It’s a story that starts like most in our post-capitalist terrorscape: I needed more money.
In January, my wife turned 30, and without going too far into it, we both could really use an excuse to get away from it all. I hatched a plan: I’d surprise my wife with a trip to New Orleans — an American city we’d never been to — for an all expenses Dirty Thirty trip (we mostly went to restaurants and museums). It was a genius idea, and I had 5 months to plan it, but here was the question: How would I pay for it?
While I am paid well for my work here at VMP Midwest HQ — I have enough money to pay rent, buy food for myself and my dumb dog, pay off my considerable credit card debt (shout out to years working retail for $8.50 an hour) and my wife’s student debt — I don’t have much by way of disposable income (shout out to my wife for having us on monthly “allowances” to pay off that debt). While that commonly Millennial situation is successful in killing off Applebee’s, it left me with a conundrum. Being a music writer leaves you with very few transferable skills as far as “side hustles” go, and I needed to raise these funds in secret, which meant that I couldn’t drive for Lyft or Grubhub at night with our shared car. Then, it dawned on me: I’d determine which records in my 1,700+ record collection I could do without, and then sell them on Discogs, the online record marketplace juggernaut.
This isn’t really a spoiler alert because you probably don’t care, but, I was able to finance every single dollar of a trip to New Orleans for me and my wife, to the point where the bag of chips we bought in the airport when we were leaving cleared out my slush fund. But what you might care about is how I raised that money. Because when I started selling on Discogs, I checked out other sites’ guides for selling on Discogs, and all of them got super granular into postage rates, and matrix runouts, and grading record jacket fibers, and when it’s appropriate to charge customs fees and to call Interpol when you think a record might contain human remains, or whatever. The point is most of these guides felt like they were for people who make their living flipping records, and you and I are not one of those people: We just want a little cheddar for some records we don’t listen to as much as we should, and which someone else might get more use out of than us.
So, here’s a guide to selling your records on Discogs, written by someone who is inexperienced at doing so. This is what I’ve learned in my six months, and with my perfect 23 five-star rated profile on Discogs, you know you can trust me. And as a special note: I am not advocating selling your Vinyl Me, Please records, even if they are very valuable. You, like me, will go to our graves clutching our copies of Vinyl Me, Please’s Big Smoke exclusive. This is for all those records you don’t actively love, and we all love Vinyl Me, Please records.
This part seems obvious, but this is the part where your money is mostly made or lost. The difference between pressings, color variants and cover variants can make your record worth $10s of dollars more or less than other versions. If you’re not judicious in this, this is how you can get in trouble on Discogs, and be blacklisted from the site and have strangers from across the country/world wanting to choke you. Start with the album’s UPC, which will solve roughly 70 percent of “Which version do I own?” questions, and you can even use Discogs’ app to scan that UPC. If your record doesn’t have that, check the dead wax and the catalog number (this is on the spine), and if that doesn’t work, keep that record on your shelf, because it’s probably not worth trying to sell in a giant online marketplace for a few bucks anyway.
This can also work against you in a different way: I sold a compilation I listened to only once three years ago, and when I put that record in my Discogs, I noted that I had the black version. I didn’t; it was a color version worth at least $20 more than the black version. But because I just trusted my older self, I sold that record as the black version, and a dude named Jerry in Oregon got a discounted color record.
This ties into that last paragraph: You should re-examine every record you are selling on Discogs, and determine its quality. Discogs uses the Goldmine standard for record rating. Because I have shit for ears, and also can’t tell the difference between VG plus and VG, I graded my items very conservatively; albums I thought were Mint, I classified as VG. In addition, for records that had a slight ding in the corner, I did my best to describe the ding in as much detail in the product details, so that there’s no question what a buyer is buying.
Pricing is probably the hardest part of selling on Discogs. We all want our records to be worth $500 each, but that’s going to go nowhere. When you sell on Discogs, they suggest a median sale price for the record over the last month, and it’s up to you how much higher or lower you want to go from that. Because I was trying to get my funds up, I generally sold my records for less than the median sale price because they sold faster, but if you want to wait to try to get top dollar, you can go higher and ride the wave and wait as long as it takes till someone is desparate enough to make a purchase. As Olmec said, the choices are yours and yours alone.
I hatched the plan to sell records to have New Orleans trip money on a Saturday night. I put up my first two records, rated them conservatively and priced them competitively, and expected to wait a couple weeks before they’d move. Instead, I woke up Sunday morning to emails telling me both of them sold, which turned into a logistical nightmare: It turns out it’s impossible to walk into a UPS location or a Postal Office and buy a box suitable for shipping a record. I ended up having to order some albums on Amazon Prime, solely to have the boxes to ship the ones I sold. So if you’re thinking of selling your records, start stockpiling record boxes. Might I suggest starting by buying more records from us?
This is obvious: Send your records out as soon as possible. This will impact your star rating, which impacts how often buyers will take a risk on buying something from you.
When you sell on Discogs, you can set your shipping price at a flat rate. I set mine at what I thought was a reasonable $6. But, I learned a hard lesson my first shipment: I didn’t ask the postal worker for Media Mail — the cheapest, fastest way to ship records in the continental U.S. — and instead paid $14 per box on Priority Mail. Always ask for Media Mail, it’s usually at most $4 to $5, and is often as quick as the other, more expensive options.
Sorry to my friends in Canada/Europe/South America/Asia here. I don’t know what your shipping options are because I didn’t want to get into sending across borders.
Despite selling enough records fast enough on Discogs to bankroll a trip, I still have records that have gone unsold on my Discogs. You have to hope, in the case of every record you put up for sale, that someone somewhere has the disposable income to buy your copy. That doesn’t always happen. Selling on Discogs is all down to your own perseverance. If you can’t wait, there are any number of local stores who would love to take a look at your collection.
Andrew Winistorfer is VMP’s Music Director 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 20 VMP releases, co-produced VMP Anthologies The Story of Philadelphia International Records, The Story of Quincy Jones, The Story of Impulse and the VMP Classics release of Nat Turner Rebellion's Laugh to Keep From Crying, and executive produced The Story of Vanguard and The Story of Willie Nelson. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
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