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Hints & Tips for Collecting

Do Your Research

There are a lot of things in the collecting world which look insignificant but are worth a hell of a lot of money, and as always the reverse is true. An example would be the Spanish 7"s that were released around the Licensed To Ill era ("She's On It", "Fight For Your Right" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn") - the 1-sided promo copies which look cool as they are 1-sided and seem cool because they are promos, are actually worth less than the standard (non-promo, double-sided) 7"s released for the same titles. They are a lot rarer due to the fact the singles simply didn't sell that well.

When looking at purchasing an item - do some research into it - check it out in the Discography, look for comparison prices in other places.

Know The Terms

As a lot of collectors use abbreviations in their listings - learn the different terms used. I have written a guide to these terms here.

Wants Lists

Listing the main records you want is a great way to set up trades with other people. They can check out what you need, if they have it they can offer it to you, if they don't, they can look for it for you. It also helps yourself when you are looking through stores (both online and regular) to remind yourself what you still need. If you have your own website - put up your wants list on a page. It lets people get prepared if they want to trade with you and also if someone wants to sell a record and they see that you're after it, then they're likely to offer it to you.

Where to look

I suppose the obvious answer here is the internet seeing as though you are reading this. Throw some words into your favourite search engine and then just start looking. There is an endless supply of record stores and record collectors online, each one with their list of records ready for your browsing. Online auctions (eg eEBay) are another way to pick up some great items. The only problem here is that you have to be damn lucky to pick up something which is rare and cheap. Its easy enough to find common items for cheap prices, but with anything rare you'll be bidding against all the other collectors out there.

Also check out record stores in your area - and I don't mean HMV. What you need are independent record stores (not chain stores) and second-hand stores. These second hand stores, some of them quite often contain 2nd hand books and music, can be quite hit and miss. But when you do find something, it's usually going to be pretty cheap. You may have to dig through a lot of old Guns'n'Roses and Barbara Streisand records, but if you find something cool it makes it all worth while.

Record Fairs are a great place to shop for records. Here you get collectors from all over the country (in some of the larger fairs you get people from all over the world), all selling and trading records. These guys are usually quite open to a bit of negotiation on the price and you may be able to pick up some valuable contacts as well as some nice pieces for your collection. Ask some of your local  record stores when the next fair is.

Shop Around

There is no point in paying astronomical amounts of money for something you could have got for a fraction of the price somewhere else. If you see something that looks interesting, and you have the time, check some other shops around the place to see how much they are selling it for. It sounds like common sense but a lot of people get caught up in the rush when they see a record going on EBay for example and bid stupid amounts to get it when if they had simply searched for that record in google or something, it would have cost much less. In saying this, there are still times when you have to make a snap decision. Like if you missed out on seeing an auction earlier and it only has a few minutes to finish. Or you're in a record store and you don't know if you'll be back or if it will stay in stock.

Get Doubles

This is a hard call to make sometimes - should I get 2x copies of this record now that I have the chance? Personally I do get multiple copies of an item if I believe its rare and I can use it for trade or sell it later. Mind you, it's a pretty tough decision to make on what the get doubles of. If you know something is definitely limited to a certain quantity, and that amount isn't too high, then sure - it's probably worth picking up an extra copy at the right price. Like a spare copy of Pollywog Stew would be cool where as an american copy of Hello Nasty on CD - unless it's like $1 isn't worth buying multiples of. I still kick myself when I think of some of the opportunities I missed out on by not buying doubles.

Don't Expect Something For Nothing

Someone is not going to trade your standard copy of an Intergalactic single for a japanese promo copy of Brass Monkey (well they shouldn't be anyway!). Again, this comes back to doing your research - make what you consider a fair offer to someone - they're going to more likely to trade if you start out with a decent offer. If you offer up something stupid they will think you're a clown and not worth the effort.

Hardcore Traders

Because 'Pollywog Stew' by the Beastie Boys and Adrock's pre-Beastie Boys outfit The Young & The Useless 7" 'Real Men Don't Floss" were punk releases, you're going to be up against punk (classic/hardcore/oi/skin/straight-edge/etc) collectors as opposed to HipHop and Indie collectors. These guys are aptly titled by the music scene some of them belong to "hardcore"! Because punk records are usually in such limited quantities, the prices for some pieces are truly mind-blowing.

As a general rule, it's hard to get a hardcore collector to sell a record - he will generally prefer a trade. Now you have the problem of trying to find something he wants - he's usually not going to want your mint copy of the first Cypress Hill album, he's going to want something by Minor Threat, Youth Of Today or the Zero Boys. Luckily they usually have their Wants List ready and waiting for you - so grab that and start wading through the list and try to track down that record he needs.

But be careful, a lot of the time punk records are repressed (like the way Hey Ladies was originally released in 1989 and then repressed in 1998), and collectors are after the original 99% of the time.

Who Sends First?

When buying an item from someone, whether it be from an online or a seller from an auction, the buyer sends payment and then the seller with send the items when it arrives. This does require some trust - but if you don't trust anyone then you're going to have to limit your search availability to the stores in your surrounding area.

When it comes to trading, it's a whole new matter entirely. A lot of the time both people will try and send the items out on the same day (and then the race is on to see who has the better postal service). Again this is a trust issue, "what if I send and he doesn't?" - and again, don't trade if you don't feel confident in the other person. Some traders will require the person who makes the initial offer to send the item first - this is all up to the two people involved to work out something that both are happy with.

Sending Money

In most (all?) countries it is illegal to send cash through the mail. But in saying that, a hell of a lot of people do it.

Benefits in sending cash through the mail:

  • you don't have to send your credit card details through email or in a letter
  • as most people deal in US$ cash in the trading community, if you have left over cash from a previous transaction it's easier to send this money then getting a money-order.
  • money-orders and international cheques cost money to get done
  • the buyer does not have to wait for cheques to clear

Negatives in sending cash through the mail:

  • if it's obvious that money is inside an envelope it gets tempting for the countless people who handle the letter from the sender to the intended receiver to "accidentally" misplace it.
  • it's illegal so if it goes missing the post office will say "well you shouldn't have sent it!"

If you do decided to send cash through the mail - always hide it well. At the very least, wrap it up inside a few sheets of paper. You do not want to be able to see the money just by looking at the envelope. I actually received one lot of cash through the mail which was hidden inside a floppy-disk! It was definitely hidden - but a bit excessive.

If you do want to send money, but are worried about it - send it via registered post. That way the receiver has to sign for it. Your money is a lot safer this way, but it's going to cost more money to send it registered than to send it normally.

Pack Your Parcels Well

If you're sending out a parcel to someone (records and/or CDs), make sure you pack it well! Pack it how you would like to receive a parcel. Remember that generally speaking, the post office don't give a shit about what's inside - its going to be thrown across the room and squashed under other parcels. So make sure to use padding.

Broken vinyl record      Here is a picture of a Hey Ladies 12" I got in the mail - it was packaged fairly well though the post office still managed to wreck it. Oh well, it seems like the Blue Vinyl Hey Ladies just got rarer with one less in circulation.