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How to Get Rare Vinyl Records Without Breaking the Bank

I could sum up how to get rare vinyl records in two words: get lucky. That’s it. In today’s world of interconnectivity, few rare records slip past a keen record seller’s eyes. However, there are ways to increase your chances of finding a rare vinyl record and realizing when it’s the real deal. Get your rabbit’s foot ready and start taking some notes, because I’m going to explain how to get a rare record without losing an arm and a leg.

First things first, you must understand that there is a greater statistic probability of finding rare vinyl records in larger collections. More records, more of a shot at a glossy-eyed seller making a mistake while pricing a record. There’s also a higher probability that the record seller has been sitting on those for awhile and will be incentivized to sell quickly rather than wait. In other words, you’re going to have to dig to find a holy grail. That’s half the fun, right? The larger the collection, the greater chance of a rare record hiding in there somewhere. Don’t be intimidated, be inspired. Your first step is to look for places that might have large, relatively untouched concentrations of vinyl records.

Where to Dig For Deals

  • Flea Markets – Lots of undesirable records in questionable conditions are likely to turn up here, but rare records are also more likely to fly under the radar. In the states, I’ve found the more rural, the better.
  • Estate Sales – This can be a huge opportunity if you find one that is offering a large collection. You can also inquire about purchasing all of the records for a negotiated price. This is a favorite outlet of dedicated record sellers.
  • Garage Sales – Boxes and boxes of records they’ve had for years and haven’t pulled out since the 90s means you can get lucky here. Sure, you’ll have to sift through represses of mainstream hits from decades past, but you never know what might be hiding in between.
  • Record Fairs – These days, most vendors at record fairs are price savvy and are there to make money. That being said, sometimes vendors are willing to negotiate on prices. I’ve found this to be especially true toward the end of the night.
  • Craigslist – Look for large collections for sale on Craigslist. The effectiveness of this has tanked in recent years, as sellers have become more optimistic (bordering out of touch with reality) about the value of vinyl records.
  • Work at a Record Store – People will walk in with vinyl records trying to sell them and employees often get the pick of the litter. It doesn’t get any easier than this.

I’ll be the first to admit that many of these venues can be completely overwhelming. Between the crowds, the varying quality of the sellers and the hundreds of records to flip through, the experience of digging through large collections can be exhausting. To help cut down on this, I use the Discogs mobile app barcode feature to more quickly look up records that have barcodes. The Discogs app can scan a barcode with your phone camera and instantly pull up the record. Trust me, this beats having to go through the multi-step process of identifying which record you have in your hands. Don’t forget to check quality of some of these sources as well. It’s always unfortunate to pick up what you think is a steal, only to get back home and find the record is warped. It happens to the best of us. Get a refresher on how to grade vinyl records and check every vinyl record before purchase.

Use Discogs to Find Rare Vinyl Records

Not all of us are lucky enough to have a robust scene of record fairs, estate sales, and shops for used vinyl. Discogs has tools that help you find records from trusted sellers online. My favorite for finding specific records that I am hunting for is to add them to my Wantlist. I get weekly emails when items from my Wantlist are available on Discogs and am always on the lookout for ones that are added at low prices. When I first started using Discogs years ago, Wantlist emails were somewhat of a nuisance. I would get a barrage of them since I had so many selections in my Wantlist, and it was difficult to decipher if the ones in my inbox were worth my time. I ended up unsubscribing. However, we’ve released changes to this platform:

  • Good Deals – A flag for when items are listed as VG+ or better AND the price does not exceed one standard deviation above the average sales history price.
  • Rare Finds – A flag for items that have more Wants than Haves AND have not been sold in the Marketplace for 6+ months, including those never sold.

If you were like me and unsubscribed to Wantlist emails, you can opt back in using your account settings to see if the changes help make Wantlist emails more palatable.

A primary benefit of using Discogs is our commitment to advocating for accurate grading from sellers, which limits the amount of warped and sketchy records you’re going to be bringing through your doors. You’ll often have to decide whether or not the quality is sufficient enough for your collection, especially for the below-market priced ones, but it is a good way to find those elusive records that won’t turn up in your usual local circuit.

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