Got old plastic? Here’s how to cash in on your unwanted vinyl
Serious vinyl collectors will know that moving house is a major chore. My turn came at the end of November. I had a collection of close to 3 000 records, which had to be lovingly moved.
When we began settling in to our new home, it became clear that there were far too many records for the space available.
Then when visiting a friend’s house, I discovered three crates of records that I had left at his house during a previous move, three years before.
I was going to have to seriously purge.
And so the cull began.
Did I need every Bob Dylan album he ever made on vinyl or just the ones I listened to? That dodgy Neil Young album from the 1980s, where he is wearing the pink suit: Will I ever listen to that again? And if so, wouldn’t an MP3 playback suffice?
The excess records piled up. Now I had to get rid of them.
I was thinking along the lines of a stand at a market, but my brother said I should consider bidorbuy. He said it’s surprising what people pay for records these days, “especially when you set them against each other in bidding wars.”
My brother had been doing it for a while, selling off old records to rabid collectors. I decided to give it a try.
Registration was simple enough and with some coaching from my brother I began cataloguing my record collection.
The most important thing is to get a handle on documenting the record and sleeve condition. You will find various techniques for gauging condition, only a Google search away, but these vary depending on where and to whom you are selling. I would recommend talking to someone who has done it before, so you don’t end up with angry customers.
Once you have got that right, you just need the right product code, a photo and some basic information about the record – and you are away.
My bidorbuy account tells me that I have sold 184 records over the last four months and for my efforts I have managed to make more than R30 000. I still have 91 records open on auction, which will just re-list if the auctions close unsuccessfully.
My biggest order from a customer was 45 records for a fee of R8 904.50.
Amongst his haul was a copy of 4 Songs from “Renaldo and Clara” by Bob Dylan, for which he paid R655 and punk band X Ray Spex’s debut album Germ Free Adolescents, for which he paid R527. He also scooped up records by Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, John Lennon, Black Sabbath, Public Image Ltd and the Modern Jazz Quartet.
It was in 2007 that vinyl started to make resurgence in the global market.
Bidorbuy chief executive Jaco Jonker reckons that South Africa’s boom began only in 2013-2014.
“These days, buyers are five times more likely to put a vinyl into their shopping cart than a digital disc,” says Jonker.
He says that on average between 500 and 800 LPs are sold on bidorbuy in a week. In May this year sales reached a peak of 1 200 units but fewer than 200 CDs were sold in the same period. Prices can range from R10 to R1 000, with super-rare records trading at up to R5 000.
Browsing on bidorbuy confirms these prices. There is clearly a lot of demand and a number of traders have been making good profit servicing it. Some that I approached declined to talk about their trading.
“In this game, my knowledge is everything,” says one trader. “So I would prefer to keep my cards close to my chest”.
Kevin Stuart, who runs RecordMad, a vinyl retail store in Linden, Johannesburg, was more forthcoming.
He started trading in vinyl eight years ago and opened the bricks-and-mortar retail store four years ago.
“It was, in my mind, a storeroom for vinyl I was selling online,” says Stuart. “It kind of developed more into a shop as the word spread.”
Stuart sells records using the eBay, bidorbuy and Discogs websites.
“The first two are mostly auction sites so it’s sometimes good to see if a record could get a little more than the asking price,” he says. “Discogs is a sale portal that shows history of sales and prices which helps for hard sale items.”
Stuart acknowledges that there has been an upward trend in pricing over the last few years. He ascribes this to there being more demand.
“As more people wanted records, dealers could ask higher prices,” he says.
But he maintains the kicker is having good records to sell.
Benjy Mudie is a music industry veteran – a radio presenter and a record label boss. He has always been into vinyl, going back to when he began collecting singles in the mid-1960s.
He began trading vinyl in 2014 when a friend gave him two crates of what turned out to be really collectable classic rock albums from the 1960s and 1970s.
“I use eBay for the really collectable records, mainly classic rock & jazz as well as certain South African records as the auction process generally pushes the fetching price up,” says Mudie. “The down side to eBay is what I call the ‘triple dip down’; you pay commission to eBay followed by a fee to PayPal plus an additional fee to the local bank.
“There is also the issue of international postal delivery times, which can be lengthy, as well as the occasional missing order,” he says. “Locally, I use bidorbuy for the standard SA records as well as noncollectable international records.”
Mudie has also opened his own store, Vinyl Junkie in Blairgowrie, Johannesburg. The space originally housed Fresh Music, his record label, as well as the online store.
“As more stock flowed in it became impossible to sell everything online so I decided that I wanted to recreate the feeling of a traditional ‘record bar’,” says Mudie. “My first job had been working in a record bar, from 1970 to 1976.”
He says prices have increased because there are fewer records to go around. “This results in prices rising, particularly for collectables.”
Mudie says there is also a lot of greed in the market, particularly around records such as Cold Fact by Rodriguez. Since the documentary about the international musician and the reissue of his albums, original South African pressings of the records have become highly sought after by international collectors.
“The going price for a copy in very good condition should be around R300-R400, but some sellers are charging in excess of R1 000 for crap copies,” he says.
So what has been the record whose selling price surprised him the most?
Mudie says he remembers finding a white label acetate with the words “The Beatles” written in pen on the label.
“Thinking it was one of the long lost and mythical acetates that one reads about, I could just about see the dollar signs,” he says. “Sadly for me it was blank.”
He says a copy of Wildebeest’s Bushrock 1 went for an unexpected high price.
Stuart’s most prized record is a mint condition Zambian pressing of The Witch’s album Flying Out. And Mudie’s prized possession is an album he made in the 1970s called Six of the Best, which featured seminal South African punk bands Wild Youth and Corporal Punishment.