Sony Music Japan released the first compact discs containing popular music on October 1, 1982. They were hugely popular in the 80s and 90s, but ever since Napster came on the scene, their decline has been steady. So, in our digital age, are CDs worth money? Is there any point in collecting them, and could ones you own actually be worth money?
Well, I’ll explain everything to you today in this article, so you can best figure out if buying or selling CDs is really worth it in the modern age of music consumption.
Are CDs Worth Any Money (TLDR)
The odds of having a CD worth thousands of dollars are not enormously high, but certainly not unheard of, and second hand prices in the hundreds occur more often than you might think.
A CDs worth rises or falls significantly depending on a few key factors. The disc’s condition and the case’s style or packaging make a considerable difference (long boxes are highly sought after, for example). The price will also increase the CD is part of a limited edition run, a test press, or the insert is signed by the artist.
Occasionally, audiophiles and second-hand shop owners are interested in extensive collections of CDs regardless of genre and will pay good money for them as part of an effort to bring back the nostalgia/obsession combo that fueled the last decade of the 20th century. And, like anything collectible coupled with the Internet, it is easy to find articles predicting their comeback.
In the end, the average CD you own probably isn’t worth much money at all. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to discover that you have a very small handful of CDs that fit the criteria for being rare and fairly valuable.
Is There a Market for Old CDs?
Let’s take a look at a handful of CDs that truly have value on the secondary market.
5. Bob Dylan The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol.12: Collector’s Edition
This 18-disc, 379-song collectors box set was released solely from the official Bob Dylan website in 2015 and limited to 5,000 copies. Included in the collection are reproductions of nine vinyl singles (with their original B-sides), including classic tracks like “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” and “Highway 61 Revisited.”
As an example of how detailed collectors can be, this particular version lists a misprint which significantly increased its value (“The B-side of the ‘Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?’ single ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ has a label misprint. It reads ‘Highway 61’ instead”).
4. Michael Jackson – Smile (1997)
According to Yahoo! Finance, this single is “one of the rarest, and most sought after, pieces of Michael Jackson memorabilia” in existence. A tribute to Charlie Chaplin, Smile was never officially released, as the record company canceled the planned single. This left a small number of promotional copies floating around for fans and collectors to drool over. They sell on Discogs at anywhere between $50 and $1,500.
3. Coldplay – The Safety E.P. (1998)
The Safety E.P. was Coldplay’s first-ever release. It was self-funded by the band and limited to 500 copies. Versions of two of its songs – “Bigger Stronger” and “Such A Rush” – were eventually released on The Blue Room E.P. the following year, and “No More Keeping My Feet on the Ground” was released in 2000 as a B-side for Coldplay’s breakthrough hit, “Yellow.”
Apparently, unless you were a record executive, a close friend, or a family member of the band, your chances of snagging a copy of The Safety E.P. were incredibly slim. Some sources say only 50 copies were ever released to the public.
2. Eminem – Slim Shady EP (1997)
Valued between $500 and $2,800, the Slim Shady EP was the world’s introduction to Eminem. This was pre-recorded deal, pre-Dr. Dre, pre-unstoppable controversy machine Eminem, and only about half of the original 500 copies (on CD, cassette, and vinyl) were sold (mostly in and around Detroit). Discogs currently has a few for sale, the least expensive of which is for just over $3,100, with the most expensive for $5,500.
1.Nirvana – Pennyroyal Tea (Scott Litt Mix) (1993)
Valued between $1,500 and $2,000, this alternate version of “Pennyroyal Tea” was remixed by producer Scott Litt (who had previously worked with R.E.M. and Matthew Sweet).
The original version appeared on Nirvana’s third and final album, In Utero, and was set to be released as a single after the massive success of “All Apologies.” Following Curt Cobain’s tragic suicide in 1994, the single’s release was canceled.
If you’re in the market for Nirvana memorabilia or have some you’re looking to unload, be diligent with your research. Know what you’re buying or trying to sell. For example, you can find CD copies of In Utero on Discogs for as little as $0.26, up to as much as $399.98 (prices plus shipping).
Commenting on the high prices of these items is not meant to exclude their possible legitimacy. After all, the cardigan Cobain wore for Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance sold for $334,000 in 2019). Still, it is difficult to disregard what Cobain may have thought about his signature being worth a fortune.
What Should You Do With Old CDs?
Well, it depends—do you want to keep your CDs or or sell them? If you want to keep them, I recommend making sure you store them properly. I’m a big fan of old school CD wallets—those big CD binders that we huge in the 1990s. They can hold hundreds and hundreds of CDs, and if you find a high quality one, they can even fit the booklets that came inside your CD’s jewel case.
Now, if you want to sell your old CDs, I’d recommend putting them up for sale at the following locations:
–Ebay (it’s easy to sell on eBay, and the website has been around long enough where both buyers and sellers trust the platform)
–Discogs (this is an excellent online marketplace where you can find huge fans of the CD format that ware willing to buy individual CDs in your collection. They have great user forums with responsive buyers and sellers. It can be a conversational experience as well as a private one, and you can keep a close eye on how the market looks from month to month (week to week/day to day – however you roll).
There are tons of excellent articles to rummage through as well, which can add up to a hefty time investment if all you’re looking to do is unload a few CDs.
Searching through the vastness of the website can lead to getting a bit lost in the weeds, which isn’t always a bad thing, especially for collectors.
–Used Record Stores (whether you want to go to the local record store in your area, or you live near a Bull Moose or Amoeba Records or Newbury Comics, you’ll likely be able to trade in most if not your entire CD collection for either cash or store credit. You may not get the best value here, but you definitely will get rid of the clutter in your home)
The use of Facebook waxes and wanes in popularity, but you can buy and sell locally on their Marketplace.
As an alternative to Ebay, Amazon’s Trade-in program is easy to use and backed by a reputable company. You tell Amazon about your item, then they send a trade-in offer, then ship your item(s) at no cost (via UPS or verified Amazon shipping locations). You’re paid by Amazon gift cards, which would certainly be a down side if you’re not a regular Amazon user.
-Decluttr (US)/Music Magpie (UK)
Decluttr is a buy/sell site for all sorts of tech – game systems, cell phones, tablets, DVDs, and CDs, and it’s super easy to use (the UK version of the site is called Music Magpie). You can search for your product by name/title, enter the barcode manually, or use the app to scan the barcode.
After your item sells, you pack your box, and attach a shipping label that they send you. Items ship from UPS locations, and there are three payment options (direct deposit, PayPal, and charity donation).
This is a great place to sell your stuff and clear up space… perhaps for more stuff!
So, Are CDs Still Worth It?
Buying a brand-new CD today won’t cost you any more than it would have twenty-five years ago. The privilege of today’s digital landscape, however, is that it provides the option for fans to pay very little money per month to access millions of albums and artists on their smart phone.
Beyond the obvious monetary hit for musicians, it’s worth buying CDs today because the sound is superior to any other format. I still believe that, as much as love vinyl, that CD beats vinyl records in terms of sound fidelity.
Not only do you get to hear the music pure (without any pops or crackles), but it’s hard to beat the pristine sound quality of a CD (or a CD imported into your computer and turned into FLAC files or WAV files or an ALAC file—if you use an Apple computer.
Granted, this high quality sound may not translate into a high dollar amount when it comes to the value of your CD. But if you’re an audiophile, I’d argue that getting excellent sound quality for a low price is, ironically enough, priceless.
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This article was written by Joel and edited by Michael.
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