Previously, I have written an article asking whether you should collect vinyl. In this article, I want to share about the joys of collecting used vinyl records. While there is a strong resurgence in vinyl record sales, the prices of new vinyl albums are astonishingly expensive.
There is a part of me that challenges the rationale of buying a primitive audio format that has not changed since the introduction of stereo-cut records in 1957 when music production and mastering have evolved into the digital age. Nonetheless, I still indulge in buying vinyl records of new albums for reasons geared towards human emotions rather than practical technology. Just like why I bought the yellow vinyl album of Demon Slayer (Kimetsu no Yaiba) Entertainment District Arc performed by Aimer (Zankyo Sanka / Asa ga Kuru). I missed the initial pre-order and had to buy from after-market at a premium (that’s another story for another post).
When it comes to older vinyl records, however, I find there are more reasons to own them. One of the biggest reasons is that these old albums belong in the vinyl record medium, the sound engineering is designed within the limitations of the medium, including the track listings and the song length (ever wondered where the term “A-side/ B-side” and “12-inch remix” comes from?)
How Do I Decide What To Collect?
Usually, I get inspiration from what’s happening around me. Sometimes I come across a piece of music over radio or an event, which triggered me to google and find the vinyl equivalent. For instance, after watching a biopic of Quincy Jones on Netflix, I dug around and eventually found his vinyl album “Custom 20” in Japan promo press edition which I dare say is extremely rare. However, a rare vinyl does not equate to high value, as it all depends on the demand. But this particular album collects 20 of Quincy Jones best tracks in the 1960-70s.
Sometimes, I collect vinyl records with potential market value which I will resell later, while I also handpick certain music artists that I want to collect for personal needs. You cannot go wrong with any songs that have reached the billboard charts. As long as I spot an album that is priced very cheap, I will grab it.
Here are my reasons that make vinyl collection full of excitement and anticipation:
1. Uncover The Forgotten History Of Music
When I come across interesting album titles, I would research to understand the background and whether it means anything to me. Sometimes, I would find a connection to a memory, for instance, it’s a song that I used to listen a lot when I was young. I am mostly intrigued at how the album came about, what other versions are available, any limited editions that I should look out for.
One of the oldest records I have owned is The Sound Of Music, pressed in 1965, older than me. Imagine how this vinyl has enriched the lives of its previous owners over the decades. Or perhaps, it has been stored without much play, sat on the shelves, for more than 50 years. This vinyl I owned was pressed in Germany, and through my research, I realised there are several dozens of different pressings, up till this day. Each pressing has different cover layouts and inner content. As this album has a lot of pressings and editions, its value is not very high.
There was this song that my friend introduced to me back in the 1990s. It’s called “Keeping The Dream Alive” by Freiheit, a German rock band. Back then, you cannot just download or stream music. Nor can you easily order CDs online and ship from overseas. Thanks to my vinyl interest, I managed to find the single for less than S$10. Singles may be worth collecting because they are fewer numbers in circulation, and they sometimes come with different remixed version or instrumental version unavailable in the official album. The “Keeping The Dream Alive” single includes the extended version, making it worth buying.
I also took effort to look for the vinyl copy of “Highlights from The Phantom of the Opera” because, well, I love the album, and secondly, the recording was done in analogue tapes, so I want to experience the music in original analogue medium. And finally, I love the graphic design and having the 12-inch vinyl album provides a great excuse to display the cover art. I might buy the full musical vinyl version once I find a seller with the right price.
During one of my online crate-digging sessions, I found this album from Private Music label called “Piano Two“. In it contains tracks from Yanni (“Nostalgia”), Suzanne Ciani (“The Velocity of Love”), among other New Age artists. Upon further research, I realised that these tracks are solo piano recordings that are not found in any other album compilations. For this album, Ciani recorded her tracks at Yanni’s private studio. I was shocked that this album never came up when I was searching for Yanni’s vinyl recordings. I consider this album as a rare and needless to say, I grabbed it despite less-than-perfect condition.
Speaking of Yanni, most of his vinyl albums are so expensive, partly because they are in very limited quantities. But I will be patient to find one at an affordable price.
Classical albums are generally more complicated to buy because there are so many different compilation and editions by the record labels. Sometimes it boils down to deciding which cover design you like and whether you want an earlier pressing – which might be old and worn – or a later pressing – which might be remastered or of poorer audio quality due to replication. There are also different recordings in different years by the same conductor, so you have to decide which performance would you want.
The uncertainty of how the recording is performed adds to the following point.
2. The Element Of Surprise
When I ordered used vinyl online, even though the seller described the condition of the record, I could never verify the actual condition or how it really sounded. If the seller priced it below what I felt was fair price, I would be concerned if the vinyl turned out to be in poorer condition. Conversely, if I paid a premium given the seller described the vinyl as excellent, would it turn out to be less than desirable?
So yes, occasionally I felt disappointed with the condition, but most of the time, I was pleased with what I paid for.
If you are buying Classical records, the element of surprise arises because you might not know how the actual recording of the Classical work may be performed. Most of the times, I would search for the recording on Spotify to see if I like the interpretation, but in some cases, I couldn’t find any source to listen to. If the price is really cheap (like below S$10), I would still go ahead and buy it.
And like any online purchase, the waiting part is both anxious and exciting. It’s like getting a gift, except you are the one paying for it.
The great thing about vinyl collection is that it appeals to music lovers of all budget. If you can only afford $10 records, you can find them, just that the condition might not be as good. If you can afford to pay a little more, then you might be able to get a better condition record. But no guarantees, unless you buy from local stores, which generally priced higher.
When I fancy a particular song, I try to look for the full album and check out the other tracks as well. Recently, I came across Billy Joel “An Innocent Man” which contains the catchy pop song “Uptown Girl”. It was listed for less than S$4 on Taobao and with a shipping fee of around S$5, it’s a great catch. Similarly, when browsing for Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” single, I checked out the album “Can’t Slow Down” and kind of liked all the songs, so I dug around and found one on sale for less than S$10.
3. It’s Relatively Easy To Resell
If you are collecting records from the billboard charts, then you should have no issues reselling them. People love to collect mainstream pop artists like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Bee Gees, ABBA, The Carpenters. They are the “evergreens”. If you are into more niche artists, it might be a bit harder to sell, but people are receptive to buying used records, especially older presses, since they know there is no way they can get brand new ones. Even if some titles are still in press (like Michael Jackson’s Thriller), they might prefer the older presses. After all, collecting old records is part of the game.
Since I started collecting in 2021, I have bought almost 180 records and sold over 70 of them. The main reason for selling is that I am constantly curating my collection to ensure I only keep the albums that I want to continue listen to. I have also decided in principle not to collect 7-inch singles because the play time is too short such that I have to constantly switch sides after a few minutes. Plus, the full albums are not much more expensive especially when I liked many songs in the same album. For that reason, I have sold all my Bee Gees singles and bought a compilation album instead.
I usually buy my vinyl from overseas online stores like Discogs. After factoring shipping costs, they turn out to be still cheaper than buying locally. But I do watch the local vinyl shops closely for any good buys. This weekend from 14-17 Apr 2022, the Katong Square Lifestyle and Vintage Market will have thousands of vinyl records on sale from several record stores like Fook Yu Records, Records Warehouse Singapore and consignment stocks. Who knows, I might uncover rare titles that I could never find them online. Uncovering interesting titles is the fun part, owning the records for a good price is the satisfying part, and these make vinyl collection so rewarding.