Last year vinyl sales reached a 20 year high, and things look bright for this historic format.
Vinyl doesn’t just sound good – it often comes with an interesting history and can be an investment for the future.
Jamie Morrison, manager of the Oxfam Music shop in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, is a man with a passion for vinyl. We asked Jamie for some of his top tips if you want to expand your vinyl collection to include more than a few dusty classics from the attic.
Get the guide
The Rare Record Price Guide, says Jamie, should be “the first calling point for older British vinyl”. It’ll help you search albums to see if the pressing you have is worth anything, and let you know what to look out for.
Look for first pressings
“A lot of people, particularly collectors, are really focussed on getting the first pressing, which isn’t always an easy thing to determine. The difficult ones are the ones that sold really well at the time, so ones to watch out for are particularly highly prized vinyl from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Elvis.”
Get the extras
It’s not just the record, but what went with it. Look out for posters, stickers, catalogues, photographs, and even inner sleeves if you want to collect rare vinyl.
“A classic example is the Beatles White album. It was ahead of its time as the album was a desirable, special object, and every copy is unique. Each copy has a number, and if you have a low number under 5,000 then the value increases (Ringo’s copy, numbered No .0000001, recently sold at auction for a world record $790,000). You also have to have the sleeve, record, special black inner sleeve, posters and photos. If you have the whole lot, it’s very rare.”
Buy local rarities
Research local bands, and then look for their records in record shops near you, where they are more likely to come in.
“One of the most valuable things we had recently was Amaryllis by Bread, Love and Dreams (an Edinburgh folk rock trio). They only did three albums and the third was released as they were dropped off the label, so it didn’t do much at the time. It’s a good album and very rare, and there’s slightly more in Edinburgh than anywhere else.”
Keep checking stock
If you make a habit of regularly looking through stock you’ll find a host of interesting things to buy.
“Because it’s been people’s collections, and a lot of people are quite honed in on what they listen to, it keeps things varied. That’s the upside of donated music; it can be unpredictable and there’s benefits to that.”
Seek out the obscure
“If records sold a lot at the time there’s a lot more of them. It’s almost easier for collecting if they are more obscure and didn’t do much at the time.
Sometimes you might spot things and try them out, but some of the most valuable and most interesting music might not have the most amazing covers, so be aware of stuff that doesn’t look like much.”
Check the condition
“Generally speaking, older records were better made and therefore even if they’ve been played a bit they will still sound good.
“When you look at condition it’s an inexact science. You have to be keen eyed to determine what’s going to make an impact on the sound. It’s hard to tell – if you’re looking at a record some people might say that it’s damaged and some might say it’s alright. The more you get to look at records, the more you can determine which scratches are going to sound and which aren’t. The only way to know, until you have trial and error knowledge, is to listen to it. Ask in shops to have records played.”
“If you want to get into it beyond having a few records, you do need accessories. Keep your vinyl clean and dusted, and change your stylus roughly every 50 hours of play.
“Big audiophiles will even buy record clamps, which prevent records from vibrating to keep the signal purer, and flatten dished records. It all depends on how far down that road you want to go!”
Invest in equipment
Making sure you have the right equipment, says Jamie, is key – you can damage vinyl with the wrong turntable.
“If you have good quality vinyl in good condition, and you play it through a good system, you hear the difference.
“Some cheap turntables have really straight arms, so the needle cuts into the side of the groove, wearing out one side of it.”
Talk to staff
What a lot of people like about record shopping is that it’s not just the act of going in and buying records – it’s an experience. Have something recommended to you can help broaden your horizons.
“Folk can come in and walk out with something they’ve never heard of, something they are going to listen to for the next week and be really excited about. It’s something you don’t get from shopping online, and it’s a reason to go into a record shop.”
Another great way to find out more about vinyl and improve your collection is to volunteer or work in a record shop. Not only will other volunteers recommend music, but you’ll be able to get to know what’s out there.
“I’ve been here nearly ten years and there are things I’ve never seen before – not just in the shop, but ever – so you never stop learning and picking things up.”
Thanks to Jamie for his time.
As well as heading up the Oxfam Music shop, Jamie regularly DJs in Edinburgh.
Follow us on Facebook for more Edinburgh guides.