For someone who wants to buy vinyl records and grow a great vinyl collection, you’re in the right place.

This short and sweet article will take you through some of the key tips for buying a vinyl record and starting a collection.

Buying Your First Vinyl Record

Buying your first vinyl – it’s as daunting as it is exciting! In fact, buying any record is something you must really think about. Avoid research and you will no doubt end up with a poor-quality vinyl that you won’t want in your collection.

Having said that, when starting out with collecting vinyl, it’s important not to buy anything too pricey. Sometimes the big price can be misleading and you could be buying a bootleg record, which is a collector’s nightmare.

Before we reveal our top 8 tips, if you’re in the market for a brand new turntable and need a bit of help deciding which is best, please utilize the table below, which allows you to directly compare some of the best turntables on the market against one another:

PhotoModelPriceKey Feature
U-Turn Audio Orbit PlusU-Turn Audio Orbit Plus$$Machined Acrylic Platter
Audio-Technica-AT-LP60Audio Technica AT-LP60$Fully Automatic
Audio-Technica-AT-LP120-USBAudio-Technica AT-LP120USB$$USB Direct Drive
Crosley C200A$Direct-Drive Turntable
Audio-Technica-AT-LP1240-USBAudio Technica AT-LP1240-USB$$USB Direct Drive/DJ Table
Marantz TT-15S1Marantz TT-15S1$$$Solid Plinth Belt-Drive Design
Music Hall MMF 1.5$$Built-In Phono Preamp
ProJect Classic$$$Metal/MDF Chassis
Music Hall MMF 7.3Music Hall MMF 7.3$$$2-speed (33/45 rpm) pulley
Pro-Ject Essential III$$Ortofon OM10 cartridge

Rega Planar 1$$RB110 tonearm
Pioneer-PL-990Pioneer 990$Full-Automatic Operation
Rega Planar 2$$$10mm Float-Glass Platter

1) Start Cheap: Go Vinyl Thrift Shopping

When buying vinyl, start by visiting local vinyl shops, thrift stores or even hit up garage sales. You are highly unlikely to find records like The Beatles, though whilst getting started you’ll find some great records without spending a fortune. Not only this, but collecting vinyl might not be for you. By starting cheap, you won’t be “wasting” your expenses if you decide that it’s not a hobby you enjoy.

Though, perhaps it is for you. And if so, that’s great! From revisiting local stores and thrift shops, you can build relationships with the sellers. That way, you are sure to grab some great deals from them somewhere alongside your vinyl collecting journey.

2) Don’t Expect Deals Straight Away

As stated above, finding a deal on your vinyl records takes time. Second hand shops can often be very personal. It’s up to you to get to know the staff who work there. Show you are really interested in the vinyl by asking questions, talk about your vinyl collection and what you are buying. You’ll soon build strong relationships and find yourself getting deals, recommendations and even having new records reserved just for you.

  • Remember: Aside from just yourself, there’s a tremendous number of faithful regulars that shop nearly every single day for records. Sadly, a once-a-month visit from the novice record collector won’t put you at any advantage.

3) Learn the Worth of Vinyl Before You Pay The Price

Buyers often find themselves struggling to know how much they should pay for a vinyl record. To some degree, the only real answer is pay the price it’s worth to you.

Still unsure? Here’s a useful little equation by Jeb Banner to consider:

Price = (Scarcity + Demand + Pressing) * Condition.

Although this doesn’t allow you to actually plug numbers into the equation, it’s agreed that thinking of the worth of your vinyl purchase in this way will indeed help you to come up with a value.

For originals, scarcity and demand are huge factors in increasing the price – and rightly so. They can take the value of the vinyl up into the hundreds or even thousands.

  • Helpful Tool: For users looking at buying vinyl records, try using PopSike, a resource ideal for finding out a record’s value. It’s important to note that these prices are given in the currency USD.

4) Examining Your Vinyl Records

First things first, look for scratches. Often the most vintage vinyl records will have some surface marks.  And the deeper the record scuff or scratch, the more it will affect the playability and sound of your vinyl.

It’s also worth looking at the features on the vinyl, including the dead wax width, label writing, matrix and so on. This can be done through comparing it to the stock copy of the vinyl.

Looking At the Vinyl Jacket

When analyzing vinyl, it’s important to ensure you are looking beyond the vinyl itself. One key aspect to consider is the vinyl jacket.

To begin with, looking at the ‘ring wear’ on the jacket will help to indicate the standard of quality it is in. Be sure to also pay attention to things like split seams, stains, pen marks, and cover rips.

Not only may you experience general wear and tear, but there may be areas of mold or water spillage on the jacket which can de-value the overall record.

  • Good To Know: More often than not, if your vinyl is noticeably damaged, it will sell for much less. As a beginning collector, this works in your favor, making buying your first record potentially inexpensive.

The Grading of Vinyl

When you start collecting records, you will no doubt come across ‘record grading’. For first time buyers, it may be more appealing to purchase online, rather than trying to hunt down records at a physical store. And if you plan to be an online shopper, than being aware of vinyl record grading is incredibly important.

Since you can’t inspect the record in person, you’re relying on a ‘trusted seller’ who adheres to standardized grading. Unfortunately, not every seller tends to comply with the grading standards and hence, buyers are likely to be overcharged and receive poor quality products.

The Vinyl Grading System

Mint (M) – It perfect condition having not been played. It usually comes sealed and completely new for the reader.

Near Mint (NM) – This record is almost perfect, looking glossy with no marks and in a complete package. Although it will have been played perhaps only a few times and has been on a shelf between other records.

Excellent (E) – The vinyl is pretty similar to (NM) condition. However, it may contain more light marks showing where the vinyl has seen general use and has been taken to and from the sleeve.  It’s important to know that not every seller uses the “Excellent” grade, as some choose to go between a grade of Very Good Plus (below) and to Near Mint (above).

Very Good Plus (VG+) – This condition is probably the most common that a new collector will find themselves buying. There are a few further faults to the vinyl and the jacket, though still, nothing really compromises the record visually or audibly. When listening to the vinyl, you will perhaps hear little background crackle, though most marks will be inaudible.

Very Good (VG) – These vinyl tend to have seen a little bit of life and even though they’re usable, will show they’ve been used when listening to them. There will often be pops, clicks and crackles in the sound and splits and visible scratches on the record itself. You can still listen to it and enjoy looking at it, but it is visually and audibly used.

Good (G) – When buying a vinyl that’s ‘good’, a beginning collector may see this as pretty great.  More often than not though, the buyer is purchasing something that’s rather poor  in quality. Don’t be fooled. A vinyl grading of ‘good’ is better to be described as bad.

Poor (P), Fair (F) – This vinyl will usually leave you with nothing but a disturbing experience. There will often be major sound issues and skipping or repeating of parts of the track. Visually, it will look just as bad as it sounds. Both the vinyl and the jacket will be cracked, badly warped and have deep scratches.

It’s vital for beginners to learn how to grade a vinyl record even if the ‘trusted seller’ has graded it already. Using the above grading system, this will help you to buy vinyl records of your desired quality (i.e. playable and visually clean and glossy). For that very reason, it’s important you don’t just examine your vinyl, but examine your seller too.

5) Finding A Trusted Seller

It’s good to know that when starting to collect vinyl records, you must get involved with not only the music, but the network of buyers and sellers. The more of them you know, the better help you’ll receive when buying vinyl records from them.

By talking with other collectors and building relationships, you’re more likely to have other buyers out there, helping you avoid sellers trying to overcharge you for counterfeits and bootlegs. What’s more, from establishing relationships you’re also building a network of friends. There’s nothing quite like hearing the store owner say, “You won’t believe what we just got in, I’ve put it to the side for you.”

6) Ask Yourself “Are You Happy To Own This Vinyl?”

It may seem pretty obvious to some, but it should be remembered that there’s no point buying records if you don’t actually listen to them. You’d be surprised of the number of users who buy vinyl records in a music genre they’re never going to enjoy.

Collectors may say they have great reasoning to it, like “It’ll be worth more money one day.” Sadly, that is generally not the case, leaving you with a vinyl record you will never use and will never make you money.

  • Tip: If you are hoarding lots of vinyl records that will never make it to your turntable, sell them. Best to do it now before the chance of them devaluing goes up.

7) Buy It When You See It

As you get more and more experienced, you’ll realize just how rare an original vinyl record is.

If you pass on the chance to buy vinyl records now, it could take years before you get the chance to buy it again. If it’s going to complete your collection, make sure you don’t let it slip away!

8) Consider Collecting A Vinyl Theme

As many long-term collectors know, you’ll never have every record you want. Though it is possible to track down records from a certain band or specific music genre. Building a vinyl record collection in this way is a lot easier and can bring you across to great new music from a genre you’ve already fallen in love with.

8 Quick Steps to Buying Vinyl Records In Summary

  1. Start by shopping for vinyl in your local stores and thrift shops
  2. Build relationships with vinyl store owners by visiting regularly
  3. Research into the values of vinyls, particularly if you are looking to buy an original
  4. Carefully examine each and every vinyl record you buy
  5. Remember to research into who you are buying you records from – not every trusted seller can be trusted!
  6. Make sure you are collecting music you love listening to
  7. Buy the record there and then, before it is homed to another collector
  8. Consider buying your vinyl in a theme – though make sure it’s a theme you are interested in, if not, abort!

This article is a guest post written by John Manship of John Manship Records at Rare Soulman.

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