Many customers have posed this question to me: “I’m at a tag sale and there are LP’s for sale. How do I know if they’re worth buying or not?” Here are three things you should look for when buying old records.
The first and most important thing is condition. The album cover should be as pristine as possible. Be sure there are no “LP marks” etched on the cover. Check for frays or stains on the jacket. Ideally the vinyl should be stored in a paper sleeve and if the sleeve matches the records label that can be a good thing.
Second check the vinyl. Look for scratches and marks and try to decipher between dirt smudges and actual damage. Hold the record and be sure that it is not warped. Warped LP’s will not play properly on a turntable.
Third method is to check the record label. Is it a label that is still issuing music or is it a company that no longer exists? Sony, Jive and even Motown are still in business. Chess, Laurie, Corral and Sun labels are usually a good indication that the record might be collectible. However, even these records are qualified by the “pressing”. First pressing is obviously more desirable, but even some later pressings on an older label may have some value. Check for any indication that this is a “promo” piece, or an import. Some import pieces may have more value but remember just because an album is listed on eBay for $200, that does not automatically set the value for that record. Colored vinyl or picture discs are usually quite sought after but that is no guarantee that you’ve stumbled on a pot of gold. Check the recording mode. Look for stereo or Mono. Mono is an indicator that this is an older recording.
The best reason for buying an album is because you really like the artist or you have some emotional connection to the music. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” may bring you back to childhood Christmas Eves and all those wonderful memories. Whatever types of music you are looking for, being an educated consumer gives you a better chance at recognizing that “diamond in the rough”.