For about ten years, since I started thrift shopping here and there, once in a while I would peruse the old vinyl bins. Thrift shoppers have seen the smorgasbord of crap in the record bins of thrift shops and should be familiar with the site: Lots of musicals, symphonies, old singers of the 1940s and 1950s that nobody has ever heard of. Even though these records are unknown and worthless, they are beat to shit as if they were touched a thousand times. I have two theories on this.
My first theory is this: They are beat to shit because they have been there many many years and have had people sort through them dozens of times every day for a decade. You see, they are the “Records Left Behind.” The music gods came down and took the good ones. What you have left are the records that do not deserve to be in anyone’s dream collection.
My second theory is there is a donation wave that happens when technology changes. The people who bought records of the cool artists of the 1960s and 1970s and early 1980s got rid of their old stuff in garage sales when CD’s came about. Say you have a person born in 1955. When they turned 18, and bought Pink Floyd’s The Wall in 1973, they played the shit out of it. They hung the poster on their wall and put the stickers on their locker. By the time CDs came about in the mid 80s, they might have replaced the record with the CD. They would have been around 30 by then, and keeping up with the Joneses. So maybe they had a house so they bought a new CD player and bought all those albums they had when they were younger, because many of us listen to stuff we associate with our youth. (Half the stuff I listen to is from 1994-1999 when I was “growing up”). So starting in the mid 80s, they began throwing out their old records. Parents cleaned out their kids old bedrooms and threw it all out (much like in the 1950s when mothers threw out all those Micky Mantle baseball cards). Most of these were beat to shit or scratched up. By the mid 90s, the vinyl market was dead. This is when I suspect all the great record finds could be had at Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other thrift shops.
By the late 90s, a peculiar things started to happen. Records were growing in popularity again. I think this had something told do with the internet, CD’s not being unique anymore because music was being ripped from the internet. The buyer is now in his mid 40s and maybe a little nostalgic. He has planted his roots and maybe gone through his midlife crisis. So from here on they might start collecting their old albums to listen to the records they used to love or, the new generation takes over. Their kids could be entering high school or college and might find the records their parents used to listen to pretty hip, so they hoard them, and start collecting them.
As a result, thrift shops don’t receive well known records anymore like they would with VHS or DVDs today (which who knows, might be a market for that in 30-40 years). What you see are the remainders that have been picked over 800 times, possibly because ebay now provides a market to make a quick buck. When they do get quality music, it only happens on accident I think and in bulk. Major collectors would likely get stuff liquidated in an estate sale. Small time collectors won’t donate their stuff if they spent years building their collection back up. If they have held it this long, it isn’t getting donated. The peak picking era for records was likely from 1985 to 1998. Those that buy vinyl now are too familiar with ebay to ever unload their precious music.
So back to the picture, where did I find my Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon albums? In ten years of of visiting goodwills or a Salvation Army maybe once a month (sometimes going 7-8 months without visiting one), I have amassed most my collection in 3 scores. I have found some pretty cool stuff in really good condition. By the early 80s, many people who bought records would only slit open the side and pull the record out, so the album is well preserved. Many of the art inserts are still inside. I like the ones with the original store sticker on the cover of the plastic. It’s pretty funny to see how prices change.
One of my Pink Floyd Albums for which I bought for 99 cents (worthy maybe $50 for the quality) still has the poster and stickers which is pretty awesome. The other album isn’t exactly a gem mint 10, but that’s ok (might be worth $15-20 on Ebay). The good condition album, along with a box of 20-30 pretty iconic records were found at a Goodwill in Las Vegas when I lived there in 2010. I forget if it was 50% off day, but at most I paid $20 for the curated box, likely left behind by an old collector or their kids. Half of the albums had plastic sleeves which was nice. It was good luck to find a single album worth anything at a thrift shop these days, so to find an entire box put out and priced for 99 cents each is a score.
I also have a couple Purple Rain albums for when Prince went by that name. Just look at that cover. The purple bike, the purple jacket. The duality of the vinyl cover. Pretty crazy. One of the copies was also found in big score.
The rest of my collection came from similar situations. A random box is put out with no kidding good quality records from good artists, and happened to be there. My current record collection stands at around 100 albums I think. I have some doubles. It is very rare that I find an random album of good quality.
Back to the beginning. That buyer of Pink Floyd would be in their early 60s today. Maybe there is a random shot they will donate well-preserved albums now and hope it isn’t picked up in 5.3 seconds by “the flea market” or “ebay” or “super collector” people that hit up the stores practically everyday. Maybe I’m wrong and just miss out every time? Who knows.
For now, I will keep picking up quality stuff and sticking them in a box. Maybe in 40 years, my grandkids will clean out my place and have no idea what the hell these things are, and toss them to a Goodwill.