Where to appraise my vinyl?
August 3, 2012 12:31 PM   Subscribe

I have 100s of old vinyl records left by my wife's grandparents. Where can I get them appraised (hopefully for free or a nominal fee)?

I called a local record store, but they're only interested in vintage rock and some jazz. These are mostly standards from the 40s and 50s, but a handful are older. Most have no jackets or sleeves.

I plan on cataloging them all this weekend in a spreadsheet. We've kept the ones of interest to us and I would really like to sell them all en masse (if they're worth anything) rather than selling a single record here and there.
posted by schleppo to Work & Money (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Ugh, I was in this EXACT situation in 2003. There is no easy answer here. If they are not within sleeves, they are most likely not worth much to collectors unless you have a very rare disc in relatively good condition in the group. Vinyl collectors are very picky about grading and the condition of the disc (for good reason) and sleeves exist to protect the record. No sleeves doesn't bode well.

I couldn't find anyone to purchase the entire collection and most of our collection was in sleeves sometimes many of the items looked like they had never been played. The collection was everything from Classical to Standards to vintage Jazz to obscure international discs purchased in the 40's - 60's (the previous owners were world travelers). Some odd advertising related discs as well, and some photo discs.

Nothing in the bunch was worth anything of significance. I ended up selling some things at a garage sale for pennies, gave a lot of them away, etc. Kept a collection of the more interesting and obscure stuff. I found vinyl appraisers who were willing to come look at pieces of the collection for a fee and because they were curious (Classical, or just jazz standards) but no "general appraisal" person. Many appraisers wanted me to cart pieces of the collection to them. But there were HUNDREDS of discs. And I live in a pretty busy urban area.

Now, could your story be different? Absolutely. If you need more information about specific discs, check the COMPLETED category on eBay. You might turn up a gem!

posted by jeanmari at 12:50 PM on August 3, 2012

Given your description, I highly doubt that they are even worth cataloging. Give us a few titles to work with.
posted by Ardiril at 12:53 PM on August 3, 2012

I'll post a few titles when I get back home tonight.
posted by schleppo at 1:01 PM on August 3, 2012

MusicStack has a price search function that will show you the average price of various records. Also GEMM is a good resource for doing research on used vinyl prices.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:03 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would put a listing in your local Craigslist, and see if you get any bites from area dealers. But, to be honest, I don't know how much you're gonna get without sleeves.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:21 PM on August 3, 2012

I'm going to appraise them right now: they're not worth anything. Literally nobody is going to buy old records with no sleeves or jackets. I doubt a charity like Goodwill or the Salvation Army would even take them in that condition.

Maybe you can give them away on Craigslist or Freecycle.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:51 PM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Selling any record collection en masse is harder than letting people cherry-pick them. It's very unlikely anyone would want everything you have, even if it were highly desirable stuff.

Kind of odd that you have that many records but no jackets or sleeves. Are we really talking about vinyl Lps (lightweight, flexible, multiple tracks on each side), or could they be shellac 78s (heavy, brittle, one song on each side)? The fact that they are standards from the '40s and '50s made me wonder. That's the end of the 78 era as well as the start of the Lp era. It's not unusual to see piles of 78s with no sleeves.

They STILL probably aren't worth anything. But I could direct you to some folks who might be willing to cart 78s away for free just to keep them from going to the city dump.

The spreadsheet is a good idea if you are willing to take the time. You'll want to note artist, titles, label, catalog number and condition. You may have one or two surprises in there that would make the effort worthwhile.
posted by Longtime Listener at 2:50 PM on August 3, 2012

Oh, my qualifications, such as they are, are that I used to be an assistant music librarian for a university library that had a biennial sale. Even high-quality, professionally maintained records were worth nothing unless they were specifically collectible for some reason (a short run pressing, an autographed album cover, etc.).
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:51 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

This probably doesn't help you if you still live in OH, but ...
I just sold 5 boxes of old records to Waterloo in Austin, TX. They didn't want everything, but I was actually surprised at how much we got. Of course, the ones we were selling had sleeves.
posted by Metasyntactic at 3:35 PM on August 3, 2012

After you make up your spreadsheet, you could try Jerry if Pittsburgh isn't too far for you (though I think he takes shipments once agreements have been made). Sleeveless records will be a tough sell, but I've bought some there.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:00 PM on August 3, 2012

i'm going to agree with sidhedevil on this. i do some work for a vintage record dealer on a regular basis. 78s generally are worthless. records that are not in sleeves are worthless. if you have 78s that are blues from the 1920s then yes you might have something--but chances are really against it. the fact that a record store already passed on it pretty much seals it.

fyi my client does often buy whole collections--and pays top dollar when he does. put a few craigslist ads out anyway to see if he or someone like him responds.
posted by lester at 7:48 PM on August 3, 2012

They're probably not worth anything, except sentimental value, esp. without sleeves. Sorry.
posted by windykites at 8:58 PM on August 3, 2012

On the other hand, though, I spend quite a bit of money on antique books that "aren't worth anything". So it might not be a lost cause, if you're patient.
posted by windykites at 9:03 PM on August 3, 2012

A guy in my neighborhood has an ongoing Saturday stoop sale where he sells crates of records like this. Mostly classical, jazz, and 40's/50's pop standards. They all have covers, but often no inner dust covers. He sells them for a buck apiece.

I've bought a few from him, mainly classical stuff because I don't know much about classical music, and a dollar for one of Beethoven's symphonies or a collection of Chopin piano pieces seems like a great deal even if the record will barely play.

That's probably about what the market for your records is, at least, the ones with covers.
posted by Sara C. at 9:08 PM on August 3, 2012

Check the classified ads in your local paper (including alt weeklies). I've lived in a few places where some guy has always run a small ad about buying vinyl collections.
posted by kuanes at 2:48 AM on August 4, 2012

Maybe start a new business?
posted by rikschell at 10:40 AM on August 4, 2012

Looked through the many boxes more today and most are not sleeveless/jacketless as I initially estimated. Breaks down approximately like this:

1/3 have no jacket or sleeve (examples here, here, here, here, here, and here).

1/3 in record books with sleeves (example here)

1/3 with their own jacket (some unopened; examples here and here). Yes, my grandparents may have actually purchased a Captain and Tenille record for $1.99.

Thanks for the suggestions so far. I will check the sites listed to see if anything matches. I agree that most (if not all) of them will probably not be worth anything. I am still going to catalog them and may need to borrow my father-in-laws record player.
posted by schleppo at 11:47 AM on August 4, 2012

Also, I'd say at least a 1/3 are from the early 1900s. Sadly, most of those have no sleeve or jacket. The Edison one is really thick. Not sure if that means it's older or what (my knowledge of vinyl doesn't extend much beyond being able to spell it).

As to Longtime Listener's questions, most are single song LPs and 78s.
posted by schleppo at 11:58 AM on August 4, 2012

Here's what I can tell you about a few you have pictured. The 10-inch singles are 78s, which are called that because they were meant to be played at 78 rpm, more or less. They last about three minutes per side.

For special sets or general storage, multiple plain sleeves were bound inside cardboard covers like a photo album. (Such as the one with the red-label Columbias.) That's why they are called record albums, a name that survived the switch to long-playing 33 1/3 vinyl records.

Lack of sleeves is normal for 78s and wouldn't reduce their value if they were highly desirable. Which, I'm sorry to say, these aren't. There's no demand for waltzes, male quartets and such. The late '20s dance bands can make for great listening, though. The Cameo has potential, and the Velvet-Tone might be fun. If there are more from that era, it's still possible that you might have something worth more than 50 cents.

In your photos:

Columbia A-2713 (Sterling Trio) dates from 1919.

Cameo 8134 (Broadway Broadcasters) is from 1928.

Victor 19305 (Peerless Quartet) was made in 1924.

Lincoln 2656 (Southern Serenaders) is from 1927.

Velvet Tone 1894-V (The Harmonians) was made in 1929.

The red-label Columbias are from about 1941.

Can't date the Edison precisely, but it's early 1920s. They are thick because Edison insisted on doing things his own way. The groove modulates vertically (also called hill-and-dale recording), while most other manufacturers used grooves that modulated laterally.
posted by Longtime Listener at 6:25 PM on August 4, 2012

You could take up listening to them as a new hobby. You know vinyl has the best sound!
posted by windykites at 8:29 PM on August 4, 2012

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