The first commercial vinyl records capable of playing more than a few minutes of music made their debut in 1930—hard to imagine that was a mere 90 years ago. After being replaced by newer and better technologies, like the compact disk, mp3 format, and the current era of streaming platforms, records are making a comeback!
Major streaming websites, such as Spotify and Pandora, might have dealt a major blow to CD sales, but even they couldn’t come up with a way to push records off the market. If you are a record collector and have ever wondered what the most valuable types of old records are, we’ve got some points for you to consider.
Factors That Determine a Record’s Value
Many new collectors assume that old records are automatically valuable, and that’s not exactly true. While old records can certainly have considerable value—both monetary and otherwise—there’s a lot more to it than that. For instance, a super common record isn’t going to fetch much no matter how old it is.
What's actually on the record also matters. Would you pay a bundle for a rare, old record if it was an artist you had no idea who was? Most people wouldn't. In general, famous artists have a better chance of having a higher value, as do records from specific genres (rock, jazz, blues, soul, and classical). Spoken-word, comedy, and country tend to be the least valuable record types.
If you have an old record from a popular artist, the next factor that can supercharge its value is scarcity. How many copies of the record were made? Is it a special edition, limited or promotional, from a small label, foreign, or withdrawn from the market? The fewer copies of a record just like the one being valued, the higher the value of the record, assuming age and artist are of value.
Likewise, records that are still in their original packaging or autographed get a value boost from that added rarity—especially if there are multiple autographs or the message isn’t personalized (think “for Nancy” and so on).
Condition of the Record
Finally, the state of the record also counts. While unopened and never-played records are going to have the highest value, of course, there's an entire range between that and an unplayable, heavily damaged record (which may be worth nothing if it's not very rare in some other fashion). In general, though, the closer to mint-condition the record is, the higher the value.
The sleeve’s condition is also a consideration. Covers aren't necessary to have a high-value record, but they certainly help. Sleeves with scarcely printed artwork in particular value well. If the cover is rare for a controversial reason—such as a withdraw from the market—that’s even better.
Record Valuation: The Quick Version
To sum it all up, record value increases with artist popularity, age, scarcity, condition, and uniqueness (autographs, cover art, etc.). Value decreases for unknown artists, commonality, and damage.