How to Shop for Recorded Music

From the 1940s through the 1970s, vinyl was the most popular way that music was listened to and enjoyed. Other formats followed, such as 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, and CDs, until finally digital music and mp3 players became the most common way to listen to music. Somewhere in the 2000s, vinyl records and listening to music on vinyl records had a resurgence, and it regained popularity. As the LP was a staple for years, there are still plenty of vintage albums on the market, as well as new vinyl releases from modern popular artists. Like any hobby worth having, there are a few things to note as you begin your vinyl collection.

What Different Types of Records Are There?

Most folks are familiar with records that play at 33 RPM (revolutions per minute). However, there are other types of records you may be interested in, which may end up becoming a vital part of your vinyl collection.

  • 78 RPM - The first type of vinyl ever pressed was on what is now known today as a "78." Essentially, this disc plays at 78 revolutions per minute, and was first invented in the late 1800s. This was the standard for all albums until the 1950s, when 33 RPM records gained popularity. There are still many 78s on the market, especially for older artists such ass The Andrews Sisters, Elvis Presley, and The Ink Spots. Do keep in mind, however, you need a special turntable to play 78s - either an original Victrola or a modern record player that's capable of playing at this speed.
  • 33 RPM - This is the gold standard of all vinyl throughout history, and remains the most popular form of albums today. Look for everything from Led Zeppelin's "Physical Graffiti" to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." Many new releases are also being sold in 33 RPM.
  • 45 RPM - These small little discs roll at 45 revolutions per minute. You'll typically find singles, maxi-singles and EP albums on a 45. While most turntables can spin them, you'll need a special insert in most cases that fits in the middle of the album.

How to Understand Recording Grading

Like collecting sports cards or similar hobbies, records are graded on a fairly simple scale. It helps you understand what you're getting when it comes to vintage albums.

  • Mint or near mint (M or NM) - These records are near perfect, and in many cases, will also be denoted with an SS (still sealed). It's tough to find vintage vinyl recordings with this grade.
  • Excellent or very good (E or VG) - This means that the LP is playable and in great shape, but it also means that the album cover, sleeve, and any other insert or memorabilia is intact, and also in good shape.
  • Good (G) - This LP is in good shape. It may have a scratch or two, but it plays just fine. Additionally, there may be writing on the album cover, or perhaps a tear or stain.
  • Fair (F) - This recording is in okay condition. It most likely plays, but there are aesthetic issues with both the record and its cover.
  • Poor (P) - This LP may or may not play on your turntable. It has numerous aesthetic problems, and it may be chipped or scratched.

Finding Rare and Collectible Vinyl

One of the things new collectors find most confusing is knowing what album to buy. Whether you're searching for pop or rock n' roll vinyl records, there are a lot of different options out there. Some LPs that have a tendency to be more collectible than others include:

  • Original (first) pressings
  • Remastered or reissued recordings (this depends; sometimes these are more collectible, but can be much less collectible)
  • Imports
  • Promotional vinyl
  • Picture discs
  • Colored vinyl
  • Special or limited edition releases