How to get rid of my Reggae Record collection?
January 11, 2010 8:31 AM   Subscribe

How do I sell a large record collection of classic 1970-80s vinyl Reggae and African LPs and singles? I can't use online auctions like Ebay, since I'm only in the US for a few weeks. I'm near New York.

I have a few hundred Reggae vinyl LPs and vinyl singles - I used to DJ on the radio and in clubs before moving to Europe. I also have a large collection of Soca, Calypso, and African LPS (Nigerian, Soukous, South African) on African labels from the same era. Most of the reggae singles were bought in Jamaica (hundreds of them - 7" and 12" - and often duplicates for DJ-ing and sets of singles based on a paricular riddim.) The collection is in my parent's basement near New York City. I can't store them forever... and I am not shipping them back to Europe with me (I haven't touched a turnable arm in 15 years...) I love them dearly but I need to sell them. I'm only in the USA for a few more weeks, so I don't have time to auction them on the web, and I can't use Ebay/Paypal from where I live (Hungary) so the best option is to take them to a store (advice, Hive Mind?) or someplace (advice?) and sell them.

I haven't got a clue about how to sell used records or the prices to expect from a buyer. If I check online web sites and auctions (i.e., ebay...) for prices, I often see general singles and LPs offered retail for about $8-$10, with certain predictable collectable items for considerably more ("Heart of the Congos" stays with me!) My question: how much could one expect as a seller to a used record dealer or shop? I understand this is impossible to accurately answer, but any ball park guesses? Anecdotes about selling record collection? Warnings? Condolences? Suggestions for the New York/NJ area for sellers? Thanks!
posted by zaelic to Shopping (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
my friend who runs a record business typically buys collections for $1-3 per record. from your description, your collection isn't large. the size of your collection also means that cherry picking is a problem--your 'heart of the congos' is exactly what he's looking for, and if you take out all of the valuable ones, then the collection loses a lot of value. if you take out all the valuable ones, then the collection becomes worthless.
posted by lester at 8:41 AM on January 11, 2010

Sell the whole collection on ebay as a bundle and be done with it. You'll probably get a better price than you would at a used record store.
posted by gnutron at 9:23 AM on January 11, 2010

Dusty Groove buys collections, and I think Ernie B's Reggae does as well. Neither one's in NY/NJ, though, so you'd probably have to ship 'em.
posted by box at 9:37 AM on January 11, 2010

Best answer: I run what many consider the best used record store in Toronto. Average prices paid for vinyl are about $2, but much of it depends on condition (of both the vinyl and the sleeve).

7" and 12"-non-LPs garner less. Reggae can be a tough sell, though like all genres it'll depend on title. Most used resellers will also pay less, on average, for large collections as they figure people are desperate to unload due to a move or cashflow problems. My store doesn't do that but many independent buyers do. The majority of non-store owners I know who specialize in buying collections and selling them at shows or online were former store owners who, though they know music, were not business savvy enough to pull off a shop long-term. These people will rarely pay fair market value if they sense that you don't know what your albums are worth. (I can only think of one exception to that and he's not in New York.)

If you do want to go to an indie buyer (they come to your house), scour the classifieds of your most respected daily newspaper or alternative weekly rag.

However, keep in mind that the vast majority of LPs and 7" records are not worth very much. There seems to be a grand illusion that because they're old, the records must be valuable. This is simply not the case. Rarely a week goes by without someone bringing me a record they swear they heard is worth hundreds of dollars that I sell regularly for $5, no exaggeration.

Often these people will point to an auction on eBay but they'll fail to recognize that:

1. Their pressing is different from the one auctioned.
2. The condition of their record is worse.
3. eBay is a global market. I run a walk-in business. eBay is not my competition. If you want eBay prices, you do the work of selling it.

Normally when people ask me for advice about selling albums, I'll tell them to clean them first as they'll get more cash for them. (Same goes with CDs.) But rarely do people take my advice on this as everyone assumes their records are in great shape as is.

Your Q description threw up a few flags for me and if you are going to approach some shops to sell, I'd reword your pitch. Lets say you were in Toronto and called my shop. Here's what I'd be thinking as you pitched me:

- "stored in a basement for years." This is not good. Basements are musty, moldy, and prone to floods. Though I know this doesn't describe your mom's basement because it's never the description of any seller's basement (wink wink), but as a music retailer, I'm already not looking forward to seeing your collection.

- "I was a dj". Bzzzt! Not good on multiple levels: 1) DJs often purchase music of the moment because that's what they get requests for. This is not always (or even often) a good thing. 2) Depending on the type of DJ (live, radio, etc.), it's possible you don't take care of your records because you're at a party and yanking them off the turntable to throw something else on or whatever. Of course, this isn't always the case--DJs do have to maintain condition because they use records for a living but I've seen many a DJ collection that's an embarrassment on the condition side.

- "most were bought in Jamaica"... this is both a good and a bad thing. It's a great thing for true lovers of the country's music but it's a band thing for the average reggae listener because they aren't familiar with the songs that don't blow up in their own country. It's like foreign films... in North America, it seems like all foreign films are of a particular quality--but most movie goers are not factoring all the movies that don't get released outside of their country of origin. There may be some great gems that don't hit other shores but for the most part, no one outside of their region has heard them. Of course, the die-hards will do the research and know the obscure (in their country though not necessarily in the country of origin) artists. However, most used shops cannot run their businesses hoping that cat walks through the door. (Again, this is the benefit of eBay--the only people looking at your auction for Obscure Record Number 43 is someone who punched that information into the search box--anyone who sees your page IS looking for that record. The same is not true of every customer who flips past your record in my shop.)

Anyway, were you a friend of mine asking for advice on selling those records, I'd tell you to approach shops like this:

- if you're walking in, call first and ask if there's a best time to come in with reggae albums. Tell them you have a large qty and want to know when best to come (which means, to them, when the "reggae loving staff" is there and when they have enough staff on hand so that your qty doesn't bring the store to a standstill).

For instance, at my store the reggae genre wouldn't affect time to come, but the qty would. I have two staff on between 2 and 6 every day. One can go through your records and the other can serve the other customer. If you come outside those hours, the sole worker has to do both. This slows everything down for everyone, yourself included. Mentioning the genre can be important because some shops have staff who specialize. For instance, my store has one person who deals exclusively with classical CDs. No other staff member is permitted to buy classical discs so someone coming in when he's not there is wasting their time. Some stores may have the same policies for reggae.

You should also mention the format. Some stores do not buy 7" or 12"-non-LPs as they're a much tougher sell and harder to market. You may be wasting your time and breaking your back to bring in things they could have told you on the phone they're not interested in.

- do not tell them you're a DJ. Do not say they were stored in a basement (though, depending on the basement, this may be impossible to hide).

- tell them you're a reggae lover or aficionado and that most of the titles you're selling are doubles you've collected over the years and you're only finding out because you're sorting things. You could even tell them you had one collection at one house and another at another house or at work or whatever so often had multiple titles as you didn't want to lug things back and forth. This may sound ridiculous but what you basically want to avoid is tipping them that you're desperate to unload your titles, which, based on your post, you are. If they get a whiff of that desperation, they'll lowball you. And trust me, record store employees are used to eccentrics and OCD people who DO have multiple copies of items. One of my favorite exchanges with one of my regular collectors went like this:

me: you really want this? you must already have this.
him: yeah, I have five copies. it's great.
me: you really need a sixth?
him: it makes a great gift.
me: then why do you have five copies?
him: i don't know anyone worthy enough to give it to.
me: *rings in purchase*

Have you got a list of titles? If so, feel free to send it along and I'll tell you how appealing it is to a store like mine, which sells reggae and afrobeat but does not specialize it.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:30 AM on January 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, You Should. Good counsel that I will seriously think about. I may just take more time with selling off this collection - I'm making listings, cahecking quality of each disc, and luckily, the records were stored on shelves in boxes.
posted by zaelic at 1:36 PM on January 11, 2010

I'm a pretty big fan of music in general, but I have a special love for reggae and African and Caribbean music. So I asked my friend Martin, who's a huge collector of this stuff and has been an advisor to me about it. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially:

1) There are many serious collectors for "vintage" African music, especially on African labels. It's kind of a specialized niche, but - unless your collection is just awful - it's not uncommon for albums to go for $8-$40, and non-LP singles can be worth a surprising amount. Ditto reggae. Selling to a store can be a loss, because there may not be enough demand in a geographical locale to allow for big prices, but on the internet there can be.

2) Obviously, condition can play a big role in value. If the records are in good shape - not moldy, covers don't have any writing on them (etc), then you're fine. Collectors understand that African and Jamaican pressings are rarely of intrinsically high quality.

3) The best thing to do would be to come up with a short list of artists and labels, or some sort of generalization about what you have - lots of Lee Perry or Joe Gibbs or Jean Bosco Mwenda or whatever it is.

4) Soca and calypso can be a little trickier to see and may not have anywhere near as much value. But of course, it depends.

If it seems like good stuff, he might be willing to buy your whole collection at better prices than you'd get anywhere, except through long auctions to specific audiences.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:49 PM on January 11, 2010

Are you sure you can't use PayPal/eBay in Hungary? You can apparently send and receive PayPal from Hungary and pay into a Hungarian bank account. Can you register on say or and sell there?
Search for a few of the names from your discs on You are unlikely to get anything approaching 50% of these prices from a shop/dealer. It may well be worth your while shipping the collection to Hungary and selling at your leisure from there. More work but better returns.
posted by Dr.Pill at 2:38 PM on January 12, 2010

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