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Purchasing Records

In this area of the RCR Web site, we'll recommend some good places to buy records as well as talk a little about the things you have to keep in mind when doing so.


First of all, if you haven't looked through our "Record Value" section yet, we encourage you to do so now, because if you're buying a record for the sake of adding it to your collection, then you should be conscious of its condition and edition, both of which are explained in the "Record Value" section. Now, if you're buying a record simply because you want to listen to it, then you can lower your standards a bit, because who cares if the cover's beat up and that it's not a first pressing and that there are a few scratches on it. Notice the words "a few." If you're buying a record just to listen to it, a few scratches is OK. But if you look at the surface of the record and notice there are numerous scuffs and the scratches are deep, you're really just better off putting it back, because there's nothing worse than listening to a record that is so messed up that it gets in the way of the music. If it's hard for you to tell how well a record will play, trial and error is the best way to learn. Buy some cheap records at a thrift store and try them out, paying attention to what the vinyl looks like.

Grading Vinyl

Many record sellers will use a grading system to let you know the condition of the record. This is especially helpful when purchasing records online, when you can't actually look at the record yourself before you choose to buy it. Unfortunately, many people use their own grading system instead of adhering to a standard. That may be because there really isn't one standard, and so record sellers figure they might as well make up their own. The closest thing to a standard is the Goldmine grading system. If you've looked through the "Record Value" section, then you know that Goldmine is the name of the record album price guide by Tim Neely. Neely, being one of the foremost experts on collecting records, has set up a grading system that many sellers use, or they at least use the idea of it. Below is our interpretation of how it works based on Dan Eliot's article on vinyl grading systems. Note that the Goldmine system gives a grade to both the record and its cover.

Mint (M) Perfect Condition, which basically means that it is as good as new, literally. The vinyl has to look new and sound as though it was never played, and the cover has to look untouched. Some argue that the only mint records are brand new unopened ones still in their original packing.

Near Mint (NM) Vinyl is near perfect. At most, a light scuff appears on the record, but it should play without any noise or skips. The record sleeve should also be near perfect with only minor signs of wear. There should be no "ring wear" on the cover. (Ring wear is when the outline of the record inside shows through the sleeve.)

Excellent (EX or VG++) Vinyl should still play with no skips of any kind. There can be some very minor surface scuffs, but they should not affect the sound quality. The record sleeve can have some minor ring wear but it should be mostly in good shape. Also, there can be some minor creases in the corners but no splits in the seams.

Very Good+
This is the grading category where the quality of the sound is affected -- there will be some surface noise -- and the vinyl will show wear, including surface scuffs and some light scratches. However, the record is still very listenable as there are no deep scratches that cause skips. On the cover, the corners may be slightly bent, but not broken. There may be wear to the seams but not tears or holes.

Very Good
Vinyl doesn't necessarily look good, but still plays well enough. Surface noise will probably be present, including pops and clicks. At higher volume levels, the music should overpower any pops and clicks present. There may be seam splitting, but not complete separation of the sleeve panels from each other. There will be noticeable ring wear on the cover, but the cover should for the most part still be in good condition.

Good (VG-) Vinyl is well played and looks it. However, the record should still play without skipping. It will have substantial surface noise, pops and clicks. Loss of various parts of the dynamic range will occur due to worn grooves. This grade depends a lot on the owner and the type of records he or she collects. A rock record may still sound ok at a high volume, but quieter styles of music will be practically unlistenable. The record cover may have many problems including seam splits, tears, and writing on it.

Fair/Poor (F/P) Using the word fair for this quality of record is, in the opinion of RCR, too generous and not recommended since it may be misleading. Records described as fair (F) or Poor (P) in the Goldmine grading system are ones that are basically unlistenable. Surface noise, skips and pops make hearing what's on the record nearly impossible, if not completely impossible. The cover is falling apart, torn, and has writing all over it. The only reason to keep it would be if the record is extremely rare or you want to eventually melt the vinyl and shape it into an ashtray.

Where to Purchase Records

There are many places to purchase records, and if you're an avid buyer like we are here at RCR, then you probably have a number of sources you check frequently. There are really too many to list, so we'll just list a couple of our favorites, plus one site that has numerous online record sellers listed.

eBay logo and link to their Web site
As we mentioned in our Record Value section, just about everything is bought and sold on eBay, so it's no surprise records can be found there as well. EBay really has become the number one source of records for a few of us around here at RCR. Just enter the name of the record you're looking for and type LP or album into the search field, and you just might find that record.

Amoeba Music logo and link to their Web site

We also mentioned Amoeba Music in our Record Value section as a good place to go to look through records and see how their priced. Amoeba Music simply has the most records of any other store in the Bay Area, and is one of the biggest stores in the Los Angeles area. Their buyers know what they're doing, and they even have some very valuable records on display behind their front counter. Amoeba acquires large personal collections and buys from people who bring records into their stores. We highly recommend a trip to one of their stores if you are in Los Angeles or the Bay Area.

portion of an image on the Record Collecting Resources and link to that Web site

This is the Web site of a Finnish person who has basically compiled an extensive list of Web sites from which you can buy records. He has fortunately categorized them into new, used, and other categories. There are so many that we haven't been able to check them all, but chances are if you're looking for something specific, you can probably find it by looking through these links. The only problem that we noticed is that despite the fact that at the bottom of the page it says "last updated February 2004," there are a number of links that don't work.

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