It recently struck me that I spend a lot of time writing and talking about collecting and looking after vinyl records, but rarely do I ever share my experiences more directly. Particularly given the past year’s events, it’s important to converse with others as a global music and vinyl fanatics community.
Music is such a huge part of what makes us human. It’s a powerful social lubricant, and there is perhaps no greater nostalgia machine than music. In fact, many forward-thinking Alzheimer studies have shown the power of music in trigging moments of clarity for those suffering from the disease. We’ve all experienced the transformative power of music and its ability to take us back to particular times in our lives, and I’m sure we can all name the albums and tunes that evoke memories of our youth. The short of it is, music is powerful and an experience best shared with others.
Record stores are the epitome of shared music experience, of course, along with live music. For today though, we’re going shopping on Discogs, the online music market place.
In the video below, I walk you through my weekend record buying experience, and I’d love you to share your own experience of buying vinyl on Discogs.
Starting with the Wantlist
When shopping for vinyl on Discogs, I highly recommend creating a wantlist. You can use this feature to keep tabs of all your “holly grain” vinyl wants and desires. It makes it quick and easy to check prices and you can also receive email alerts when an item on your list comes on the market.
I typically start my browsing from the wantlist before moving on to other searches. In this case, I was checking the status of Tyrannosaurus Rex Unicorn. To regular readers, It might appear I am somewhat obsessed by this record, and in many ways, you’d be right. My parents, and particularly my Dad, are big T-Rex fans. I grew up on the music as a child and have a huge affinity for many classic 60s and 70s records. Between my Dad and I, Unicorn is the only early T-Rex record that we don’t own on the original Regal Zonophone label.
There are two versions I’m most interested in: the Regal Zonophone mono copy and the Regal Zonophone red label copy in stereo. I checked the mono version first of all, but the price is just a little too steep for me. As much as it would be nice to own this rare beast, the best copy I can find is from a great record store in London called Flashback Records for £106!! Maybe another day…
The condition is listed as Very Good, which in my experience, can be risky. Very Good Plus is usually a safer bet, but for a rare 1969 pressing, I suspect this is still a fair price, just not one I can stomach just yet.
I moved on to the red label stereo copy where there was much more choice and the prices just a little more achievable. In the end, I used a combination of price, condition, and description to settle on a copy for £60.
Checking the Sales History
Discogs has plenty of tools to help you navigate the market, and perhaps one of the most useful in this instance is the sales history. Here you can gauge what the highest, lowest, and average prices are for any particular pressing. If you want to dig deeper, you can even see specific transactions with the full condition and description details. This feature will help you determine if you’re paying a fair price for the record or even if you’re looking at a bargain. At the end of the day, it’s all a balance of what you’re willing to pay, verse the condition and scarcity.
For more tips and tricks, check out our previous features on shopping for used records and how to get the best deals vinyl online.
Other Records Featured
You can watch the video for further details on how I chose two further purchases during my online shopping, but it’s safe to say these were much easier choices to make as the prices were far lower.
I picked up a copy of Neil Young Harvest to replace my worn-out copy. I’d picked up this album from my local record store some time back, and I was always disappointed by the quality. The record was clearly very well-loved, and unfortunately, it sounds like it’s playing under a pillow despite several cleaning attempts.
I even attempted to clean this record using GrooveWasher’s new, stronger G3 fluid, but sadly this record is just too far gone. No amount of record cleaning will restore a worn out or damaged record, so in this instance, it’s best just to buy a replacement. I bagged a copy for £20 in Very Good Plus condition.
Lastly, I searched for a copy of Brian Eno’s Apollo, a fantastic atmospheric ambient record. The original LP was released in 1983, and I’d once passed up a copy from a record store due to lack of funds some time back (what can I say, these are the struggles of a record collector). I settled on a copy in Very Good Plus condition for £40 and decided to conclude my shopping at this point; that’s quite enough money spent on records for one day!
Share Your Experience
We’d love to hear from you. What are you collecting at the moment? Have you found any particularly good deals recently? How do you find Discogs? Let us know your experience and share your holly grail pressings in the comments below.
I’ve found Discogs a bit of a mixed bag. Although the system works well and usually transactions are smooth, I have had issues with incorrectly catalogued records and inaccurate gradings.
My main issue though is the thorny one of “visual gradings”, surely one of the most pointless things in record collecting. Who wants a record that only looks good? Sellers with a high selling count, which I have usually assumed are dealers, hide behind this as a method of selling poor quality vinyl for inflated prices. I have, on numerous occasion, requested information regarding the condition of the vinyl to be met with a surprisingly varied range of answers, all basically saying, they have no idea. Most will tell you that they sell so many items they do not have the time to listen to the items they sell.
If possible, therefore, I try to avoid dealers with large sale counts.
Try to find people with low sales numbers that may be selling their personal collections.
Keep a list of those sellers you have been happy with and a list of those you have been less happy with.
See the country of origin of the seller. Sadly in my experience, UK dealers blatantly inflate their gradings, German and US sellers less so.
A few days ago I purchased my first record off of Discogs. I have been looking for many years for a vinyl copy of the soundtrack from the movie The Commitments.
This LP was on my want list as you mentioned in the article. A few days ago a near mint copy still in the original plastic wrapper became available.
Since I have been searching for so long without any luck I decided to throw caution to the wind and order from Discogs.
The transaction went very smoothly. I was sent a billing request which I quickly paid. The record was shipped out of Los Angeles on Friday and I received it on Monday here in Central Pennsylvania (USA).
The record was exactly as described by the seller. I am very happy with my first Discogs purchase.
On a side note Marc I remember you mentioning your search for the T Rex albums. Now imagine trying to locate them here in the States. I rarely find any T Rex regardless of the condition.
Hey Samuel. That’s great! Glad you managed to bag a copy using the Wantlist. I’ve used Discogs more and more over the last year (for obvious reasons). And it’s nice that lots of independent record stores use it so it’s been possible to support them while closed.
The early T-Rex stuff is very hard to find over in the US as they didn’t really break America, ever really, but certainly not until Electric Warrior. The Blue Thumb label is what you’ll have more luck finding over there I believe.
Cheers – happy spinning.
Discogs is definitely my go to for online vinyl shopping. I’ve had mostly great experiences when purchasing. I, too, love the wantlist feature and frequently add to my list even when there’s a newer record that comes out I want to purchase. One feature that I love which you failed to mention is the Collection feature. While I do have a separate list of the vinyl I own, I like having an online option as well. It allows you to transfer your Discogs purchases to your collection tab and will transfer the condition information as well. All in all, Discogs is pretty great and I highly recommend it.
Hey Jennifer! Thanks for your comment. Yea, the collection feature is pretty handy – though I’ve never managed to find enough time to upload everything I have. I do like the “add to collection” element though as I typically do this with anything I’ve bought on Discogs.
Another point I should’ve mentioned in the video is seller rating; it’s always best to take a glance at their feedback score before committing. However, I’ve always found the best sellers are the ones that leave very detailed description of condition and playback quality.