Do you spend a ridiculous amount of your free time thinking about vinyl records, the ones you have, the ones you don’t have and the ones you’d like have? Do you spend copious amounts of time keeping track of your record collection, making wantlists on Dicogs and Amazon? Do you do mental gyrations trying to figure out how you can wangle that last record you want so badly. Yeah I do too. I have vinyl addiction, just like so many of you.
But because it’s all a rational process, it can be managed. But on Friday, I witnessed a far deeper problem: vinyl hoarding.
In July I heard about about an estate sale coming up in August. The seller had something on the order of 20,000 LP’s and a stash of ’45’s as well. I made sure to keep the time free, first thing Friday morning so I could be in line when the doors opened. I also knew it would attract plenty of buyers and collectors, because at a buck apiece and 20K records–well, what an opportunity. But my expectations were also realistic. I’d attended an earlier sale at another home the seller had. 1,000 LP’s of very mixed genres, many in marginal condition. I managed to cull about 20 from the pile, but enjoyed thoroughly chatting with the other record speculators mining the boxes and boxes of albums on the floor.
I arrived at the sale site about fifteen minutes before the sale began. The parking nearby was gone and at least ten men were lined up at the door. Though many items were advertised in the sale announcement on estatesales.net, they were all there for one thing: records. Some had boxes to hold their finds, others had shopping bags–I, of course, failing to think ahead, had nothing but my hands. About five minutes before the sale began, one of the organizers greeted the assembled, and growing, multitudes. The ’45’s were gone. They weren’t with the other sale items. Though the news clearly disappointed about half the guys in the group, the vast majority my age or older, nobody left. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. 20,000 records, a buck apiece.
The doors opened, and with records upstairs and in the basement, the throng dispersed and each one of us staked out our ground.
What does 20,000 records look like? It began with boxes of records, some stacked on top of each other, with the albums facing every which way in uneven light. A half dozen of us were cramped in a small space, each with their own little claim, hoping to find gold. In fact, the pickings were thin. Of the 20K grand pieces of cardboard housing the precious tunes, I would guess at least three quarters of that was a mix of easy listening, jazz, country and western. There was absolutely no order to it. But in going through the boxes and boxes of stuff, I’d hit a vein of three or four records at a time that were interesting. A few Kinks records from the 70’s, Wild Planet by the B-52’s, a Hipgnosis cover by Wishbone Ash, and AutoAmerican by Blondie. . But then I’d check for condition and have to start throwing them back.
What does hoarding look like? Hoarding looks like five stacks of record albums waist high. That’s what I found in one corner of the basement. The records were in piles and they were virtually impossible to go through. The stacks were unsteady and in danger of toppling over, and once I began sorting through one of the piles, there was no place to put the records I’d already sifted through. I got half way through one of the piles and gave up, and I believe I was the only one who tried it for very long. Some pretty big spiders in there too. My only regret is that I didn’t think to jerk out my phone and take some photos.
Who does this? The seller couldn’t have actually listened to these records. He couldn’t have actually known what he owned. The mix of genres in a single box or cabinet, or pile was bewildering. Yet the basement was practically bursting with vinyl of all kinds, much of it in condition I could neither own or sell.
By the time I left the sale, I’d spent three hours there. Every muscle from hip to ankle ached from bending, squatting and lifting. I was spent. I walked out with 58 records. There were more to be had, but honestly I’d seen enough. My head was spinning, and, for the moment, my vinyl appetite was sated. But the poor guy who owned the home and was selling off his treasures, I could only wonder about. And records weren’t his only obsession. He had huge troves of baseball cards and beer (bottles empty and full) For a moment, my addiction didn’t seem so bad.
Postscript: My wife Lorri has a couple of spaces down at Third Street Antiques. She’s noted there are records sold there every day and I should try to sell some. So for the last little while I’ve culled some titles and purchased some I thought might sell, and to simplify things came up with about 50 LP’s I could sell for $5.00 each . Some are worth more than that, others worth less. But all are in good condition with nice covers (VG/VG or better condition,) and I slipped them into record sleeves. I don’t have any idea if they’ll sell, but we’re giving it a try. My life as an entrepreneur has begun.