Is It Cheaper To Buy Vinyl Online Or In Record Fairs And Shops? 


I thought the answer to this question was self-evident. 

“It has to be cheaper buying from used record shops and record fairs.” I somewhat patronisingly advised a friend of mine. 

“Buying records online is more expensive. 

“eBay is a global marketplace. It is designed to bring together the biggest number of buyers: the more buyers, the more demand. The greater the demand, the higher the price. 

“It’s basic economic theory. It’s the “perfect market”.”

I can be a right bore sometimes…

My friend Chris scratched his head. We were having this chat over a coffee, and he didn’t look convinced by my argument. 

“But doesn’t that mean it’s cheaper then?” he asked slyly. Deliberately trolling me, I suspected. 

“After all, there might be greater demand, but – to take your slightly dull “economic theory” point one step further,” and here he rolled his eyes rather too witheringly I thought, “there’s also more supply. That brings prices down. Loads of competition. Whereas in a shop, there’s usually only one copy and you pay the price the shopkeeper wants for it, which is often higher than you’d expect, because he has overheads.”

I admit I winced slightly at the emphasis on the word “dull”, but could he have a point?

We have these “stimulating” conversations sometimes. Usually however, economic theory stays where it belongs. 

In a textbook. 

More precisely in a textbook that belongs to, and is read by, other people. 

And anyway, since when did an economist know anything? We are, after all, living in a world where we are apparently all fed up with experts, and people who, God forbid, know what they are talking about. Far better, so they say, to listen to some ill-informed nonsense from random strangers…

And – naturally – you couldn’t have come to a better place for that, dear reader. 

Nevertheless, the question as to whether it is better to buy online or in-store is a good one. If you are building up a collection, and assuming like the rest of us you’re not absolutely swimming in the folding stuff, how can you acquire these black discs of wonder in the least expensive manner? These are crucial life skills. After all, there’s nothing that dampens the ardour of even the most spirited loved one than when he or she learns you can’t go on a romantic night out because you just spent the evening’s dinner money on a rare first pressing of Throbbing Gristle’s debut LP. 

There’s also something strangely satisfying about finding an album for not very much money. I am certain the pleasure I take listening to my original copies of The Beach Boys’ “Surf’s Up” and Motörhead’s “No Sleep ’til Hammersmith” is greatly enhanced by knowing I found both for a pound each. 

Record collecting for the super rich must be so much less satisfying. If you can afford everything, where’s the fun in that? I pity the oligarchs who will never know the pure adrenaline rush and utter joy of uncovering an original laminated-covered-and-orange-labelled copy of Bowie’s “Heroes” for a fiver at a record fair. 

And it must be hellish trying to stop the needle skipping on your yacht in a heavy storm. 

Poor souls…

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. 

To discover whether it is cheaper to build a record collection on line or in person, what we need is a scientific experiment. Perhaps, as the late great Paul Daniels might have put it, “Under Laboratory Conditions”. Or more precisely, two people who could go out and buy an identical record collection over the same time period. One would buy online, from all the sellers on eBay, and Discogs and so on. 

The other would trawl record fairs, record shops and anywhere else that might carry such items. We could then compare what they paid online and in person and reach a conclusion. 

But where in the wide, wide world of record collecting could we find such individuals?

I’m glad you asked…

Because for the last six months, Chris and I have been doing exactly that. And as I write this, I don’t yet know how much he has spent.

What’s more, to add some spice to proceedings, as is traditional on Every Record Tells A Story, we have made it interesting by way of a small wager. 

The person who spends the most money loses the bet. The forfeit is to be forced to listen to an entire album by Chris De Burgh. All the way through. 

Without stopping 

To the bitter end. 

At least five times. 

So as you can see, the stakes are high. 
And finally, because we will have two of everything, assuming all goes well, we may even sell one complete set of records to you, the record buying, blog reading public. Online. Or face to face. But probably online. 

The next question is: what records did we buy?

I’ll tell you next time…



Categories: Music

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23 replies

  1. Hey, you’re already the winner – your writing style Rocks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This looks to be an interesting read.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s like watching the best bits of Top Gear…only they get to compete against each other in lovely shiny vehicles!!

    Like

  4. As someone starting up the vinyl collection again, I can’t wait to hear the outcome.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like it. But you left out garage and yard sales from the non-eBay shopping efforts; those places could give one of you a real edge in the competition.

    That said, I believe currently record shops are more expensive, as the recent resurgence in the popularity of vinyl has many shop owners thinking that it’s black gold now for some reason. I was in a local (I’m in the US) record shop last week, and was quite surprised at the high prices on used vinyl. The price there on a copy of Pink Floyd’s The Wall was a whopping $139! That’s right, one-hundred-and-thirty-nine dollars. And it wasn’t even a near-mint copy. Granted it was a 1979 first pressing, but there’s nothing particularly special about that. It’s certainly not rare; there are thousands of them out there.

    When I asked the clerk why it was priced so high, she said it was because it had no barcode (i.e., it was a first pressing) and that it probably had the original poster and inserts. At that point, as I was not lobbying to purchase the album, I chose not to inform her that first pressings of The Wall came with no poster or inserts. I did however seriously think about telling her that they’d never sell it priced at $139, but then realized that eventually somebody probably would indeed put down that much for it, so I kept my mouth shut.

    And that wasn’t the only album priced so outrageously. There was a non-near-mint 1977 reissue of Led Zeppelin II priced at $80, and a first pressing of the Eagles’ Hotel California priced at $51. It had the original poster with it, but the vinyl wasn’t near-mint on it either. And there were copies of Poco, Pure Prairie League and Loggins & Messina albums in the bins with actual price tags on them, as if anybody would pay money for THOSE. Historically, you couldn’t GIVE those albums away…

    Like

  6. Splendid! Personally I find I find the best prices online (especially when nabbing a few from the same seller). Looking forward to reading about your experiences, though!

    Like

  7. I’m curious… though online doesn’t have the fun of finding an album that you had not been looking for, but want to have as you see it (and if it’s cheap, it’s even better).

    Like

  8. For heavens sake use the shops or we will not have them any more. Yes you might pay a little more but that’s what’s called supporting the retailers who pay their rates, taxes, etc. Obviously if you can’t track down that elusive item, then use an online dealer, but the fun of shops for browsing can never be replaced.

    Like

    • I agree with this but I’m caught between wanting to support local record shops and simply walking out shaking my head due to the ridiculous prices now being charged for commonly available used titles in less than good shape.

      In my local record shop prices for second hand vinyl has risen sharply in the past couple of years and where there used to be an opportunity to pick up some nice stuff at a reasonable price this has now become an opportunistic money grab.

      For example, there are copies on the wall of Beatles For Sale and Rubber Soul (both with scratches, which to be fair has been highlighted as ‘affecting play’) are £30. Nobody in their right mind will buy these albums at that price point, and they will still be there in 12 months from now. Pick any classic rock band (Zeppelin, Floyd, Neil Young) and the prices are ridiculous. I mean who is on the lookout for a copy of Trans for £22??

      I could go on but there’s a fine line between making a living and simply price gouging.

      For my money, record fairs have shown themselves to be a worthwhile alternative, and a search through the bargain bins is a worthwhile way of spending time …..

      Like

  9. Excellent, this is what I would call a good teaser 🙂 I’m very curious because I’m still not sure to have the answer… Sometimes you can find great deals on Ebay, sometimes you are lucky in stores or record fairs… A few days ago, I found at a record fair Waterloo Lily by Caravan, mint condition BUT a large mark on side 2. I got it for 3€ and hope that it plays well, just listened to it, it plays perfectly! I’m not sure that it would have been 3€ on Ebay, even with this mark…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve often found records I wanted online for less than the local shops, even WITH the postage included. (For example, a “Liz Damon’s Orient Express” LP bought on line for $2. plus $3.50 postage…the local shop wants $25. for the same item.) You can also avoid the excess attitude the local shop owner has; he never hesitates to tell you when you make a purchase that your tastes in music are crap.

    When he and his cronies are hanging out there on the weekend, the only topics of conversation are Tea Party politics, muscle cars, and how all music recorded after 1970 is crap. I’ve nicknamed his store “Old Fart Day Care.” By the way, why reach out into left field to knock Ariana Grande? Because she’s new? Congratulations, you are now officially “somebody’s dad” musically. (“You kids call that crap MUSIC?! Now THIS HERE is music!!”…and plays an 8-track tape of Jim Nabors.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right – it was a mean dig at Ariane, mainly because my daughter is watching a sitcom where she is one of the main characters and is an air headed high-talker (to use Seinfeld parlance). Not someone who had crossed my path before having a young daughter, so I accept your criticism wholeheartedly, and with apologies.

      Like

    • By the way, I have no idea who Jim Nabors is….

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure you’re kidding, but if not, visit a thrift shop and you are almost certain to find his 1960’s LPS by the armload. Your remarks about Ariana Grande are hardly unique; seems to me each generation is obliged to complain that the next’s music is worthless noise. Go back to old radio comedians’ jokes and Warner Bros. cartoons from the 1940’s, Frank Sinatra was one of their favorite punching bags.

        In turn, Sinatra’s generation ganged up on Elvis in the 50’s, and the Beatles took a clobbering in the 60’s. The Internet has only made it easier (and nastier.) The more things change…

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      • He must be a US-only phenomenon, as I’ve heard of Jim Nabors either, and like Every Record I’m in the UK.

        Liked by 1 person

      • OK, that you’re writing from the UK probably is the difference. Here in the US, Jim Nabors was a TV star in the 1960’s and 70’s. He played a character named Gomer Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show,” then featured in his own series, “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” After that finished its run, he went on to host (compere) a musical variety show, “The Jim Nabors Hour.”
        His specialty was talking in a high-pitched voice with a heavy “hillbilly” accent, then turning around to sing in a deep, schmaltzy baritone. He has made over 30 albums, much of his music has also been repackaged as album sets sold by mail order on TV. Here’s a link to a discography.
        https://www.discogs.com/artist/679906-Jim-Nabors

        Like

      • “never heard of” I meant!

        Like

  11. I find buying online about as thrilling as paying my water bill. I love the hunt in second-hand stores, yard sales and used record stores . It’s a rush to find even a mediocre copy of a record you’ve been searching for “in the wild”! (and on the cheap)

    Liked by 1 person

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