MAYBE IT’S TIME TO DIG OUT YOUR OLD RECORD ALBUMS AND SHARE THEM WITH A YOUNG MUSIC LOVER
By Pamela Wiggins Siegel
While he dabbled in Pokémon cards and comics when he was younger, Jason Whatley never expected a vinyl record purchase several years ago would lead to a full-blown collection. Today this unintentional discographer from Round Rock, Texas, owns a growing and diverse cataloged music library.
Whatley’s first album buy came after attending a concert when he was 15. “I saw a band I really liked,” he says, “and found out they pressed a record on vinyl.” That one acquisition was all it took to get his collection under way. Soon, he was adding more titles. “My music interests are kind of all over the place,” says Whatley, who is now 18. “My appreciation has definitely grown working at the store.”
After listening to a variety of music genres in the shop where he works, Piranha Records, this college student now owns both new and vintage rock, jazz, funk, metal, hip-hop and country records, among other genres. His parents and grandparents also encouraged his passion for vinyl by gifting him vintage classic rock albums from their own stock of records they’d held onto for decades.
With so many other modern choices for listening to music now, what makes vinyl so appealing to a young collector like Whatley? He feels many people are drawn to old-school record albums over other music mediums because vinyl provides a deeper connection to the music. “You can literally hold the music, read the credits and see the cover artwork in more detail, making it a much more immersive experience.”
Garry Shrum, director of the Entertainment & Music Memorabilia department at Heritage Auctions, has been collecting records since he was about 7. By the time he was a teen, he was hooked on the hobby. After several twists and turns, including marrying a fellow record collector, he eventually owned a successful record store before diverting his focus to helping others evaluate and sell their music memorabilia.
Shrum agrees with Whatley about records being a more personal form of music, and notes that cover art is particularly important. Artists like Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí and Alberto Vargas, along with, more recently, Jeff Koons and Banksy, have all put their own unique touches on album cover art.
Shrum also believes record collectors appreciate the sound quality and tone of music when it’s pressed on vinyl. “It has a warmer, deeper sound. It’s easier to get goosebumps listening to vinyl. It’s just much clearer and natural,” he says. Whatley describes it as a high-fidelity, crisp sound that vinyl aficionados can’t get anywhere else.
COLLECTING & REMINISCING
Attending record conventions, which are held in the United States and globally, can be a great learning experience for young collectors and older enthusiasts as they explore the sound of vinyl. Parents and grandparents wanting to encourage younger music fans while reminiscing about their own favorite albums can easily tag along. Starting a vinyl collection, however, can also be as easy as visiting a local record shop.
“Don’t be afraid to go to your local record store and talk to the collectors that work there,” Whatley says. “Everyone I’ve met when I’m shopping is so friendly. It’s a great community.” He also says to feel free to ask employees for advice about collecting. They’re happy to help and love talking vinyl with customers.
Whatley also suggests learning “how to dig” through records. This means looking at condition, starting with the outer sleeve. Then examine the album for scratches and warping or really worn labels. As collectors advance, they learn to look at the etching on the record for clues to discern editions and exact pressing dates. This helps distinguish more common records from rarities that might hold more value.
Shrum often guides collectors wanting to sell rare records through his work at Heritage. Recognizing A-list records that will bring high values comes with experience. As examples, he points to Elvis Presley albums, which sold millions of copies. However, those with early Sun labels (rather than later RCA labels) are more valuable. “Elvis recordings on Sun label in good condition can sell for $300 to $500 to more than $1,000” in excellent shape, he says.
The rarest records might be out of reach for most younger collectors, but the budget-minded can always dig the bargain bins in their local record shops. “Look for $1 or $2 bins in the stores and ask for help from the staff to locate genres that interest you,” Whatley shares. He reminds other young collectors to hit local garage and estate sales to find bargain-priced albums as well.
As for how to play a record collection, many promising enthusiasts start out with a box record player or simple turntable. While that’s a good place to begin, Shrum and Whatley advise others to expect an itch for better gear as their music appreciation expands.
When playing records, inspecting discs before putting them on the player is always a good idea. Making sure records are clean not only protects the vinyl from scratching, but also preserves the needle on the record player. Tools to clean records, especially for beginners, range from simple brushes to gently remove dust to spray specially formulated for vinyl and a soft cloth for more thorough cleaning.
Caring for a vinyl collection also means storing albums properly. “Don’t stack the records,” Whatley says. “Store them like you would traditionally store books on a bookshelf.” This is important since stacking can contribute to warping and cause label wear marks on album covers that mar the artwork.
Shrum adds that storing records at a reasonable temperature is also important to avoid warping. “About 80 degrees or lower is perfect. Heat is like kryptonite when it comes to vinyl.” He also suggests placing discs in plastic sleeves inserted inside the covers to protect against seam splitting.
As for online resources, Whatley recommends Discogs.com. “There are tools to categorize and manage a collection,” he says. “I can rate the condition of my records and keep track of the values.” Whatley has also used the site to add music to his collection, make wish lists, participate in record-collecting groups and access blog articles to further his learning.
With so many different outlets available to foster vinyl collecting, think about digging out your old record albums and sharing them with a young music lover. Chances are, they’ll be singing your praises in no time.
PAMELA WIGGINS SIEGEL is the author of Collecting with Kids: How to Inspire, Intrigue and Guide the Young Collector, a book based on her columns in The Intelligent Collector.
Rare Among the Rare
ORIGINAL VERSION OF THE BEATLES’ ‘YESTERDAY AND TODAY’ ALBUM IS ONE OF POP MUSIC’S MOST NOTORIOUS RELEASES
Delivered to stores in 1966 and featuring classics such as “Drive My Car,” “Nowhere Man,” “Yesterday” and “Day Tripper,” the album featured an image of the Fab Four covered in raw meat and decapitated baby dolls. After public outrage, the controversial album was quickly recalled, with copies covered up with a photo showing the band standing around an old-fashioned steamer trunk.
Now known as the “butcher” cover, original copies snatched up by fans before the recall, known as first state covers, are among the hobby’s rarest treasures, says Garry Shrum, director of entertainment and music memorabilia at Heritage Auctions.
Even rarer are copies distributed in Canada. Only three first state versions of the Canadian “butcher” cover, a mono copy, left production plants before the albums were destroyed, Shrum says. U.S. versions of the album routinely realize more than $50,000. “We anticipate this Canadian version will generate even more collector interest,” Shrum says.
The LP, along with scores of other entertainment collectibles, is featured in Heritage’s Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature® Auction 7226, scheduled for Nov. 14, 2020 (HA.com/7226a).
This article appears in the Fall 2020 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.