How to Estimate The Value of A Record Collection

Estimating the value of a record collection can seem like a daunting process, but with clear steps and online resources, the process is a simple one. Identifying which release you have and what condition it is in are the two main steps in estimating the value of a record. For instance, depending on your release version, that copy of Dark Side of the Moon you have could be worth around $13 or more than $250. The condition of the record is nearly as important. Very few collectors are interested in paying any amount of money for records that are unplayable or that have sleeves that are torn to shreds. This is why storing vinyl records properly pays off. Another valuable reason to estimate the value of a record collection is for insurance purposes. Having a clear and detailed list of what’s in a collection will help recoup lost value from a disaster.

Steps to Estimate Vinyl Record Values

  1. Set up a workspace, gather all records and find a bright light
  2. Check to see the release, or version, of the record
  3. Grade the condition of the record using the Goldmine standard
  4. Annotate release and condition
  5. Reference release and condition against a pricing guide
  6. Tally the total value of all records
  7. Store properly to ensure value longevity

Set up a workspace, gather records and a bright light

You will want to set up a clean area that is free of clutter to inspect your records. Establishing good lighting will make your upcoming tasks much easier. Generally speaking, a higher-lumen desk lamp, preferably halogen or compact fluorescent should be used. Direct natural sunlight is also a tried and tested form of inspecting records. However, a word to the wise, vinyl is susceptible to warping in UV light, so be cautious with using direct sunlight for too long.

Identify the release of the record

As noted above, a leading factor for determining how much your vinyl record is worth is the release variant. For the uninitiated, albums are often pressed in separate batches over time. For instance, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon has been released in about 380 different vinyl pressings. A release that was pressed into 10,000 copies a few years back? Not many collectors are interested in paying top dollar for that. But the first-edition release pressed decades ago in a limited-edition release of 100? Now that, my friend, can carry some serious value.

Identifying which record release you have involves a few steps, which are listed below.

  1. Locate the catalog number
  2. Spot the difference between the record labels
  3. Look for clues in the runout area

For a more comprehensive review of these steps, check out the full guide to identifying record versions. When in doubt, the Discogs help forums are a great resource.

Pro tip: Discogs has made the process of identifying record releases simpler. Using the Discogs mobile apps, you can scan records that have a barcode to instantly identify which release they are from. In addition, Discogs has the most comprehensive release notes of any physical music database out there. For example, this Fleetwood Mac Rumours release page has a few detailed indicators that help identify the specific version.

Grade the condition of the record using the Goldmine standard

Carefully inspect the record and review both the cover and the vinyl itself according to the Goldmine Standard. This is where you will use that light you found earlier. The closer the source of the light, the better the results. Check the vinyl surface closely for damage in the reflection of the light bulb itself. Inspect the cover for water damage, tears, bent edges, and discoloration. Be honest and conservative in your vinyl record grading, this will give you the most accurate estimate of your vinyl record collection value. For an even more accurate evaluation, consider play grading the records.

Tip: For vinyl records that have been sitting in a relative’s attic for quite some time, consider cleaning them before going through the grading process. In some instances, cleaning records can raise the grade of a record significantly. Check out our guide on how to clean vinyl records for more in-depth details on the cleaning process.

Annotate all Releases and Conditions

Whether it be old-fashioned pen and paper or a free collection tool, such as the one offered by Discogs, you’ll want to keep track of each release and the condition of it. By using the completely free Discogs Collection feature, you’ll get the added benefit of automatic price estimates based on the sales data from recent transactions of the record. This will save a ton of time, allowing you to skip the pricing guide and tally steps below. In addition, you can search, sort, and filter with the Collection feature on Discogs. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Reference against a pricing guide

Now that you have the release variant and condition of the vinyl records, you can begin to check pricing. Before the internet, collectors would use mail-order catalogs to determine the ballpark value of a vinyl record. However, there are now many free online resources that utilize sales data. This is much better, as it connects the value of a record to actual sale prices instead of using abstract estimates. Discogs is an excellent resource for this, providing detailed notes on the condition of the records sold and value trends over time. Popsike is another online resource that tracks sales across many different websites.

Tally the total value of all records

If you’ve been using the Discogs Collection feature, then this step will be easy. Simply navigate to your Collection and near the top of the page you will see Min, Med, and Max value estimates for your records. These values are dynamic, meaning they will automatically adjust to reflect the most recent sales history of the release variants in your collection. If you’re using another system, simply add all values, and determine a time period to revisit and adjust due to market changes.

Store properly to ensure value longevity

Once you know the value of your record collection, you can either choose to hold on to them or consider selling them. Either way, you’ll want to store them properly so that their condition does not deteriorate. When in doubt, check out our guide to storing vinyl records for best practices.

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Steven Williams
Steven is a Discogs employee and indie radio host residing in Portland, OR. Formerly a member of P.H.C., a found-object free jazz collective, he now spends his spare time learning bluegrass tunes on the mandolin.
  • Sep 10,2018 at 00:45

    If you are a dealer looking over a collection to buy, this is not how it works. If you’re a guy with a handtruck in a dusty basement getting ready to make an offer for 3000 pieces, rough and ready methods are the order of the day. Percentage of unsaleable records, percentage of ordinary records, and percentage of collectible records is what you are looking for.

  • Aug 9,2018 at 08:47

    Vinyl? In 1987, I visited Newbury Comics on Newbury Street, in Boston, Massachusetts. I live in North Hollywood, in Los Angeles, so this was no typical day for buying records. On that 1987 December day, I focused on import LP’s, none available as U.S. releases. I bought about 7-8 albums, and I remember 1 of them was Nico: Live Behind The Iron Curtain.
    As soon as I returned to L.A., I couldn’t wait to open my new, shrink wrapped European albums, eager to hear music no U.S. record label would issue here. On my expensive stereo system, I was furious to hear vinyl pops, crackles, even albums that skipped! THAT WAS IT FOR ME.
    I promptly bought a 5 disc CD player and the music was perfect. More than 2,000 CD’s later, including limited edition box sets and limited edition 2 CD album sets, there’s no way I’ll invest in vinyl again.
    The only time I buy vinyl LP’s/12″ inch singles, is when I meet recording artists, and their signatures look fantastic on the covers. My professional framer prepares them for display, for my walls.

  • Aug 8,2018 at 22:04

    The bigger the collection, the lower the per piece price. Ask the seller, ‘What are you looking to get?’. If they are willing to answer, that’s a good starting point. Also the Goldmine grading system is outdated. Baseball cards, comics, etc., are rated 1-100. Goldmine offers 8 grades.

  • Aug 8,2018 at 21:47

    A couple of thoughts for your question radelaney.

    1) If you have your collection cataloged on Discogs then, yes, you are provided a Min/Med/Max range based on last actual 10 Discogs sales. For me the charm in this is that as actual sales are updated so is the value of your collection. For me this is good enough as an estimate of value for my collection (putting aside issue of zero value associated with LP’s that have no sales history).

    2) However, when I need a more accurate valuation (“more definitive answers”) for an LP I am looking to buy or sell I dive deeper into that release version’s last ten sales data. That information shows the sales price and specifics (condition, etc) for each one of the last ten sold. This way you can compare the condition (usually key factor in value) of your LP to those sold and make an very informed valuation. While a lot or work to do and maintain I suppose you could do this for each of your LPs to get a definitive value.

  • Jul 29,2018 at 10:13

    radelaney – the value of your collection also depends on how quickly you need to sell it…

  • Jul 28,2018 at 09:12

    So, do I go by min, median, or max when estimating the value of an entire collection? I think it is probably a good idea to give any estimate in the form of a range (e.g., anywhere from $1 to $5). This isn’t good enough though! I want more definitive answers dammit!

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