Buying vinyl can be a walk in the park while other times it can be a living hell.
There is more to buying vinyl than meets one would think. Unlike picking up a new CD or downloading an MP3, vinyl still is sold mostly in record stores and shops. These vinyl shops can sometimes be a total mess while others are neatly organized.
Navigating your way through the maze of vinyl to find the one you're looking for is a mission and a half. However, once you finally find that special vinyl, you still need to check over a few things to make sure it's worth the purchase.
There are a few tips, tricks and hints to buying vinyl online or in a record shop which will probably help you from getting burned on what you thought was a sweet deal
The first thing you'll notice when buying vinyl is the vinyl jacket. This jacket is the outside, often cardboard, enclosure for the vinyl and additional items inside.
The first thing you'll want to do is take a good look for any damage to the jacket. Does it have any signs of warping or water damage? Often times you'll find crates of vinyl that were left out in the open (often at flea markets) which will stick the jackets together, ripping the album art and ruining the overall condition.
You may also want to look for any writing people have place on the records. More often then note, people will write their names on various records as an identifier since some people just like making sure they know it's theirs. Other times people will put little notches or stickers on the jacket to help organize for their collection.
These writings and stickers may be easy to remove but it may also degrade the overall value of the vinyl. If you only care about the actual vinyl, then don't worry as much about the jacket because it's not the jacket which you are going to be playing or listening.
The Vinyl Record
The vinyl record is what you should be paying the most attention to since this is what you'll be playing.
Vinyl can easily be damaged from heat, humidity and storage methods. You know when you walk into a proper shop when they have all of their vinyl neatly organized and stacked vertically. This isn't to say you won't find garbage at these stores either or find gems at run down shops, it's just saying that you should be aware of the type of people you from whom you purchase.
Before you ever buy vinyl at least take it out of the jacket and sleeve to give it a once over to check for scratches and any other signs of damage. A record that has a giant gouge down the middle won't only play but could possibly damage your turntable needles in the process. It's a total waste if you're not able to play your vinyl without skipping so try to avoid these unless you really want it just for ascetic purposes.
If the clerk is available, try to question them about the history and past owners of the vinyl. You may also want the clerk to pay the vinyl especially the tracks which are scratched. Yes, this may seem a bit steep but knowing that your vinyl was in good hands is a great way to make sure you don't get burned buying a piece that only plays a few times before wearing out. if a vinyl can't be played more than a few times they may as well be worthless.
Linear Notes and other Items
For those collecting their vinyl the liner notes and other items included with the release may be very important to you.
Some vinyl releases come with signed liner notes, little items such as coins or collectible souvenirs. In order to make sure your vinyl is complete, you should do a bit of research on sites such as Discogs to see what the release came with before laying down the money on an incomplete release of the vinyl.
What's A Good Price?
After you've checked over the vinyl you should try to rate it in comparison to other vinyl conditions. These range from Poor to Very Good, while perfect being essentially unopened and never touched (good luck finding those).
Although the vinyl may be in perfect condition, the jacket and liner notes be in complete shambles which lowers the overall value of the vinyl record. Don't get duped into paying full price for a record if parts of it are damaged. Negotiate a price you and the owner find fair based on the condition of the vinyl.
To be honest, there is no good
price for vinyl.
Some vinyl is ridiculously expensive to some while completely worthless to others since it is subjective and all depends on the collector. Certain records are very hard to come by which means they'll have a much higher listing price, others not so much. If possible it's best to shop around before you make any final decisions on buying that rare vinyl since you may find it much cheaper elsewhere.
You could always refer to a vinyl pricing guide if you have one handy but remember that these are average prices collected from all over the world sometimes. The small shop in your town may not be asking or paying the same price for vinyl as one in the city. Use your judgment when purchasing vinyl so you don't get burned by outrageous prices.
Remember that vinyl won't last forever from all the wear and tear. You have to expect to eventually retire the record and possibly buy another copy. If the release has the perfect song that will blow up the dance floor, I say go for it and get it while it's hot.
Last Minute Things To Check
Before the final purchase, you should run over a few things to make sure everything checks out.
Check to see if the store offers any sort of return or buy back policy. On the very rare occasion, the vinyl may have been pressed incorrectly which means you're SOL hopefully the shop will give you a refund or at least buy it back at a discount.
Check with the clerk to see if any new releases are coming out. Sometimes that rare song you've been itching to spin may be re-released on new wax at a much cheaper price.
Ask some general questions you feel is appropriate before you make any purchase. Remember, the crate digger that is on good terms with a shop gets tons of great benefits when the clerk holds aside new releases, rarities and other vinyl you've been looking for because you're such a good customer.
This information should arm you with enough knowledge so you can buy vinyl with confidence. Using these guidelines and tips will help you from wasting money on mediocre or damaged vinyl.
A proper amount of research will allow you to make the best decisions for your money without any repercussions. There are plenty of shops where you can buy vinyl that will try to rush you just to grab your money so avoid these if possible. Try to take your time when deciding which vinyl to buy and treat it's just like any other purchase.