Collector's Corner: Vinyl could make you record returns

If they're in mint condition, those old 45s will bring back more than fond memories, says Gwyn Jones
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Just as video killed the radio star, CDs and mini-discs were expected to kill off demand for vinyl. But they didn't: some of today's most fashionable bands are releasing singles on vinyl alongside more modern formats, and collecting vinyl is becoming a serious hobby.

"Record collecting has become a cross between antiques and porn," says Ian Shirley, editor of the Rare Record Price Guide. "There's a manic desire for them and lots of people are buying records as investments."

Record dealer Nick Brown at Intoxica has also noticed some big changes. "Ten or 15 years ago almost anything from the Sixties was collectable and fetched roughly the same price," he says. "Now there is so much information around that there is a much more educated consumer, demand is strong and the internet has widened access. Anyone can collect records."

In a massive market, however, collectors are picky. Age is no guarantee of value - the only 78s that are collectable are American country blues from the Forties and Fifties, Brown warns. It's a myth that Elvis 78s are worth money; they were sold in their millions and can still be bought for a few pennies.

You can also forget CDs. "They're just not as sexy as vinyl. They lack that allure," says Shirley. "They've yet to demonstrate collectability and staying power."

More people are collecting singles than they did 10 years ago, though. "The 45 is like buying a piece of history," says Brown. "They are iconic moments in music and are pieces of culture in their own right."

As with many areas of collecting, fashion is a factor. Reggae singles are quite highly sought after at the moment, but many records were played to death so finding mint copies is very hard.

Blue chip collectables are items by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Queen to some extent and The Smiths. The early Sex Pistols are also achieving huge prices. A copy of The Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" recently sold for £12,000 on eBay.

Prices are definitely rising. Ten years ago, Pink Floyd singles went for between £8 and £10 but now sell for up to £60, while The Pretty Things' SF Sorrow has leapt from £20 to £30, to £150 to £250, depending on whether it's in stereo or mono. The most collectable items, however, are the more obscure records and bands.

What record collectors want most of all is a mint copy of a record, and that includes the sleeve as well as the record itself. If the condition drops to just "very good" it halves the price.

Specialist knowledge is critical: most Madonna records, for example, aren't worth much because they were produced in such large quantities, but there is one picture disc that sells for about £2,000.

With bands such as Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys choosing to put records out on vinyl the medium is being introduced to a younger audience, which can only increase values.

"Since the big auction houses started having rock memorabilia auctions, many insurance companies now accept that vinyl goes up in value and so people are buying records as an investment," Brown says.

"If you know what you're doing you will get a very good return - it's become like dealing in antiques, where you have to verify if it's the first pressing of a record, as these fetch more money than later ones."

However, Brown believes there is still plenty of room left in the market for speculation. "There are 45s that are now 40 to 50 years old that still only sell for a few pounds each, such as Sixties soul singles. I don't know whether they will pick up in value but I do think they are undervalued."


'The Rare Record Price Guide 2006'. £26 from good bookshops or call 0870 737 8080. Published by 'Record Collector' and Omnibus Press.

Intoxica Records, 231 Portobello Rd, London W11: 020-7229 8010;

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