When I was younger, I pondered my retirement, wondering what I would do with myself. My dream was to own a small bookshop or game store. Just me, my books and games could hang out all day. If I made enough sales to pay the rent, that would be good enough. I could talk with interesting people about interesting items we both enjoyed. That would be worth more than paying the rent.
Of course, Amazon came along and changed all that. Dream dead, move on old Smyth.
But last month, my wife came to me and asked if I would be interested in selling records in her space. Lorri is a re-seller in a local antique mall. The mall actually has a number of record sellers. Two of them are quite large, both have some nice stuff, though one, I believe is ridiculous and overpriced. I was intrigued with idea. I’d picked up a fair number of records that really had no particular value to me, so they would be easy to let go of.
After about a week of thinking, I decided on a plan that would be simple for me and offer value to customers, should they wish to take a chance on my vinyl.
- They would all be a single price, $5.00. I know, it sounds dopey. However, virtually every record I took to the shop came from a thrift store, an estate sale, or the Goodwill and cost $.49-$1.00. For the most part the records I took down there weren’t of super high interest–No Rolling Stones or Beatles, no Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. But there were a couple of REO Speedwagon discs, some Willie Nelson albums, an Alan Parsons Project record. A Scritti Politti and a Culture Club. There was a Beach Boys imported anthology, as well as a Jim Croce imported anthology. If there was a band that resonated with someone’s past, then heck it might be worth five bucks.
- The records had to be in good condition. I carefully inspected all the vinyl. I wanted it to be VG-NM on the Goldmine scale. A few light scratches are okay, but nothing that would require a shovel on the stylus to get through. If it seemed a little questionable I listened to it on my portable turntable. The covers had to be good too. No seam splits. Light wear was okay, a little ring wear, but not a lot. They had to be attractive enough to the non-record buyer to at least not repulse them. All records also have an inner sleeve. it does me no good to have customers returning records they can’t play.
- Then I cleaned them. I have a Spin Clean, the water-based cleaning device. It does a nice job of removing yuck from records. I can see the yuck in the water and and in the brushes. A bit tedious and time consuming to do a lot of LP’s, but it’s an economical bridge between your basic disc washer or carbon fiber brush and a vaccum device like a Nitty Gritty machine or VPI. It also gives me one more time to examine the record closely and catch any flaws that would make it unplayable or unsaleable.
- My final act is to be sure every record has an inner sleeve. If not, i provide an archival quality liner. Then I put the album in a dust jacket. I prefer the lighter ones from BMW. They aren’t as bulky as some, and are even a bit cheaper, but that isn’t my primary motivation.
I’m not saying that this is the end all be all of selling records. But I have found a system that is simple for me-one that I can easily manage with a doable amount of time and effort, and allows me to claim a certain amount of integrity. Some records can be purchased more cheaply online, but there’s that whole $4-6 shipping business. Some records are worth a little more than $5.00. My belief is that people are buying records for the music and $5 for what I can offer is just about right.
So the big question has to be, “How has this worked out?” And my answer would be, it’s too early to tell.
I took 51 records down to the the shop on August 16th, so a little less than a month ago. As of Monday September 7th, I’d sold 28 of them, so $140 worth of records. I kick a dollar off each record sold to my wife to help pay for rental space and the dust jackets cost .20-.25 each What I make either goes into my record collection or it goes to find more operating capital. As in, I have to find more records to sell.
Whether I continue as a seller or not really depends on this last issue. i love the idea, but it’s a lot of pressure to find usable records that might interest buyers that I can find cheap. That means mornings like today out hitting estate sales. It’s kinda fun, but often turnsup the music my parents love, not so much what students or my son’s contemporaries will find interesting. You’re only as good as your last haul.