ve heard before. The records brought a huge bond between my dad and I. Hopefully it will do the same for you and your kids. Everybody loves music. I have a huge vinyl record collection myself inspired by my dad. There is serious money to be made of you actually spend the time to educate yourself and sell to the right buyer. Example he bought Fleetwood Mac Rumours in 1977 for $4.97 and keep it sealed along with MJ Thriller in 1982 which he paid $7.95 They both sold for $100 each. He bought lots of local punk 45’s here in a Vancouver when it first came out and never played it. I recently sold it at a vinyl record convention/fair. The dealers went crazy over it. Highly collectible, highly sought after and super hard to find Unplayed in mint condition. It fetched some good money. I recently bought a $1000 record and the guy that sold it to me said it was the best investment he made. He originally paid $1 for it and was going to give the $1000 towards his grandchilds education. But more important than money or selling them is the music that there dad you hand picked and selected. That they one day can be richly blessed with music and pass it on to there kids. I think your article was great.
Elton John, Tom Cruise, Jimmy Fallon, Robert Plant and many other famous artist collect vinyl records. It brings back memory’s and it’s got a full, rich, n warmth sound to it. It’s classy and very inspirational.
The time for making money on vinyl has basically passed…unless it’s a Beatles record you are out of luck…or should I say time!!!
Respectfully, I would not do that to them. Think of how long it will take them to sell that all off. It will be a pain in the ass for them, and nothing more. Figure out who might be interested in buying the whole collection before the time comes. Find a few people that might, and put that in your will.
Live long! :-)
I have a library that is played daily. I don’t own any sealed records, I don’t care if it’s a new or original pressing, I only care if it sounds good or not. I think 1,000 titles might be the limit, that would be at least 2300 sides at 6 a day I could probably hear all my music at least once over the course of a year. I also insist that when a record is played, the whole side is played as it was intended.
Donate your collection to charity, get it appraise by Scott Neuman of Forever Vinyl.com or Stephen Breitman and take the full retail value as a tax write off.
I’ve got a collection of vinyl. But I didn’t collect them. I bought them cause I loved the music. If you’re “collecting” you’re just accumulating for an end monetary goal or to show off. There’s no love there.
The value of vinyl has been damaged by the recent exploitation of new collectors by reissuing 180g vinyl and “limited releases”. Its a cash in to hedge their bets over the so called demise of CD and increase in piracy… just in the same way the made the gullible sell their vinyl back in the day. everything comes around until the next change to exploit the stupid.