I can’t speak to everybody’s home town or metropolitan area, but the vinyl renaissance has struck the Puget Sound area in a big way. From Seattle to Olympia the interest in vinyl has grabbed everyone from young hipsters to old farts like me.
I’m a member of the Vinyl Hoarders group on Facebook. Just to follow some of its threads, there is vinyl fanaticism world-wide. Posters boast of their collections in the hundreds of thousands of records. Another asked what’s the most people have paid for an album, and lots of hundreds and even thousands of dollars weren’t rare. (Just for the record, I’ve never spent more than fifty bucks on a record–The Seeds. It was a gift.)
At least here in Pugetopolis, interest and demand has driven the cost of vintage vinyl up with the housing market-not enough homes, and way too many buyers. Just as prospective home buyers would find themselves fortunate to live within an hour of Seattle for less than 350K, a record buyer would find themselves fortunate to find a nice vintage album for less than ten bucks and twenty or more is not unusual. For sure there are still some places to pick up albums, even desirable albums for less, but chances are you can’t pick and choose the records you really want for less than ten dollars. And don’t get me started on reissues and repressings where the cost can begin in the mid-teens (if you’re really lucky on Amazon) and often run up to forty dollars.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I don’t hate record dealers for charging what the market bears. For small, local record stores, they are in a desperate struggle to stay open and compete with places like Amazon, Target and other big boxes that can easily discount new vinyl. And it’s not like old vinyl is falling off trees into their laps like it did in 1992 when CD’s were all the new thing. My local record store increases their vintage inventory by investing in storage units, sight unseen, and hoping the contents don’t include 2,000 copies of Moon River by Andy Williams.
One place I’ve often been able to luck into some great records is my local Goodwill store. I’d drop in and more often than not there are large loads of Trini Lopez, Al Martino and Andy Williams. I have snagged old Tom Jones and Vikki Carr records-because my wife loves them. I’m certain at least one of my five copies of Whipped Cream by Herb Alpert an the Tijuana Brass came from Goodwill. Sorry, I’m always looking for the perfect cover. But every now and then I run across something truly good. Meddle by Pink Floyd. Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin. A spectacularly nice copy of Good-bye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. A nice anthology by The Drifters. For a dollar each at my local Goodwill.
Today I needed to stop at Goodwill on an errand for a friend. The used records are right by the door, and today the rack was stuffed. And not with terrible stuff. The first record in sight was a decent copy of Free-For-All by Ted Nugent, whom I’m boycotting because he’s a ridiculous piece of shit. But there was more. Lots of country stuff that didn’t do it for me. But there were three albums I picked up and checked for condition and said it was a go. A 1973 pressing of Jeff Beck’s Truth–yes! A decent Roy Orbison collection. A collection of songs by The Platters. All easily worth the buck Goodwill charges for vinyl records
I did the rest of my shopping, went up to the front to pay. I about choked when the clerk came back with a price of 13 bucks. I double checked my receipt, records are now $3.99 each. No more dollar vinyl at Goodwill. No refuge from the market and rolling the dice at the craps tables. Goodwill has joined in the overheated vinyl market.
To be fair, the records are all nice, and each was worth at least the four bucks I paid for them. Why shouldn’t a charity profit from them? But it’s sad that Goodwill is no longer a place I can shop for albums for pocket money. (Because I rarely have much cash.) Sadder is that I can afford to spend more, but there are lots of kids buying vinyl, or those who have less money than me, who probably added to their collections from what they found there, and suddenly that is 400% more difficult
Will I go back, will I buy from Goodwill again? Probably. But only if there is another reason for me to be in the store. And I’ll be a lot more picky about what I do buy. Nothing on spec, nothing unusual. No more Tom Jones, or Vikki Carr. No Tony Bennett or Petula Clark, because those AREN’T worth four bucks.
Of course Goodwill is entitled to do what they will. Of course they should try to funnel as much money into their good works as they can. But it is just as clear they’ve jumped into the marketplace, and it will be interesting to see if their sales match their ambition.