Part of being a record collector (especially an obsessed devoted one) involves spending a lot of time and energy finding new music to own. Walking into a finely curated record store is fine if I’m comfortable spending at least $10 for a single LP, but in most cases, I don’t particularly like spending a lot of money – even on records. There’s nothing wrong with spending time and money in a record store necessarily, but I’m not going to feel good spending money there as opposed to finding music I want at a thrift store or at a garage sale for tens of dollars cheaper. That’s part of what makes hunting and digging so fun – the bargains and the possibility of flipping a cheap record for modest profit.
I figured out overtime that Goodwill is a decent source for bargain hunting vinyl. Not all Goodwills will carry used vinyl, but the ones that do will eventually sell some really great stuff. I say eventually because about 98% of the stuff that hits the floors at Goodwill is complete garbage and it can be weeks before anything good is found. I see the same categories of vinyl all universally all thrift stores: Barbara Streisand, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, classical music, Neil Diamond, Christmas albums, Children’s albums, 12” hip hop singles, big band jazz, and Spanish mariachi music. Oh, and of course everything in terrible shape.
About 20% of the vinyl I come across is in non-playable condition. I mean, there’s G+ condition, which I can tolerate if it’s a rare find, and then there are albums in P condition with scratches so thick you would think the LP was intentionally rubbed with a cheese grater.
Some collectors tend to score at thrift stores. While selling at the KUSF Rock n’ Swap last year I struck up a conversation with the seller at the booth next to me. He was a veteran seller of over 20 years who told me he once found an LP at a Salvation Army by a group called Search Party. Search Party were a psychedelic Christian rock group from the late 1960s. He told me he was going through about 100 Christian / devotional LPs at a Salvation Army when he stumbled across it. He bought the LP for $2 and promptly sold it on eBay for $1600.
Sometimes I’ll find an LP without its jacket just floating in a crate or on a shelf. Most of the time I don’t tend to bring these kind of LPs home, although admittingly I have done it once or twice. I’ll explain later.
Then there’s the culture of people who I’ve come to see routinely digging for vinyl. With few exceptions, most of the people digging for vinyl have little to no social skills. They’re mostly middle aged men still looking for their one holy grail (after God knows how many years of digging for it) and they don’t come to Goodwill to socialize. Their personalities and mannerisms remind me of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
To be honest, most things I come across at Goodwill or at thrift stores I end up selling. It makes more sense to spend $10 on vinyl I know I can sell for profit than to keep my finds. For example, below is a short list of things I’ve found at various thrift stores and then sold online. I paid about $9 for the ten items below, and made a net profit of $154.66:
Various Artists – Capcom vs. Marvel 2 Mix Tape. Bought for $1 – Sold for $45
The Capcom vs. Marvel 2 Mix Tape LP shown above I technically got for free. When I got home I found this LP crammed in the sleeve of an entirely unrelated album.
Beatles – Abbey Road. Bought for $1 – Sold for $16.50
Beatles – Beatles ’65. Bought for $1 – Sold for $10.50
The New Romans 7”. Bought for $1 – Sold for $26
Bobby Vee – Suzie Baby (promo 7”). Bought for $0.50 – Sold for $5
The Cure – Standing On A Beach: The Singles. Bought at a garage sale for $1 – Sold for $26
Maria Callas picture disc. Bought for $0.50 – Sold for $12.50
Marj Snyder – A Time of Peace. Bought for $1 – Sold for $7.16
Blind Spot – Blind Spot 7″. Bought for $1 – Sold for $5
Not everything I purchase from thrift stores turns out to be a good investment…
Randy and the Rainbows 7”. Bought for $1 – Sold for $1
With the money I made from these sales, I felt perfectly comfortable buying a copy of this very rare triple LP Pink Floyd bootleg set known as Cruel But Fair.
When the LP covers are put in the proper sequence, they make the image of this spooky looking owl!
The real icing on the cake of this rare triple LP set is the color of each vinyl.
I paid about $159 for my copy, with $24 for international shipping from Spain. So basically, I bought a very rare, very expensive triple LP bootleg with funds I earned from selling dollar bin records purchased from Thrift stores. All I had to pay out-of-pocket was the international shipping and a few extra bucks to cover the remaining cost. And if that isn’t enough, this triple LP set is now out of print and stupidly expensive to buy. On Discogs it’s currently for sale at the low bargain price of $525.
The things I keep from Goodwill are typically either rare, or are a very legitimate bargain and are worth keeping. For example, I was digging a few months ago and came across an LP floating around in a bin without a jacket. The labels were vanilla colored and simply read “SIDE ONE” and “SIDE TWO” on each side.
This, I knew, was more than likely a bootleg. I picked it up and read the deadwax which read TAKRL 1968. This was a copy of The Amazing Kornyphone Record Label’s live King Crimson album entitled Heretic.
According to Discogs, this albums sells between $20 to $65. I bought my copy (albeit the jacket is missing) for $1.
Additionally, I’ve come across some other decent finds at various thrift stores.
Jay-Z – VOL. 2… Hard Knock Life
KLF – Burn The Bastards 12″
Carol King – Tapestry
The very best of Chuck Berry
Various Wes Montgomery albums
and a handful of Bob Dylan Albums.
Like I said, most vinyl records sold at thrift stores are either in garbage condition or feature music NOBODY wants. But if you are patient enough and know what it is you’re looking at, it can become a rewarding experience.