Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

From old hippies to young hipsters, vintage vinyl is topping this year’s Christmas list for music lovers. Classic albums from 1950-1980 are available in a wide range of prices and genres of music, but before you start your shopping it is wise to know what constitutes a good deal . . . and when to walk away.
Vinyl is an excellent archival medium and as a result records that have been carefully maintained will would as good today as they did the first year they were issued. The problem is that many of us didn’t bother to take good care of our albums. To assist their customers, record shops have developed a “grading system” which will help you to understand exactly what you are buying.
The eight categories to denote condition are: Mint {M} Perfect, never played and usually sealed. Near Mint {NM}, opened but seldom played, no marks, very glossy finish. Excellent {E}, the same as NM but with small signs of wear. Very Good Plus {VG+}, flawed with background crackle, but still maintains a moderately good sound. Very Good {VG}, the album is visibly used with light pops and crackle in the sound and visible scratches. Good {G}, this classification is misleading as “good” albums are normally quite bad. These are normally only offered for sale if they are a rare or highly desirable release or the cover art is of value. In most cases it is good to pass. Poor {P} and Fair {F}, bad cover and bad condition . . . walk away.
Once you determine if the grade is satisfactory for purchase, there are two other points to consider. First, take note of the weight of the album. Records degrade the more they are played. The standard weight of an album is 120 grams. Audiophile (a method of record pressing with special attention given to  quality) grade albums will run from 150-180 grams and are the preference of most collectors. Second,  check for the pressing size and number. “Pressing” refers to the number of batches of records made during the same run. On newer albums this information may be listed on the cover. On vintage records this is seldom the case and will require that you do some research to see if the original record was recorded on vinyl, date of released.  what label it was on and the catalog number.
When most of us think of vinyl, we think of it as black and the bulk of it is. There are, however, albums available in red, green and purple, as well as multi-color and splatter designs that are attracting the attention of collectors who are willing to pay top dollar for the right record in mint condition.
So what kind of money are we looking at to purchase a vintage album? It would appear from recent eBay sales that the price range is as varied as the albums available for purchase. For example, a recent care copy of The Beatles “White Album” sold for $3,500 while common G quality used copies of the same album can be had as low as $5.
With vintage vinyl in such high demand it would stand to reason that the stack of LPs in the back of your closet could garner you some quick holiday cash. This is not necessarily so. Record dealers constantly struggle with being inventory poor. To attract a wide customer base they need a large display of merchandise. However, much of their stock will sit on the shelf for months, even years, before the person wanting a particular release walks through the door. It’s a Catch-22 and the reason that dealers, in most cases, are unable to offer you much for your collection and may have no interest at all. Until next time . . . Linda

Linda Kennett is a profession liquidation consultant specializing in senior downsizing and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-258-7835 or