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Is There Big Money in Your Vinyl Records?

By John Marshall for Next Avenue

Odds are, you have some rock and roll vinyl records or might see ones for sale at a yard sale. Wondering whether they're worth much? Some just might have a value of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But others, not so much.

As someone who's tracked record values and hosted radio shows about them for many years, I can tell you this: the value of a vinyl record from the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s is based on a few key things: the collectability of the recording artist; the genre of the music; the rarity of the album and the condition of the record. Collectors always want an original issue, rather than a reissue.

I've done many radio shows where several callers have had records worth more than $1,000. When I'm on Jim Bohannon's syndicated radio show, we always find callers with records valued at $100 or more. But I'd say the vast majority of callers have records in the $25 price range. The chances for bigger value are for vinyl records from the 1950s and 1960s.

A 1966 Beatles 45 RPM single of "Eleanor Rigby" might be worth $125; recordings by celebrities not known as singers (like "Batman" Adam West ) can sell for $1,700 and a 1958 Mart 45 of "Rock and Roll Rhythm" by Rockabilly artist Moon Mullins sold for $2,500 recently.

Credit for this image: Clem Onojeghuo
Credit for image at the very top: Mick Haupt

Rock and Roll Records With the Most Value

When it comes to value in vinyl, there are five main genres. Most of the value is in rock and roll, followed by blues, soul, jazz and country.

"Doo-wop" (groups like The Flamingos, The Five Satins and The Platters) and Rockabilly (exemplified by Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins) can be worth the most among rock and roll vinyl recordings.

Also promising these days: Surf music performed by acts like The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, the Ventures and Dick Dale and Motown artists like The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops and The Temptations.

Some records from The British Invasion in the mid-'60s, by such stars as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five, can be very valuable, too.

Keep in mind, however, that the same record can have a vastly different value depending on the record company that issued it. For example, one of the best-known examples of Surf music is the instrumental "Wipe Out," by The Surfaris. Most copies of it are on the Dot label and worth no more than $10, but ones on the DFS record label go for up to $3,000.

Vinyl Records by The Beatles

When it comes to The Beatles, generally speaking, their earlier releases (on Capitol in the early- to mid-1960s) are going to be worth the most. Original Beatles albums on Capitol have labels that are black. If the labels are green, purple or orange they're reissues with little value. Original Beatles 45s on Capitol have labels that are yellow and orange; purple ones are reissues.

But keep in mind that particular pressings of the same album can have vastly different values, depending on their particulars.

Take a near-mint condition of the first Beatles album, 1964's "Meet the Beatles" on Capitol Records. A mono version without producer-publishing credits below the liner notes might be worth $1,000, one with producer-publishing credits below the liner notes might sell for $400, a 1969 green label Capitol Record Club issue of it is worth about $125 and a 1978 purple label reissue goes for just $10.

In most cases, the value of an album is split evenly between the vinyl and the cover. However, with a 45, there are two separate values: one for the record and one for what's known as the picture sleeve.

Many 45s came with a picture of the recording artist on the sleeve. And by themselves, the picture sleeves can be worth more than the records.

You probably remember The Beatles' No. 1 hit in 1964, "Can't Buy Me Love." That record is worth up to $40 but the picture sleeve by itself is valued at up to $800.

You might not know it, but there are only established values for records issued in the U.S.A. Records from overseas — imports — have no established values. As a rule, collectors value imports up to 30% less than their counterparts released in the states.

What to Know About Imports and Mono Vs. Stereo

Something else to bear in mind: In the 1950s and early 1960s, most albums were mono (recorded or played back on one audio channel); by the end of the decade, most were stereo. A mono copy of an album may be worth more than the stereo version, but sometimes a stereo version can be worth more than a mono copy. It all depends on how many were issued in each version.

In 1962, Roy Orbison hit it big with "Crying." A mono copy of the "Crying" album is worth up to $400; a stereo version can sell for $1,500. But a stereo copy of Elvis' 1968 soundtrack album, "Speedway" from RCA is only worth up to $100 while a mono copy is valued up to $4,000.

The photo on an album cover, font of the print and speed of the album recording can sometimes matter greatly for value, too.

In 1966, Dunhill Records released the album, "If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears," by The Mamas and Papas, showing the group in a bathtub with a toilet to the side. If the toilet is blocked off, the album is worth up to $25, but if the cover shows a full view of the toilet, it is worth ten times as much.

That same year London Records released the album, "Big Hits, High Tide, and Green Grass," by The Rolling Stones. If the title is printed on three lines on the cover, it's worth only up to $50 but if the title is printed on one line, the value can jump to $7,500.

Where to Sell Your Vinyl Records

In 1962, RCA released the Elvis Presley 45, "Good Luck Charm," which became a No. 1 hit. The regular 7-inch 45 with picture sleeve is worth up to $40. However, RCA also released "Good Luck Charm" as a 7-inch 33 RPM. It's the same size as a 45 but plays at the speed of an album. With picture sleeve, that version can sell for up to $20,000.

So, you have some vinyl records and want to sell them. Where should you go?

For a quick sale, a record-store dealer is your best option, but a dealer will generally pay no more than 30% of value.

If you have the time and patience, go directly to collectors on eBay and other internet auctions. You could post a photo of your record on Craigslist; record collectors are always checking there. For records worth $1,000 or more, you might try auction houses like Christie's or Heritage-Odyssey.

The value of any collectible, vinyl records included, is like a sticker on a used car. It's up to the buyer and seller to use their best negotiating skills.

In the final analysis, something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay. In economics, it's all about supply and demand and as time goes by, the supply of 1950s and 1960s vinyl diminishes but the demand remains and prices rise.

John Marshall, aka Mighty John, The Record Guy, is a 30-year radio veteran and long-time record collector. For more than a decade, he has been helping radio listeners determine the value of their records or the ones they find at yard sales. His website is MoneyMusic.com and his Mighty John's Record Appraisal Guide lists the values of over one million records by more than 75,000 recording artists.

©2021 Next Avenue

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