What Are LPs Really Worth?

Posted by Joe Goldmark, May 25, 2011 10:13am | Post a Comment
To check out extensive LP label and price guides, head to the Vinyl Beat website!

The easy answer is, whatever the market bears. The real answer is that it depends on how you choose to sell them. There are about four or five ways to value a collection.

Let’s say Bob has a collection of 4000 LPs, and he specializes in ‘70s soul and funk, but also has some other related genres. He’s made an effort to buy minty records, upgrade the lesser copies, keep his records in plastic sleeves, and has a decent turntable. In other words, he has a quality collection.  Bob is a realistic guy and thinks he knows what records are worth. In his mind, his collection prices out at around $100,000. He’s figured this out because he did a random price sampling on eBay and Popsike of 200 of his albums and the average price per record was $25. He then multiplied this times his 4000 and voila, $100,000. And you know what? On the surface he’s right. 

If Bob sold his entire collection piecemeal on eBay he would net that amount. However, it would take him at least twenty hours per week over a year’s time to photograph, list, process, pack and mail his records out. Then he’d have to pay eBay and Paypal fees (10%?), and pay income tax on his earnings (20%?). So his target number is shrinking. Plus, you have to figure that Bob’s time is easily worth $10 per hour, so subtract another $10,000. Now he’s really made $60,000. It doesn’t mean that his collection isn’t worth $100,000, it’s just that even taking the best monetizing trail, you end up with a 3/5 payout. He might also have to factor in a therapist, because what condition is Bob going to be in after spending a year selling his prize collection?

The highest way to value a collection is to use the Goldmine price guide. God forbid you ever have a fire or flood, this is the guide you’ll use to get a good insurance pay out. However, if you ever needed to sell your collection, Goldmine’s not going to buy it. It’s like the old joke about the guy’s bookie who tells him he has a four point line on the game. The guy says, “but the paper has it for three.” The bookie says, “so bet the paper.” There’s a big difference between what a collection might be worth, and what you can actually get for it if you needed to sell it.

Another good way to sell would be to find a fat cat who just happens to dig your taste, has an extra $100,000 to throw around, and an extra room to fill. I’d like to think that could happen, but in all my years, I’ve only heard of it once…Collections never stay whole. Even when collectables are donated to museums, they usually sell off the items that they don’t absolutely need.

You can also take your records to a swap. You’ll get a big initial surge, and sell off the best stuff. Then you’ll sit there the rest of the day nickel and diming, and have to lug most of it back home. You can see where this is going. 

Amoeba and other record stores stay in business by buying and selling used product. Do we pay what you could make on eBay? Of course not, we’d be out of business. Will we buy everything you bring in?  Yes, if it’s clean. Will we pay cash dollars? Yes, but we’ll give you a lot more in trade, because money is tight. Why do record stores pay less? Mainly because they sell the stuff for less than the going eBay prices, and because of the overhead and salaries it takes to keep a record store going. It’s the easiest and fastest way to monetize your collection.

Sorry if this sounds like an advertisement. I’m just explaining why record stores do what they do and why many folks choose the ease and quick money available from this route. You might make less, but it will be immediate money without months of work.

Unfortunately, the value in our collections does not always equate with what we’ll receive if we choose to sell. We should collect for love and enjoyment, not for money. We do like to imagine what our collections are worth, but we should realize that it will be hard to actually get that value.