How to sell a record collection

Selling arecord collection

Record collections are incredibly personal, often built up over 40-50 years. Most of us with collections probably like to think that when we go, someone will embrace our collections, explore and come to love them, continue to nurture and curate them, and play the records from time to time and try to understand where we were and why we loved them.  However, I think it's generally true to say that when someone dies, their record collection is more often sold by relatives because it's not their type of music, they have debts to pay, they haven't played a record for thirty years and frankly, they don't have to room of the inclination to house and look after a huge pile of what to them, is dead plastic. Equally, you might have reached a point in life where you no longer play your records, perhaps you need the space, and you are thinking that you might like to swap them for some cash towards your retirement, a new car, or just paying off a chunk of debts.

So, sentimentality aside, what happens if you have record collection to sell. How can you go about it and how can you get  a good price for it?

These are some suggestions. Please feed free to add your own experiences in the comments section.

Researching the record collection

  1. Identify what sort of collection you have. If it is your own, then this should be fairly easy hopefully, though if you have eclectic tastes, you might want to divide it up into sub-sections. Sometimes people collect one genre of music and it's easy to identify, i.e. northern soul, punk, indie, jazz etc. Sometimes a record collection will contain a more eclectic range of records, but they might still fit into 4 or 5 general categories. It's important that you can identify them and separate them out because each will have a different target buyer.
  2. Look on Discogs at the market prices of sold items, look at sold items on ebay (use the advanced search and select SOLD items). Look at the website Popsike which holds a massive database of completed ebay record auctions going back years. It's a goldmine of information for record collectors.

Will you sell as a collection or record by record?

  1. Decide if you want to sell the records in bulk or individually. You will definitely get a better return on records that are sold individually than in bulk for obvious reasons. However, if you decide that you just want them gone and you want to sell them in bulk - here are some specific suggestions.
    1. Try to find someone who knew the collector who can give you a "ball park" valuation. It doesn't need to be to the nearest pound, but if they tell you that Uncle Frank had one of the best northern soul collections in the western world and it's worth at least £200,000 then that might stop you from selling them all to Chancer Charlie down the road who drops by with £500 in cash. Records CAN be worth a LOT of money. Not all of them, but some can. Some northern soul 7" singles, if original and in good condition, can be worth more than £5000 EACH! You need to know what you are looking at before you even think of selling. That said, many are worth less than a fiver. The devil is in the detail! One key detail is whether or not a record is an original or a later pressing or even a bootleg (a counterfeit). Take a look at our guide to spotting bootleg records for some help on that one.
    2. Try to find a place where COLLECTORS of that genre can be found and see if you can find a collector who will buy them in one go. Chances are, they will pay more than dealers. Look on Facebook for specific fan groups or pages, google for forums about that artist or genre. If you are selling an inherited record collection then try and work out of the owner participated in any online or Facebook groups relating to it. If they did, join and ask for help - record collectors will always try to help their own and nobody wants to see a good collection owned by someone they miss get eaten up by a dealer for peanuts.
    3. If you want to sell to a dealer, get as many offers as you can! Remember that dealers will rarely pay over 50% of the book cost, and some pay as little as 20%. Don't take the first offer you find.  A dealer who specializes in the area that the collection is focused on is probably going to give you a better offer so try and find someone.
  2. If selling individually:
    1. Consider getting someone who knows about the records to sell them on your behalf. A lot of record dealers will sell on a commission basis. The main benefit to you is that they have access to a large customer base AND then will know what your records are worth AND they will be able to tell if they are original or bootlegs. There are literally thousands of look alike bootleg records out there, usually of rare titles, so it's VITAL that you can distinguish between a bootleg and a real one if selling. A dealer should be able to do that for you. Yes they may take 20-25% of the sale price, but that's still worth it if you have no idea what you are dealing with.
    2. If you can't find a friendly record dealer who knows something about the records you have, see if you can find any fellow collectors - do you know anyone who was friends with the record collector before they died? Could they help you to value and sell some of the rarer items?
    3. Try out some records on Ebay. Make sure you describe them correctly in the listing and include clear pictures. People say that ebay is not so popular any more but it's very hard to find a bargain on there these days as there are still thousands of record collectors who comb through the listings and good records rarely get sold well under their value. In demand records on the other hand, frequently sell for way more than they might ordinarily fetch if a bidding war breaks out!

I hope that has triggered some thoughts.

How not to sell a record collection

  1. Don't just take them to the local record shop or market stall and tell the owner to "give me what you think is fair". It might be fair for them, but see 3. above at the top.  They need to make a living, as do we all, but that doesn't mean that you have to make it for them. If they can buy your collection for 10% of the value, many dealers will.  Some won't, but the good guys aren't necessarily the ones in your neighbourhood.
  2. Don't take them to an auction house in a little town where there might be nobody interested. The chances of a bunch of rare punk collectors turning up on spec for a household clearance auction is slim. Yes, you might get "lucky" and a record dealer pops in and makes a low offer that meets the reserve, but you're unlikely to get a bidding war among desperate collectors and that's how you get the best price.

Have you ever had to sell a record collection and regretted it later? Share your thoughts in the comments section!


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