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Some vinyl records can be worth a fortune — others are just worthless old records

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a bunch of items that are on display in a store: Records have enjoyed a revival but is there any gold in your collection? (ABC Radio Sydney: Harriet Tatham)

Records have enjoyed a revival but is there any gold in your collection?

Have you heard this tune?

A collector is fossicking through some old, dusty records in an op shop and stumbles across a rare album that's worth a small fortune.

This type of "Eureka!" moment does happen but it's extremely rare.

Old records are big business for collectors and dealers — fans are willing to spend what they can to get that one LP (or even a CD) that completes a set.

Music enthusiast and record dealer Mark Lumley, who convenes record and music fairs in Essendon, Ballarat, and Geelong, said the number of potential buyers had swelled as collectors aged in their 20s follow in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents.

"There's genuine interest in 'what's old is new'," Mr. Lumley explains.

"I've noticed young people, especially during the lockdown, were listening to a lot of old music, maybe their parents' collections.

"They had heard the Rolling Stones or the Beatles but hadn't really listened to them before.

"So, we're seeing 22-year-olds, 23-year-olds, 24-year-olds making their own collections."

Spin the black circle

There is interest in cassettes and CDs too, as well as LPs and 45s, but for collectability, the 12-inch vinyl record, in all its forms (albums, EPs, and extended singles) is still king.

"I think LPs is about 75 percent, but there are people who will collect CDs, and even tapes," Mr. Lumley said.

"I know of a guy who collects 8-tracks (eight-track cartridges) but that's not common.

"Most of my cassettes melted on the dashboard of my car."

He said even the once ubiquitous compact disc is enjoying a revival among collectors.

"There are some CDs worth quite a bit now," Mr. Lumley said.

"Some people started (their collections) with CDs and never stopped.

"[I saw recently] at a Lifeline Op Shop, they had all these Metallica CDs, including some bootlegs and other rare things [that would sell to collectors] —  the average was $60, but some are selling for over $100."

For every desirable record or CD, there are many more that will spend the rest of their lives in op shops or landfill.

There's a fine line

Mr. Lumley said there were several factors that could boost the value compared with other examples of the same record.

LIMITED RELEASES: Original releases, numbered limited editions, and exclusive releases are best. With numbered editions, lower numbers are usually better.

AUTOGRAPHS: Collectors will pay extra for albums signed by the singer or band but a certificate of authenticity is usually needed.

CONDITION: This is critical especially as older records in good condition are becoming harder to find. Mr. Lumley notes that "most of the gold has all been dug up - we're now digging for silver".

MIS-PRINTS, ERRORS, AND TEST PRESSINGS: Just like postage stamps. Test pressings are highly sought after. Record labels often do a run of 15 to 20 test pressings to distribute to the band, managers, and others for a final listen before full production. These test pressings can fetch $400 to $500 or even more.

RARITIES: Artists like Billy Joel, or the Beatles, or Elton John are so popular, and their records so mass-produced that finding something rare is difficult. Rare pieces from popular singers or bands on vinyl are worth a lot.

ABBA Gold

Caroline Parker from Wendouree won a competition in 1977 to see ABBA when they performed in Australia.

Part of the prize was a stay in the same hotel as the band plus a copy of the album "Arrival" signed by all four members of the group.

Mr. Lumley said, if the signatures can be verified, that album would be worth anywhere between $120 and $150.

But that doesn't mean Ms. Parker is planning to part with it.

"I'm not obsessed, but I've kept it because it's a bit special," she said.

"I suppose for the right price I'd sell because I don't have a record player anymore."

Finding those in-demand rarities in good condition is usually more about luck than anything else.

And, not unlike actual gold mining, finding record gold requires sifting through a lot of sludge.

"In a collection, about a third are good, about a third are ho-hum and there is a third that is unsellable," Mr. Lumley said.

"I was going through a collection, just to find out how many there was and I saw an album from a certain 'prog rock' band, and I knew there was a collector who was after anything from that band.

"He paid $1,000 for it.

"But I should point out, in the seven years I've been doing this, that's the only time it's happened."

Styles that sell — and those that don't

Mr. Lumley said every genre has its much-sought-after records and acts, but generally speaking some styles of music are more in-demand than others.

Classic rock — bands like The Rolling Stones and Deep Purple are popular with all age groups.

Black American Music — what's known in the industry as "BAM" covers a lot of genres, all of which are selling well these days, including '70s disco and funk, Motown, soul, and '50s and '60s blues.

The fifties and '60s jazz — groundbreaking jazz artists like John Coltrane and Miles Davis have a fanatical following and their records sell well.

Sixties garage and psychedelic — these genres are very popular with collectors, often because the original releases were very limited. The Grateful Dead always sells well.

Nineties grunge — because this movement erupted as CDs kicked in, original vinyl pressings can be hard to get, making them valuable, particularly acts like Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

The eighties and '90s club music — there's a lot of rubbish around but some 12" dance mixes go for quite a bit.

Adult Contemporary — reasonably common, but bands like The Doobie Brothers, America, Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac are always in demand.

Country – mostly doesn't sell well, except top-shelf artists of the genre like Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline.

Rock 'n' roll/rockabilly – again, there are some things that sell well, but a lot that doesn't.

Classical music and opera — very niche and there are some sought-after records, but usually, these records aren't worth much.

Musicals — there are a lot of these out there but generally only a limited market.

Op Shop Dross — if the back catalogues of Roger Whittaker, Val Doonican, Nana Mouskouri or Kamahl become popular, St Vinnies and the Salvos are sitting on a gold mine.

2 Comments

  • Daniel

    Daniel

    9:09 AM, 16-05-2021

    I still have hundreds of albums from my younger days.

    0 Reply
  • Suvir

    Suvir

    12:22 PM, 03-05-2021

    Will have to go through my Dad’s old vinyl

    0 Reply

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