Collecting Antique Records: A Guide To Vintage Recordings

What to look for in collecting vintage vinyl recordings. Guide to different types of records and how to collect and preserve them.

With the advent of compact discs and cassette tapes, the vinyl record has virtually disappeared from the American consciousness. However, a vibrant community of vinyl record collectors has emerged. There is a market for rare and collectible vinyl recordings.

It is hard to believe that a whole generation has come of age never having seen a record album. For the uninitiated, there are three types of vinyl records, which are classified by RPM (Rotations per Minute):

1. 78's - 78's are from 10 to 12 inches in diameter, and are the earliest of the records. They usually contain one song on each side, and were incredibly popular throughout the United States and made by many regional companies.

2. 33's - Long-players, or LPs. They are usually 10 to 12 inches in diameter and play at a slower speed than 78s, therefore allowing for more songs to be on each side.

3. 45's - Singles - a five inch disc that holds one song on each side. Very popular during the 1960s' through the early 1980s.

When looking for collectible disc there a number of factors to take into consideration: musical style, condition, artwork, artist and label. There are collectors that specialize in each of these aspects and will pay top price to attain discs to complete their collections. Popular musical styles among collectors include Bluegrass, Early Rock and Roll, Jazz, "Race Records," dixieland and Popular Vocal Music. Many regional labels put out rare records of obscure artists. These types of records are highly sought out.

Many collectors work with want lists - lists of specific records they are looking for in their collections. They compare the want lists with items available for sale on online auction sites, catalogs, retail stores, garage sales and flea markets.

When searching for records, you should look for vinyl that is in good condition, playable, in its original sleeve and with the record sleeve in good shape. Some people collect mint copies of records in their original sleeves. Specialty records - such as records pressed on colored vinyl or picture discs are also collectible. Keep on eye out for obscurities, these fetch the highest value on market. Popular records from popular artists are fairly common, and do not command as high a price. Instead focus your attention on singles, remixes and foreign pressings of popular artists.

Used records can be found in many places. Many cities have used record stores, and many new record stores have used sections with a corner devoted to vinyl. Classified ads are also chock full of people wanting to unload their unused vinyl. Flea markets and garage sales are also places to find the hidden treasures. Be familiar with pricing guidelines, consult a price guide before you first embark on a vinyl hunt. You don't want to overpay for your collectibles.

The condition of your record is a vital factor in determining its cash value. A record should be relatively free of scratches and fingerprints. The label should be centered and completely affixed to the record. There should be no writing on either the sleeve or the record itself. The record artwork should not be faded or scratched. The better the condition of the record then the higher the price value of the collectible.

As a collectible investment, record collections should be preserved with great care. To prevent warping, records need to be stored in an upright position and not packed too tightly. Many record shops sell mylar sleeves to protect the record cover artwork.

Have fun searching for and collecting your vinyl!

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