Are you harboring a collection of classic rock albums and afraid to part with the memories of your youth? Or did you inherit a stack of records of some of the biggest acts of the 1960s and know you will never play them?
Well, instead of letting the vinyls sit silently in a corner of a closet or garage, trade them in for some extra cash. The trick is to be realistic about value, and separate your love of Sinatra, Streisand or Sting with the market demand and condition.
“At one time the shelf that held all the Sinatra albums was 70 feet wide,” said Doug Allen, owner of Bananas Records, considered the largest record retailer in the country, and based in St. Petersburg, Florida. “We have way too much of that.”
Data on vinyl album sales in the United States from 1993 to 2020 shows consistent growth since 2006, and in 2021 a total of 41.7 million vinyl albums were sold, up by over 50% from the previous year according to Statista.com.
Music Genres Selling Well
What Bananas Records buys and sells the most are classic rock ‘n’ roll, punk and jazz albums. And that’s for around $5 — if the album and the cover are in great condition. Allen buys 500 to 1,000 albums a day and estimates he pays more than $1 or $2 an album for only about 10 percent.
“Records don’t compare to coins and stamps and books,” Allen said. “There’s not really anything that’s worth $100,000 or more.”
On the other hand, records that only sold 20,000 copies — jazz from the 1950s, early punk rock — may be worth more. Allen has seen jazz albums from that era, such as early Miles Davis, go for $500 to $700 a piece, while classic punk might sell for $50 to $100.
Many records that sold in the millions are still popular with collectors and album buyers, but so many copies are still in circulation that they don’t sell for much.
“Punk and heavy metal is what’s selling extremely well because of the age group of people who are buying records right now. They are mostly under 30 years of age,” Allen said. “The ‘70s to ‘90s progressive rock is selling. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Eno.”
He added David Bowie and John Coltrane to the list of what he’s buying.
“If it’s in mint condition it might sell for $20 to $30 if it’s and a really good early pressing,” Allen said.
Yes, just like first or early printings of books, first pressings or early pressings of albums are worth more — even to a 25-year-old consumer.
“Having that knowledge, they are proud of having something like a first pressing. Occasionally it really means something as far as the sound quality,” Allen said. “This is the generation of kids who always listened to music on their iPhone. When they play an album with a turntable and a set of good speakers they discover what music is supposed to sound like.”
Who Is In, Who Is Out
Even in mint condition, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Liberace or Elvis Presley records aren’t worth much, if anything.
“These kids who are buying records today, many of them have never heard of Elvis,” Allen said. “That era is gone.”
He noted that Michael Jackson albums in good shape are selling well.
“Two weeks after his death you could sell anything you could get your hands on for $30 to $40,” Allen said. “Now they are worth about $7 to $10.”
Though Britney Spears memorabilia is selling well with the drama over her conservatorship ending and the announcement of her pregnancy, Allen hasn’t seen an increase in demand for her records.
An Album’s Value Is About More Than the Music
Other factors affect the value of an album, including a record label or address of the recording studio, which can indicate if it’s a first or second pressing; the country in which the album was released; and whether the album was autographed.
The condition of the album cover is as important as the music itself. Water damage, tears and marks can all decrease an album’s value. If you kept your albums in the garage, there’s little chance the vinyl survived the elements and the cover is probably a victim of silverfish or some other pest. And if somebody wrote their name on the album cover, again, that lessens the value greatly.
However, Allen and other collectors frequently buy the album alone if it’s in good shape and the cover isn’t, and vice versa.
Allen advises anyone who is trying to sell their collection to take it to their local vintage record store and have them take a look and let you know what’s worth money. On average, he said if someone brings in a cardboard box full of records, they might fetch $60 to $100 for the lot, some for just a few cents and some for a few dollars.
Selling Records Online
Be sure to check the “sold” price and not the “asking” price before you get your hopes up. You will see many records receive no bids or are taken down before they sell. Still, some records sell for $25 to more than $100 depending on the condition and the rarity. Here are some examples of recent online sales on eBay. But many also include additional shipping costs of $10 to $25 depending on where they are coming from.
- John Coltrane: Cosmic Music, $25
- Prince: The Black Album, $129
- Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation, $19
- George Michael, Faith, $12
- Michael Jackson, Off The Wall, $35
- Hulk Hogan, 1983 Japanese release, $79
Another place to sell records online is discogs.com. The site has many links to advise sellers on grading the value of albums based on the condition, estimating shipping costs and packaging.
You Can Sell Your Record Equipment, Too
“Some brands of turntables are selling quite well. I just paid almost $400 for a 1960s Benjamin Miracord turntable. Some Pioneer (brand) are selling well,” Allen said. The earlier versions with solid wooden bases are what’s in demand.
Solid wooden consoles with built in speakers that are an actual piece of furniture are in demand, also. And they don’t have to necessarily work.
“I’ve heard of people who are rehabbing them and they are paying $1,000 to $1,500 for a nicer, old console,” Allen said.
Here’s What Your DVDs and CDs Are Actually Worth
What about DVDs, CDs and even 8-tracks? Allen, and Genny Stout, manager of Bananas Records, have bad news for anyone trying to unload their old movies and music.
CDs are less popular each year, as there are fewer cars with CD players. In 2021, Bananas was paying 25 cents for them, but now Stout doesn’t buy them unless they are really good classic rock.
“Fewer and fewer people have DVD players,” she said. “We used to sell three for $5. Now they are $1 each.” The store is actually making their DVD section much smaller and rarely adding anymore to their already huge inventory. A Disney box set might be worth a few dollars, tops.
“We haven’t purchased those in 5 to 6 years,” she said, adding that it’s hard to find non-profit retail stores that accept them.
“I would say there’s no market for them with the exception of a cult following,” Allen said. “Maybe a KISS 8-track, something you wouldn’t expect.”
Contributor Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance writer in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps and Lessons Learned.