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It started, as these things usually do, with gentle prodding from a loved one. My girlfriend and I moved in together in August (light flex) and basically since then she’s been telling me it’s important for us to have Renter’s Insurance, should our place burn down from all the candles she insists are important we light anytime we have company. If you’ve never gotten Renter’s Insurance, basically you total up how much you think all your shit is worth—you will overestimate the value of your couch, guaranteed—and an insurance company gambles that all your girlfriend’s candles won’t burn down all of your shit.
It was easy to tell how much my ridiculous collection of WWE T-shirts is worth ($50 million), but figuring out how much I should value my records at was a challenge. I never got into record collecting to make money—honestly I’ve lost hundreds of dollars on this stupid affliction that I love—but I also never bothered tracking how much money some of the “rare” stuff I have is even worth. The only fact I know is that my original pressing of 808s & Heartbreak was worth like $500 in 2011, when someone told me it was on Twitter. But other than that, I have never attempted to value my 600-something piece collection, or for that matter, my girlfriend’s 100+ records. That is, until, like literally millions of people before me, I discovered Discogs.
I’ve collected vinyl off-and-on since I was 7-years-old, and obsessively since I was about 19, but until recently, I never used Discogs. I don’t really have an excuse for it, except that I used to only think of it as a weird eBay for records only. I never had a reason to use it, till I looked up how to value my record collection, and basically the only easy tool to determine what your records are actually worth on the marketplace is Discogs. You can buy buying guides and get an idea of what your records are “worth,” but Discogs tells you what someone will actually pay for your records.
I like to think I represent the rank and file vinyl collector; people who like their records but don’t necessarily spend a bunch of time on a website that obsessively tracks different editions of Talking Book. I have no desire to sell any of my records; I just needed to know how much to value my record collection at.
So, for those of you out there who are still resisting signing up for Discogs, here’s the five things I learned from logging my records on Discogs.
1. The process of entering all your records is interminable
Discogs allows users to enter the entirety of their collections, tracking their worth, and knowing weird facts about them. This is the best thing about Discogs, Marketplace included, because it’ll prevent you from ever accidentally buying the same record twice (I’ve never done it, thank god).
But the process of entering your collection is the longest, most arduous, least fun thing you can do with your records. It took me something like 18 hours of consistent work to catalog 800+ records. There has to be a better way; I don’t know, maybe a scanning app, or a Google Glass thing that allows you to look at a record and it gets added? All I know is that I have a sore back from sitting at my dining room table over my laptop for 18 hours this week.
2. Determining which edition you have of classic rock albums is also the worst.
One of the reasons it takes so damn long to log your records is that if you own something like say, Houses of the Holy, there are like 48,764 different editions of the album in circulation, and you need to look at multiple signifiers to determine which edition you own. In some cases, to determine which one you won, you check the jacket, you check the runout, you check the color of the label, you check if there’s something written inside the jacket, you send a copy of your W-2 to your accountant, you call your mom, you take a polygraph, and then you find out your copy of Houses of the Holy has a median price of $7. This will frustrate you, but not as much as if you were to half-ass it and just click any edition and the real value of your collection is wrong.
3. Somehow, the record you least expect will be the one worth the most
Going into this project, I expected 808s and Heartbreak to be my most valuable record. It is not. It’s my 13th most valuable record. It turns out the most valuable record is my first edition, Dim Mak release of Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm, which is somehow worth $110 despite me not listening to it since about 2010. My second most valuable is my copy of Interpol’s Our Love to Admire, which is somehow worth $92, despite there not being a single human on the entire planet who would pay that for that.
Also surprising is the value of my modest collection of 7-inches. I don’t usually consider them “part” of my collection; I hardly listen to them because I lost the adapter to play most 7-inches on my turntable and have been too cheap to buy a replacement one. But it turns out my copy of St. Vincent’s “Krokodil” is worth $60, more than every Kanye album except my copy of Late Registration (which is worth $70). You better believe I dusted the area where I keep my 7-inches after finding that out.
4. Adding new records is a painstaking process
While putting my records into Discogs, it turned out that I owned a handful of records that no one on Discogs either A) owned or B) spent the time to enter into the database. Discogs allows you to enter these records, but then you become the person responsible for getting all the facts that make cataloging your records take forever. It takes twice as long to add a record than it does to find which edition you own. So, apologies to everyone who bought the Sam Morrow album There Is No Map on vinyl; I’m the guy who cataloged it.
5. Your records will be worth more than you think…but also less than you think
The median value of your collection on Discogs is the most accurate depiction of how much your records are worth. This number will be simultaneously larger and smaller than you think it should be. You’ll spend 5 hours logging $4 copies of Van Halen records, and think, I’ll be lucky if all my records together are worth $500. Then you’ll get your final number, and be shocked that it’s that high, but also sad that its not high enough for you to insure your house and burn it down for the money.
If my insurer is reading this, I swear I am not going to do this. It was for the joke.
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
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