Sunday, December 6, 2009
The girl's guide to record collecting
When I was a freshman in high school my friend made me a mix tape, one side was Operation Ivy, the other side was Gorilla Biscuits, Start Today. This is when my fascination with music started. Fast-forward to 1997: It's not that I intentionally wanted to disappoint my parents when I graduated from high school, it's just that working at a CD store was my dream. I got hired at a chain CD store and worked there for what seemed like a year. I quit, worked as a waitress at a dessert shop, gained 15 pounds and then discovered the holy grail: vinyl.
I walked into a record store and told the guy behind the counter I was going to work there. I started showing up every day and would just thumb through all the records until my fingertips turned black. I've been working there now for 11 years, first as a full-time job and now just on the weekends.
I've noticed a lot more women shopping at record stores and going to the local record swaps. It makes me happy to see this but I feel like a lot of men don't give women the time of day when it comes to knowledge of records. I've heard every line in the book from "you're probably too young to know what this is" to "you don't know anything about records" and one guy told me I was as "dumb as a box of rocks" which was ironic coming from a guy who looked just like Weird Al, wore a fanny pack and Jesus sandals with socks.
With vinyl sales higher than they've been in a long time, here are some things to keep in mind when you're shopping for vinyl:
1) ALWAYS check the condition of the vinyl. Exceptions to this rule are if you're buying a record at a reputable store. If you notice a scratch, rub your finger tip over it, if you can feel it, this will make a noise. This only matters if you're buying a record that isn't very loud (jazz, folk, blues, classical). Ask the employee if they can play the record where the scratch is. If it's a rock n roll or punk record, the noise may not really be a big deal at all. Also make sure to look for heat damage. Heat damage is tricky to find sometimes. You'll know a record has heat damage when a certain part of the vinyl has an especially shiny area that doesn't look like any other part of the record. There may be a warped look to the record as well.
2) If you're at a hole-in-the-wall record store or a record swap, stay FAR away from the sketchy dudes that don't have anything priced. Not to discount myself for being a woman, but these are the kinds of guys that see a girl and think we don't know S about F and will try to sell us a $10 record for $30. Just walk away. Or, if you've struck gold, tell them the price you're willing to pay and if they say no, just say thanks but no thanks Shabba Ranks and walk away. 9 times outta 10 they will call you back over and sell it to you for the price you offered them. Poker face... works like a CHARM!
3) Not many used records are worth more than $10 dollars. Calm down, I'm not talking about a rare punk or oldies record. I'm talking about your average Joe record. Just because you're at the cool dude record store in town doesn't mean you have to pay the cool dude price. A lot of times the cool records are put out for an insanely expensive amount just so there are rad records everywhere, making the store look like "wow this is the best record store EVER!!" If you see a record you're interested in, keep a mental note in your head. Go home, look at the prices on the Internet. If the eBay prices are super cheap but Cool Dude Record Haven has it priced at like $40, just wait until you can find it priced cheaper at another store. I use Amoeba Records as a perfect example of how much records are really worth. I've never gone there and thought any record in my stack was overpriced.
4) You shouldn't pay more than $3 for your average 45, especially if it has no picture sleeve. Obviously this excludes punk and oldies.
5) Skip the thrift stores... really. You wouldn't think the same guy shows up every morning at the same time to the same thrift store just to be the first person to see the records that go out for the day. This guy exists. And it's not one guy. It's many, many guys. These men are what I call "record whores". They want to get their dirty paws on every cool record just so they can sell it on eBay or at the local record swap for about 20 times what they paid for it. They don't collect records because they like music and have a passion for collecting records. Well, most of them anyways. Also, thrift stores don't even check the condition of the vinyl they put out and most of the time it's the wrong record in the sleeve or it smells like cat urine.
6) Do your research before buying new release LPs. Brand new 45's typically go for $5, but brand new LPs can go from $10 to God knows how high. Some stores overprice their new records. Shop around! If it's a new record, it's probably easy to find at every record store that sells new vinyl. You could seriously save tons of money by looking around... and then you'll have more money to spend on more records. Also, stay away from Best Buy, Hot Topic or any other corporate store that's just getting into selling records. These places are a total rip off and are catering to your dad who thinks record stores no longer exist.