You may wonder why 25 per cent of the selling price which might
seem a very low figure to the uninitiated is actually a fair buying
price. Businesses which deal in used merchandise seldom pay more than this
much, and often less. This kind of business is very labour-intensive; you
might even consider it a hybrid of retail sales and service, as the dealer
cannot simply sit in his office and order whatever merchandise he needs
from a distributor.
I remember an article by an experienced used book dealer on how to start
your own used book store. His advice was to start off paying no more than
20 per cent of your expected selling price for books. As you gained more
experience, you could increase the amount to 25 per cent, as long as you
were buying mostly books you had a reasonable chance of selling. Another
used book dealer I know, who has more than half a century of experience,
tells me he spends about 20 per cent of his yearly income on buying books,
70 per cent on labour and other expenses, and winds up with 10 per cent
profit per year.
When Canfield buys collections, he goes through the records and computes
the value to him of the valuable records in the collection, figuring at
20 to 25 per cent of his selling price. Then he evaluates the remainder
at 25 to 50 cents each, depending on the collection. Although these figures
may seem low, he has his choice of record collections to buy and usually
has 30 to 40 collections waiting for him at any given time. People who
run record shops tell me similar stories. As one example, the owner of
one very large store, who had well over 200,000 records in stock, told
me he never paid more than ten to 15 cents a record for collections. He
did not have to, he said, because he was offered so much good material
at that price and many other people were willing to give LPs to him just
to get rid of them. A buyer at a large used record shop in the American
Southwest told me recently that he had turned down a large collection of
Russian Melodiya LPs offered to him at 50 cents a record because he simply
did not have any market for them. (I asked him to find out if he could
get them for me ...) In other words, it's a buyer's market.
When people call me with record collections for sale, I ask them several
questions immediately. "How many records do you have?" or "how
many feet of shelf space do they take up?" Unless the records are
very close by, or I have reason to think that many of them are valuable,
I usually won't travel to look at fewer than a thousand records. "When
were the records purchased?" Most of the records I want to buy were
made before 1970, with the exception of esoterica and unusual imports.
"Do you know where the records were purchased?" Most large collections
are in good condition, because even if they are careless people don't have
the time to damage very many records. But I once turned down a collection
of 20,000 records offered to me for $2,000 because they had all been purchased
by someone who had not examined them carefully. I could have got more than
$2,000 worth of records out of the collection but it was not worth the
time and expense of transporting and sorting them.
If you have records you want to sell, what should you do with them?
I would say that the first thing is to investigate whether or not they
are worth selling: look over your records and get some idea of what you
have. How many records are there? What kind of condition are they in? What
is the proportion of mono to stereo records? (Mono LPs which were issued
only in that form can be valuable, but mono copies of stereo records are
usually worth very little; admittedly it takes some experience to recognize
these.) Do you know when they were purchased? It also helps to be able
to summarize the type of music in the collection, if it lends itself to
a summary. These days, for example, a collection of chamber music LPs from
the early 1950s can be highly collectable, while a collection of major
label complete opera sets from the 1970s is likely to be almost worthless.
Once you have such an idea, find a record dealer in your general area
and give him or her a call. (I am not just being politically correct; there
are now several women running excellent record businesses.) Introduce yourself,
mention that you have a record collection for sale and offer the information
I have suggested above. If you meet with a cordial reception, you may then
want to arrange for a visit.