Motive and Scope
There is a difference of just buying records and collecting records. I buy a lot of vinyl that I like, most recently another copy of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. However – I would not consider myself a Sonic Youth collector. The reason it that I don’t keep track on which Sonic Youth releases that I don’t have. I just like some of the albums.
Collecting (in most cases) is about the aspiration of having it all (within limitations). Of that reason You could narrow your scope into something comprehensive and well defined. Within that area you might actively search for records. An example of scope could be Australian punk 1978 – 1982 or the Finish label Poko records up to 1988 or Norwegian Black Metal. Some focus on one band like the Iron Maiden, including merchandise and tickets. Sadly I have several genres and time periods that I collect. I have however made some limitations. I only collect vinyls – so no tapes or merchandise. I only collect first presses (with a few exceptions) so I don’t care about re-issues, promos or test presses and I don’t even get exited if the cover has the band members autographs. By limiting your scope the obsessive part of collecting can be controlled. You should of course buy records You like in general, like Sonic Youth – I do – I just don’t call it collecting.
A budget is a good idea. You might decide that you can spend 100 dollars a month for records without having to eat baked beans until that next paycheck shows up. Some savings (for records) could also be good when that rare record shows up that you always wanted. You will hate to loose that opportunity just because you “wasted” the money on other records. Your scope and your standard will be the defining factor. In you collect punk in general and only want Mint and first presses You need a gigantic budget. However – If you collect Canadian hardcore up to 1990 you might not have to work double shifts.
If you have time, spend time at the second hand markets and even sell stuff you find (but is outside your scope). By so you can collect on a shoestring budget
Condition and Grading
This should be part of your scope. There are significant differences in the value of Mint record compared and VG (Very Good). Only Mint records are paid top prices. The price will fall fast. A 100 dollar mint record could be valued 30 dollars in VG. And don’t read too much into it – the grading is American origin and they exaggerate everything. VG (Very Good) is not very good at all. To command top dollar it must be complete including inserts and any mail order fliers that came with the original release. To learn more about grading check this link.
There are several ways to buy records. On-line actions like ebay is very popular. There is also record sites like discogs and MusicStack. All sites have feedback systems where You can see many positive and negative feedback a seller have.
I find myself that the on-line have a lot of sellers with bad gradings despite a good feedback. It might not matter for a 5 dollar record but it is for sure important if you pay 100 dollars. Another thing to watch out for is sellers with vague or misleading info. I never buys from a seller who don’t mention that and insert is missing or that is not explicit that the auction is a re-issue. Stuff like that don’t build trust. I buy mainly from a limited number of seller whom I satisfied with. If you are not satisfied with your purchase (i.e item is not as described) you can always complain. Always inspect and play records prior leaving feedback. I have got records that look nice but sound terrible. If you pay by paypal you have some protection as well. In auctions it is easy to get carried away and bid like a madman because you hate to loose. With the exception of rare records, most things sold on on-line actions is also available on MusicStack or discogs. I often see auctions that ends at 60 dollars and at the same time the same record is offered at 40 dollars on the sites with fixed pricing. Bidding on such records I always compare and put in a maximum bid which lower than the fixed price and hope I make a good deal. If I loose the on-line auction I can buy it on discogs or MusicStack instead.
Storage and Maintenance
This part is pretty basic.
A) Store your records vertical! Never stack them upon each other as it might create ring wear on the sleeves and make the vinyl wrapped.
B) Don’t put them in sunlight/ hot places (will wrap the vinyl and discolor the sleeves) and or damp places (you don’t want mold).
C) Always have the record in a dust sleeve and the sleeve in a poly sleeve (Mylar, polyethylene or polypropylene *). Never never use PVC, Polyvinyl chloride, sleeves (that it the one with the orange peel structure) as they will damage the vinyl making it hazy. Don’t store the record inside the original sleeve and you will wear the sleeve every time use the record. Instead have the record in a dust sleeve preferable behind the sleeve. For more expensive records I use poly sleeves in two sizes. I keep the record sleeve inside a smaller sleeve. Behind this I have the record in a dust sleeve (inner sleeve) and everything is protected by larger sleeve. To make 7″ sleeves a little bit stiffer you can put the record (with the dust sleeve) inside a jacket which is made of thin cardboard. Another option is to use a jacket inserts which is just a piece of cardboard (however not the type that comes in the record mailer) to make our sleeve more stiff. The later is good for 7″ as many DIY releases came with very thin sleeves.
D) When handling records always hold them with two hands around the outer edges of the record to avoid fingerprint (i.e grease) on the record. Make sure you have wiped the record with an anti-static brush prior playing and keep your turntable and needle clean. There are many methods of cleaning dirty records and it seems like a sensitive subject with many opinions. I clean with distilled water with a little pharmacy alcohol (Never use alcohol on shellac records, i.e 78 rpm records) on a cotton cleaning cloth. I dry the record using a dry cotton cleaning cloth. When I clean records I use an old broken turntable (with the arm removed) so I can turn the record as I clean it. Otherwise find a flat surface well protected when cleaning records.
Some sites for record protection and cleaning
– covers33 (UK)
– Bags Unlimited (USA) – Got everything
– Sleeve Town (USA)
– Protected.de (Germany) – Cheap but crappy service
– Gaylord.com.de (USA) – Archive quality
– snvinyl.co.uk (UK) – Audiophile sleeve (Japanese and MOFO)
– nationalaudiocompany.com (USA) – Tapes
– tapeline (UK) – Tapes