Collectible Vinyl Records

Saw a news report out of Dallas the other night, highlighting a shop that was pressing vinyl records. Not sure they had ever stopped, but owners reported that their business activity was increasing. Seems their customers prefer the sound of vinyl records to the more modern digital formats. For those of you, probably like most, that have a few boxes of old vinyl records stashed (1955 – 1980), thought it might be interesting to know how to value old vinyl records, covers and sleeves.

As with any antique or collectible, the condition, i.e., grade is important – but opinions here can differ widely. Especially if the record is not new but used, and whether you are buying or selling. Like I’ve said over the years, something is only worth what another person is willing to pay for it. This brings us back to condition.

There are several ways to grade vinyl records. The more widely accepted grading scale is attributed to ‘Rockin’ Records’
written by Jerry Osborne. A brief overview of the grades are listed below:

Perfect – tiny blemish or flaw only, otherwise near mint ( Near Mint book value)

Very Good – minimum visual or audio imperfections (25-50% of Near Mint book value)

Good – gap filler until you find something better, but will play all the way through without skipping (10-15% of Near Mint book value)

When using the above¬†formulas for valuing, don’t forget to take into account any flaws or condition problems your records may have. Or if you are buying records, don’t forget to ask what the condition references. Is it … the record, the sleeve, or the LP jacket. After all, you want a record that not only has a good jacket but also plays well. Although there are some 45RPM covers that have substantial more value than the record itself.


Like the 10 point grading system for toys, it has been suggested something similar be used for grading vinyl records. The recommended grading scale is below (you’ll note 1 & 2 have been left off – who would want them?) . . .

 10 РMint

9 – Near Mint

8 – Below NM but better than VG

7 – Very Good (VG)

6 – Below VG but better than G

5 – Good (G)

4 – Below G but better than P

3 – Poor (P)

Like most things, the value is dictated by supply-and-demand. R&B (rhythm and blues) records c1950, had poor promotion so there were fewer of them. While the Beatles records were mass produced and are fairly common making some (check the label) worth more than others. In most cases classical records have no demand at all. The Internet has added it’s own affect to the supply-and-demand equation. The easy availability of records on sites such as Ebay and Amazon has, in some cases, driven down the prices.

The period of music should also be considered when valuing records. For example, c1930-40 country, early jazz, rock and roll, c1960 ‘girl’ groups, are often highly sought after, translating to more value. Music can also have historical value like that associated with surf music, doo wop, and psychedelic. And, of course there are the music icons that are always in demand: Elvis, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Beatles to name a few.

Other considerations with regard to value are:

  • Artwork – cover
  • Inner sleeves with notes or lyrics
  • Associated posters
  • First press of record vs. re-issue
  • Record label
  • Record format – stereo vs. mono
  • Color of vinyl
  • Any mis-prints or errors

This is a very general overview of collecting vinyl records. For more information, check out the record reference books available on Amazon


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