The Trouble With Buying Records At Boot Fairs Is…….

Record colllectors at Spitalfields record fair

(and why The Old Spitalfields Record Fair Is London’s Best Kept Secret…)

Look, I know some people enjoy trawling around boot fairs and charity shops and spend hours wearing out shoe leather, waking up at 5am in order to be first to look at endless mouldy collections of Jim Reeves records in the vain hope that the same person who has some of the world’s most horrible albums will also unknowingly have a first pressing of The Beatles’ first acetate tucked in between.

I get it. I really do. But that sort of life isn’t for me. I much prefer to have a slightly later waking hour, one that isn’t potentially ruinous to the health. My doctor told me early starts weren’t all they are cracked up to be and who am I to question the word of a qualified physician?

I like a leisurely breakfast too. Freshly ground coffee. Perhaps a poached egg and some lightly buttered toast to ease the morning head. You don’t get such delicacies at boot fairs, unless your idea of a delicacy is to munch on a stale bread roll filled with industrial margarine and over-cooked bacon of dubious provenance, washed down with a polystyrene cup of instant.

I don’t mind admitting that it puts me off. That and the weather…

I shouldn’t mind so much if the place was on a tropical beach and was heaving with original Neil Young albums and rare Chuck Berry singles. But if all you have to show for a morning’s slog through a boot fair is some muddy boots, a damp coat, a Bucks Fizz 7″, caffeine withdrawal symptoms, puffy eyes and indigestion, then in the words of John Lennon’s Revolution (which few people realise was making a subtle reference to boot fairs)  “baby, you can count me out….”

Which brings us neatly to my lunch hour, which is occasionally invested at the Old Spitalfields Market Record Fair and which can be really quite productive.

The downside is that record dealers aren’t fools, and you’re less likely to unearth a record worth £200 for a pound. The upside is that – in contrast to most boot fairs – the place is heaving with albums that won’t give the listener an active headache when played*, and a regular visitor can certainly stumble across bargains.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that my first challenge-driven visit to Spitalfields Record Fair was more fruitful than Carmen Miranda’s hat collection. I mentioned the RnB records I picked up last time. Let’s see what else made the cut…

Bruce Springsteen Born To Run Gatefold Cover

  1. Bruce Springsteen: Born To Run (£5)

Bruce Springsteen Born To Run CBS label


  • It’s #18 in Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • It has a nice gatefold sleeve with lyrics and cool photographs of The Boss.
  • A nice clean copy of the UK 1975 original on the Columbia label.
  • “Strap your hands ‘cross my engines”: It (guess what?) has “Born To Run” on it…
  • Cheaper than buying the CD.
  • Even more Dad-rock than Oasis.


  • It was £5, and it’s not rare, so £5 is what it’s worth.
  • Or at least so I thought, until I saw the RRG2012*** mention a version of the album with a misprint. Early copies of this album spelled “Jon Landau” as “John”. This misspelling does, in theory**, increase the value of the album to £20…and sure enough, that misprint was on the reverse of my copy.
  • In contrast, the most valuable Bruce Springsteen collectible is a white label promo 7″ of “Sherry Darling” – there’s 100 of them and they’re £2,000 each.

Van Morrison Astral Weeks cover

  1. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (£2.50)

Van Morrison Astral Weeks Warner Brothers label K46024 1968


  • What an album! It’s #19 on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • A Warner Bros pressing with the “Burbank” WB label (above). Which is pretty.
  • It’s much better than anything he’s released in the last twenty years.


  • For £2.50? You’re kidding, right?
  • Well, okay, the very first pressing is more valuable. An orange label 1st pressing is £150. This is a later pressing, but still early ’70s, making the vinyl disc itself over 40 years old.

Carole King Tapestry cover

3. Carole King – Tapestry (£2.50)

Carole King Tapestry A&M Record label


  • It’s #36 on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums list.
  • An original 1971 pressing on the A&M label (The “A” in A&M being Herb Alpert the trumpet player who formed the label with Jerry Moss, before they sold it to Polygram) in great condition.
  • What a great album! Carole King spent years writing in New York’s Brill Building. Alongside Gerry Goffin, she was responsible for writing classic tunes including “Up On The Roof”, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. This was her first solo LP.
  • This isn’t an especially valuable record (because it sold millions), but for the condition this was in and the fact it was an original first pressing I think this was something of a bargain.


  • It’s not as valuable as the one at Bayeaux….

U2 Joshua Tree gatefold inner

4. U2: Joshua Tree (£2)

U2 Joshua Tree Island Records label


  • It’s #27 in The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums List.
  • At least I actually invited this LP into my home willingly.
  • Whatever you think of U2’s chasing of the “Biggest Band in the World” title nowadays, there’s no denying this was the album that put them there.
  • Nice Gatefold cover and inner sleeve.


  • It isn’t Achtung Baby, which is also a cracking album, and a more valuable LP, because it is scarcer on vinyl – a higher proportion of Achtung Baby sales were on CD.
  • Little known fact: there’s a full frontal picture of the bass player on some (but not all) copies of Achtung Baby. The uncensored ones are more valuable than the censored ones.
  • Bono refuses to tuck his string vest into his trousers on the inside cover. Scruffy so and so…

A good start, then – and Spitalfields Record Fair had yet more to offer. So far, the £116.99 Oasis Box set looked like this:

Oasis-boxset Whats the story morning glory

…and my £44.49 had so far bought this: What would be next? Find out in part six via this link..

 Album Collection

  • *** Rare Record Guide 2012. I haven’t been bothered to buy the latest edition, so I use the book as a good starting point and then check Discogs and eBay.
  • * or, for that matter, when they look at the album cover to find Richard Clayderman or James Last staring back vacantly at them.
  • ** I say “in theory” as I have never seen reference to this misprint and I wonder whether, in fact, anyone outside of the Rare Record Guide has ever heard of it and finds it valuable enough to pay fifteen quid extra for it.





14 responses to “The Trouble With Buying Records At Boot Fairs Is…….”

  1. 80smetalman Avatar

    Nice post. I know what you mean about record fairs. There will be a place that serves food at them but the coffee is a case of two coffee beans passed through water and you can feel your arteries hardening when you bite into the bacon roll. Still, you can get some bargains. I work with an autistic gentleman who has a penchant for 1950s records so I go to quite a few of these things.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Don’t get me wrong, I always quite enjoy them on the rare occasions I actually do go – it’s just that I never expect to find anything, mainly because I can’t get out of bed early enough to get the first pickings…


  2. J. Avatar

    Very good progress so far, I reckon. These all being particularly nice records (even U2). I also have that Born to Run … don’t actually think I’ve seen a ‘Jon’ copy …


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Yeah, I’m a bit sceptical about the “rarity” of the “John” copies…
      Maybe the “Jon” ones are *even* rarer!


  3. genxatmidlife Avatar

    I need to dig out Tapestry and see if we have the A&M version — quite possible since it came from my FIL’s collection.


  4. minibreakfast Avatar

    Early mornings? Damp weather? Jim Reeves records? These are the things that make car boot sales FUN! What’s a vinyl-hunt without a few obstacles? The mud, misery and shitty scratched stock make finding a great record all the more rewarding! Although I have to admit we always make the bacon sarnies when we get home…

    P.S. All my used Neil Young albums were from car boot sales, and all luckily in lovely condition.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Ha! I thought you might say something like that! Good luck to you! You’ll always find better bargains than me, but that’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to make!


      1. minibreakfast Avatar

        Fair enough! This was the best find from a car boot sale I ever had:


      2. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

        That is a fantastic find!
        *tips hat in your direction*


  5. John S Avatar

    Do you still play vinyl records? I must admit that most of the time I don’t, even though I still have them taking up loads of space in the house.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Absolutely – yes. I have had a lot of fun re-building a modest record collection over the last few years and play them all the time… I wouldn’t buy them if I couldn’t play them.


  6. Simon Avatar

    I used to go to boot sales every week and over a period of 2 or 3 years picked up some absolute gems (Credence, Pink Floyd, Kinks etc) all in mint or near mint condition. Stopped going for about 10 years and only started going back recently. There seems to be hardly any vinyl about at them anymore.


  7. […] Carole King’s Tapestry is officially the thirty-sixth greatest album of all time, according to the two-hundred odd members of Rolling Stone Magazine’s voting panel. I’m not going to argue, having just bought a nice original copy on vinyl.** […]


  8. […] That would do for vintage soul. This is what the collection looked like now: What else could I find? Find out by clicking through to part 5… […]


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