Vintage Vinyl Records
Why Collect Vintage?
There are plenty of reasons to love vintage vinyl records. They’re pieces of history that offer the listener insight into the music of ages past. Plus, they can be rare and highly collectible, not to mention aesthetically pleasing. If that’s not enough, vintage records can also sound incredible.
The appeal of vintage records has risen in the last few decades, with many fans of vinyl flocking to thrift stores and flea markets to find the newest entries to their growing collections. However, while your local thrift shop might be filled with dusty old vinyl, it may not be the best place to find high-quality, great-sounding vintage records.
To help you avoid the headache of buying pre-owned classic records from unreliable sources, we’ve compiled an exclusive buyer’s guide to vintage vinyl. This handy post covers all the bases of collecting vintage records – how to determine quality and how to store your growing collection.
Are Vintage Records Better?
This is a somewhat tricky question, and the answer is highly subjective. Vintage records, or records that are at least 25 years old, have an inherent charm to them that brand new LPs might not. Vintage vinyl has a story – many pre-owned records have already undergone decades of heavy play before they wind up on your turntable, and there’s something deeply appealing and sentimental about that.
However, vintage vinyl records are not necessarily better – or worse – than their brand new counterparts. There are plenty of factors that can determine the quality of a vinyl record. To refresh the familiar and get newcomers acquainted, below are some of the most important factors to consider when buying any record.
12-inch vinyl records tend to weigh between 80 and 180 grams. Generally speaking, heavier vinyl lends itself to better sound quality. There are a number of reasons to buy heavier records, and we’ve covered them all in our “Does Vinyl Weight Actually Matter?” article.
Higher-RPM records, like heavier records, can offer superior sound quality. This makes 78-RPM records, or “78s” for short, the discs with the greatest potential for exceptional sound. However, the faster a record spins, the less recorded audio can be stored on each side.
This is why 78s can only hold a few songs on side A and side B. 78s are relatively uncommon on the modern record market, but they were some of the earliest vinyl records available, making them highly sought after by collectors.
It goes without saying that a brand new record will typically look noticeably better than a used one. However, a record’s condition isn’t just classified by its looks. When appraising a used record, collectors are typically paying more attention to sound quality than they are to aesthetic appeal.
If a record is warped, scratched, or cracked, it will likely offer inferior sound – or be virtually unplayable. The potential for a used record to have poorer sound quality is part of the inherent risk of buying vintage records.
Most vinyl fans don’t have a bottomless budget, and that makes buying some rarer vintage records out of the question. While they might be older, many vintage records are considered collectors’ items. This is often because a limited number of copies were made of a specific pressing of an album. Rare vintage records can be extremely expensive, and the difference in sound quality between the rarest pressing of an album and a brand new copy may be negligible to most listeners.
So, are vintage records better? It depends on who you are and what your personal vinyl-collecting goals are. For some, there’s nothing more rewarding than adding a classic mono master of a favorite album to a growing collection. For others, the newest edition of a beloved LP will do the trick.
How to Tell if a Vintage Record Is Worth Buying
If you’re on the hunt for a vintage copy of a specific album, follow these tips for success on your journey.
Pay Attention to Wear and Tear.
It can sometimes be tough to spot damage – even serious damage – on a used record, especially one you are buying online. Private sellers on internet auction sites sometimes take deceptive photos of the records they are selling, hiding cosmetic flaws and other forms of damage.
It can be a huge disappointment to unbox a vintage record that you bought online, only to discover that it is unplayable. To avoid any grief, make sure to carefully inspect all of the components of any
vintage record you are buying, including the jacket, sleeve, and, of course, the record itself.
Some collectors will try to get the maximum amount of money for their vintage records, often marking them at hundreds of dollars above the standard price. For unsuspecting buyers, these records may just look “extra rare,” when in reality, they are severely overpriced.
To keep yourself from getting highballed, make sure to compare the price of a specific record with others that are also being sold online. In addition, it is always essential to make sure that you are comparing prices with the same pressing, or edition, of a record. Certain pressings may be rarer, which can make them much more expensive.
Make Sure Your Turntable Supports the Record You’re Looking At.
Many modern turntables are only designed to play 33 RPM records, also known as LPs. LPs are the industry standard in the 21st century, but that wasn’t always the case. Many vintage records measure seven or ten inches wide and are played at either 45 or 78 RPM.
If your turntable can only play 33s, these vintage records will be nothing more than wall art for you. Unless your primary goal with record collecting is to spruce up your decor, it’s always essential to check the compatibility of each record you buy with your turntable.
Collecting vintage vinyl can be an extremely rewarding and exhilarating experience, and it’s always helpful to stay informed on your journey. For more information about turntables, records, and everything in between, make sure to visit the Sound of Vinyl blog.