Billions of LP’s and 45’s are out there waiting for you to find:
Note: this article was originally written in 2012 then moved to this site a few years later. I have added periodic updates since, the most current Jan. 2017.
If you are a new vinyl record collector, or are wondering if they make vinyl records anymore, you might be interested to know that vinyl made a huge comeback in the early 2000’s, in 2016 it’s showing no sign of slowing down.
Did you know that Amazon.com even has it’s own vinyl shop? Where you can by new and vintage vinyl, either by special order, or through various third party sellers.
While downloads were killing the CD as the most used music format, vinyl issues and re-issues were carving out a nice little niche for themselves throughout the decade. Plus thrift stores became popular for digging the crates to find all sorts of fantastic vinyl discoveries.
Bands like The White Stripes were offering limited edition vinyl only releases, DJ’s were looking for long forgotten beats to lift for their trade, and the nostalgia seeking romantics like me were reliving their pasts through the music format they grew up on.
Now in 2015, vinyl collecting is forging ahead, as vintage and new vinyl collectors keep searching the crates as much as they can, hunting down lost treasure to either add to their own collection or to sell online.
Below I will highlight the places I go to find records for my collection. I will also give you some insider tips and tricks in how to increase your chance to score a big windfall, as well as things to be careful of, so you don’t waste your money.
Thrift stores are where the greatest vinyl bargains are found
The biggest surprises happen here
No doubt, if you want the cheapest way to start your record collection, thrift stores are it, but looking will not be an easy process. Most of the vinyl I find in the thrift stores are in completely unplayable shape, and would likely damage your needle anyway.
The biggest pain for me is that the thrift stores never make it easy on you, usually the records are placed at ground level, so you must get on your hands and knees. If you have a bad back, this might be impossible for you.
I have seen literally dozens of people who bend down for a few minutes and just say the heck with it and walk away. That’s OK with me, that means more vinyl for me. But I never understood why the locations I frequent, can’t make browsing a little more consumer friendly?
Update: May 27th 2016:
Unfortunately Goodwill locations in Dayton Ohio have changed their policy to “AS IS NO RETURNS”. This new policy is for all media, CD’s, Vinyl, and DVDs. In my opinion this is a very short sited change, and makes me honestly wonder if I should stop shopping a Goodwill.
I could get behind a limited 3 day return policy, perhaps people were returning at such a rate it was becoming a real pain to process returns? So if you buy vinyl you have to pay extra special attention to the condition before you leave the store.
Also all of a sudden Goodwill in Dayton Ohio are placing higher prices on select vinyl, I noticed at 3 different stores on May 26 2016 prices up to $2.99. This was a real WTF moment for me I must admit. At $2.99 it’s now out of prices range to turn a profit, so unless it was a real rarity, “which happens rarely” I won’t even consider it.
You now have higher prices on Vinyl without the ability to return them for any reason, not good. Not sure I understand the thinking here, won’t you now sell far less vinyl than before with this policy?
Keep this in mind while searching for vinyl
Keep in mind before you buy, always hold the vinyl up to the brightest light possible and tilt the record to judge its appearance, those scuffs will hide from you, and the needle marks too. You MUST do this to get a baseline of what a playable record is. Make it second nature if you are going to sell condition sensitive vinyl online.
I made the mistake of not being careful early on in my collecting journey: When I would get home, the records I thought were clean from marks, turned out to have heavy scuffs, this essentially made the find worthless.
If you try to sell records this way, you will get into big trouble early with buyers who expect the grade you say the record is. To be safe, I grade conservatively, I’d rather customers be surprised on the good side.
Stay away from marks you can feel when gently rubbing your finger over it. Light or moderate scuffs are OK, It’s really your own listening preference, how much surface noise the person can tolerate.
Don’t forget about framing those record covers too, the vinyl may be trashed, but those covers can sure look great hanging in an office or den.
Here’s more detailed thoughts on grading.
Plan your road trips carefully, you’ll save gas, and time
If you are planning a long trip to a series of Goodwill stores, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call ahead and confirm that place is open, I have had a few that had recently closed or moved that had not been updated on the Goodwill site.
In fact, one of the Ohio Goodwill Locations I drove to was changed to a “boutique”. These boutiques only offer clothing, and supposedly upper scale cloths at that?
Some are donation only centers too that used to be stores, just check to make sure.
When I go on a hunt, I plan everything out:
Where I eat, where road side rest areas are, you name it. I want to get to as many as I can and not waste gas money and blow my profit margin. Add a flea market, or community yard sale that might be happening at the same time.
Goodwill Store Locator
- Goodwill store locator
A wonderful tool I have used many times to map out my journey to Columbus, Indianapolis and the Cincinnati area Goodwill. Make sure you pay close attention to the map options, some listed are donation only centers, you can search for retail only using this tool.
Half Price Books
Half Price Books is easily my favorite store for many things
Half Price Books is a chain of retail book stores that specialize in new and used books, they also sell new and used CD’s DVD’s and vinyl records. They only have stores in 17 states by my last count, but In June 2015, another California store is opening in Citrus Heights. So perhaps they will expand more into the West?
I have visited every store in Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis and Dayton, and for the most part the vinyl prices have been reasonable. The Columbus Ohio locations in my opinion seem to be on the high side for some reason? In fact, I quit making the trip from Dayton Ohio because of what I felt was over priced vinyl.
Unfortunately in Dayton Ohio there is only one store, but there are four in greater Cincinnati. These are the ones I frequent the Most, I find the Cincinnati Stores to be the most reasonably priced.
Some Southern Ohio locations are beginning to sell too many new reissue vinyl than I care for, and it is hogging up a lot of the vintage vinyl shelf space. Much of the vintage vinyl seems to be getting the “book” treatment too, meaning that price guides, or eBay is being checked before prices go on the vinyl.
The problem with book pricing, eBay prices tend to fluctuate constantly and wildly. If you’re not checking a lot, soon your pricing can become inflated and the bargain hunters will never pay those prices in the long run.
Please understand I’m speaking from a seller’s perspective, the prices have risen in many respects beyond what I am willing to pay. As a collector, the prices are still reasonable, and sales and big mark downs can happen at any time, just check them a few times a week. You’ll find something believe me, CD’s, Books, DVDs, and all types of odds and ends, Half Price Books is my favorite store by far.
Almost every book I have ever purchased related to music, I have purchased at Half Price Books. Most times a $50.00 book will cost me less than 10 dollars. I still love thumbing through real paper, I must admit, I am not a Kindle kind of guy for the most part for book reading.
A few Half Price Books tips:
HPB pays very very little for the used vinyl they buy from walk ins. Just ask anyone who has brought records there to sell, this is why the prices stay cheap, maybe those Columbus stores are paying more for brought in vintage vinyl?
Most vinyl in Cincinnati and Dayton range from $2.99 to $7.99, with some rarer records priced up to current eBay prices, it is obvious that they like to price along the lines of eBay.
You can’t blame them for trying, but most of the time these over priced records sit for months and months, then they will drop the price on higher priced vinyl, some I have seen start at over $100, only to still be there at $7.99 months later.
Half Price Books motto is “every store is a different story”, this really is true! I have found some of my best jazz discoveries at Half Price Books. I just happen to like some locations better than other locations, it all depends on who’s in charge of what they are buying, and what they are charging once it’s out on the shelves.
Like most record stores, Half Price Books also has bargain bins, usually .49 cents to .99 cents a record. Many of the regular rotation end up in the bargain bin after a while, I once found 10 different Frank Zappa original label pressings. Probably $300 worth of vinyl for 5 bucks!
Update: January 2017
Unfortunately there has been what I consider a bad development with Half Priced Books selling vinyl. This concerns the South Western Ohio locations that I frequent most often.
All of of a sudden I am noticing a real up tick in prices, as well as labeling as so-called rare and vintage vinyl. This I assume is a marketing ploy to make you think it’s more valuable. Goodwill is getting cute with prices too. I also don’t think the people grading the vinyl know much, as many below VG grade records are being over priced at HPB and Goodwill.
The fact is most of the stuff I am seeing is priced above eBay prices, and there are other online retailers that sell even cheaper. I used to love HPB because of the bargains, unfortunately bargains on used vinyl is becoming harder and harder to find.
They surely must know most people have a smart phone these days and cross check prices right? They also are doing this on CD’s as well. You can still find mark downs, but compared to 5-7 years ago, I don’t know if I can recommend HPB in the Cincinnati and Dayton Ohio area anymore. Certainly not if you are a re-seller.
I suppose someone high up has decided to “jump on the bandwagon” so-to-speak with higher prices. I do still scan the bargain bins, but truthfully the good stuff left from the vintage era is harder to come by for re-selling purposes everywhere.
Also, the new sealed vinyl and reissue vinyl is probably taking up 25% to 50% of the shelf space, these records are also way over priced in my opinion. Not half price at all in my opinion. My advice is to check these every now and then, and see if they’ve been marked down. $13.99 – $19.99 is a no go, but $4.99 might be worth a flyer with some re-sell potential depending on the title.
I realize HPB is business, but over pricing lost them in me a loyal customer, now I go once every few months, and not weekly. They aren’t the only place inflating right now, other second hand places like BuyBacks is bad for over pricing CD’s and DVDs. Again, customers being within a google search away, these places need to at least price at or below eBay pricing.
More importantly HPB needs to make sure who’s grading vinyl understands that a record graded VG sells for maybe 25% of book value, and usually even cheaper online.
Half Price Books Store Locator
- Half Price Books Store Locator
Only in 15 states, but from Texas to Great Lakes Region you may have some luck, it’s worth checking out this store Locator.
Yard sales and flea markets
At yard sales I won’t pay more than .50 cents or a dollar, once in a while you will run into a wannabe record dealer, who has crazy prices on junk, but usually they need the money and don’t have any real affection for the vinyl, and they will usually take offers for everything they have.
Usually you’re dealing with 50 or 100 records, so it’s not a major chore transporting the vinyl, many times I have seen 100 records, for .50 cents a piece, and made an offer of 25 dollars, usually they are more than happy to part with them.
You need to be careful here too, check the condition very carefully, also be careful about the guy who puts records out in the sun all day, not good. Records will warp in the hot sun of course.
Flea markets are hit and miss, these people tend to be more specialized, and many times music is their main selling interest, it’s like visiting a record shop at the flea market.
You can still get a deal, sometimes they will have a bargain bin, but typically this will be much the same as a thrift store bin, if you find someone who sells a diverse amount of things in their booth, typically you can haggle with them more than a specialized music dealer.
One obvious tip for getting a deal is to wait until a few hours before the Flea Market closes, people are much more willing to haggle and give deals at the close of a long day, this is also true with yard sales.
Flea Market and Yard Sale locator
- Flea Market Directory
A basic site that offers easy access to flea markets by state and city, they also offer some e books about flea market secrets and the such, might be worth a read.
- Find My Yard Sale.com
Another great site to find out where yard, garage, and estate sales are located.
eBay and the record shop
A brick and mortar shop that doesn’t offer below eBay prices on their vinyl won’t be in business for long, just way too much competition. This is good for the consumer, it keeps all but the mega rare and mint records down a bit in price.
With the ability to save searches and watch auctions, you can be sure to get the best copy at the best price possible; provided you are patient and willing to bid at the last-minute, or just wait until that lucky 3AM ending auction where you can swoop in and nab something really nice on the cheap.
You do need to be careful on eBay:
Make sure, the dealer is reputable, has many positive feedback reviews. You want a seller that ships with professional record mailers and has a history of correct grading.
Some sellers will not take returns, keep this in mind. With eBay and PayPal buyer protection, you’re pretty safe. Just be sure to read the descriptions of each item, and don’t be shy about asking questions if needed.
Record Store Locator
- Directory of Record stores
This site has plenty of records stores listed from all over the world.
- Everybody’s Records
If you’re ever in Cincinnati, you must stop by this shop, the longest surviving record shop in Cincinnati. Everybody’s is by far my favorite record shop. I feel fortunate it is only an hour drive “or so” from my home town of Dayton Ohio, their vinyl is always priced right, and you never know what sports or music celebrities you might run into as well.
Want to Sell Vinyl?
If you are wanting to sell vinyl records, here’s an article that highlights a lot of inside information about doing just that. What mailers to use, and certain overhead costs involved.
Whether you’re a buyer or seller, or just a collector you should know something about grading vinyl. On this page I go over my theories about grading, how I grade, and many of the frustrating things regarding the subject.
Need a Turntable for Play testing?
No way around this fact: If you’re going to sell vintage vinyl online, you will need a some sort of record player to test to finds. While it’s not a requirement that you spend thousands on a high end audiophile turntable, you will need something to make sure any visible marks don’t skip or stick.
Check out this article on cheap quality record players.
Related posts at Spacial Anomaly
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Jason Sositko, a freelance writer and entrepreneur is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I also use services such as Viglink and Skimlinks to earn income via links placed inside articles.