Buying vinyl collections – a philosophical dilemma

Vinyl collection shelves

Despite being a dedicated advocate of digital DJing, I still and always will find myself completely enamoured with vinyl. Not necessarily from an audio quality perspective (it’s not all brilliantly mastered and pressed), but from the viewpoint of it being real. It’s tangible, and there’s a real process in buying, playing and owning it. And with each piece of vinyl there is a memory – some bad (why in God’s name did I buy that without listening to it?), and some utterly amazing that are burned into my psyche as if they happened just yesterday.

So I find myself with a dilemma. My record collection isn’t that big, partly because I never had huge amounts of cash to buy just any old vinyl, nor the space to store it, but also because I was quite selective about what I bought. I had to like it before I dropped a large percentage of my tiny income on it. But now I have the new studio, and a ridiculous amount of space. Combine this with a renewed desire for tangible real things, I want to buy a lot of vinyl. But I find myself with an internal conflict.

I could drop by eBay and bid on all manner of vinyl job lots with the sole intention of very rapidly building an expansive and enviable wall full of vinyl. But for me, this equates to the current malpractice of “collecting” hundreds of thousands of tracks across terabytes of drives for nothing more than bragging rights. To dredge up an old maxim, they would not be platters that matter.

So here I am with the headline philosophical dilemma – as much as I’d love to own an obscene amount of vinyl and post a ridiculous number of pictures on Facebook, I keep coming back this — to me music a very personal thing and not a just a commodity.

So vinyl owners — where do you stand on this? Are you a hopeless vinyl junkie who absolutely has to have any  old vinyl? Or are you a tad more sentimental and selective about your collection? Would you rather know each and every record in your collection and tell the story behind each of them? Or do you want to pull a muscle pose in front of a wall of vinyl regardless of what it is?

  • I like to choose the records. The 500 records deal on ebay seems to be a great deal thought…

  • Daniel Morse

    There must be packs of 10 or so records you could buy?

    • White Wulfe

      HTFR usually has a number of genre-specific 5, 10, and 25 packs. I would hope there are other companies out there too doing the same since they seem to be reasonably priced.

  • Through work, I could have had a collection of literally thousands of records by now. But like you I don’t see the point in owning stacks of music I barely like or can’t even remember. I’ve only kept records I really like (for listening and sampling admittedly). Now what is about three thousand records could so easily have been ten thousand and the collection would have been no better to me. I do buy collections sometimes, but I only keep the few real gems I’m missing and sell the rest on ASAP.

  • Great read, Mark. I feel the same way but I am going to just do the damn thing and buy buy buy and listen to every single song to find the samples I want to make music with, or songs that will give a different feel to my mixes.

  • I have a limited collection of my favorites but someone I live with appears to be going for volume lol! It takes up a lot of space but I can’t complain – always finding new gems.

  • I think you and I are of a similar vintage Mark, and probably like you I bought my first album when I was in my mid early teens and havn’t looked back.

    However, also like you, I still need to really like it before I buy it.

    So although I have been collecting for many decades now, I still only have about 800 albums and 12″, with another hundred or so 7″. I have the odd disc which I bought for the cover, or on a punt – which I never play cos I don’t like them. But really, if I got it, I want to spin it – or at least it has so many good memories from back in the day, that I keep it for that reason. (although that doesn’t explain my Guru Josh 12″!)

    And when I see sites like Dust and Grooves, which show people with these amazing rooms filled with thousands of records, I get weak in the knees and yearn to dig through them. A wall of records is a wonderful thing – like a ginat book case filled with books.

    But in the long run, for me, quality will always trump quantity.

    I have an acquaintance who has way more cash than me, who has recently gotten into vinyl. And within a matter of months the size of his collection surpassed mine. But it kind of felt like cheating. He’s buying them by the crateful, but it feels like it’s more about the size of his collection than the love of the music – even though he does love it.

    So I think you know the answer to your question.

    Mind you, there’s no harm in going to the local second had record store and picking up a those discs which you maybe don’t like as much, but for a few bucks, will happily slip into the collection. Also,these days, with all the re-iusses that are happening, I’ve become a bit of a box set junkie – there’s some great stuff out there, especially by numero group.

    I’d love to see some shots of your vinyl setup and records by the way.



  • Rob Swierczek

    i only buy random, weird stuff for no more than a couple bucks. keeps things cheap but somewhat focused (in a sense). this approach isnt for everyone but it’s more gratifying for me than spending rent money on a one-off tibetan electro-funk record or something. (tho it has to be said that should i come across such a record….i’d definitely consider it)

    • I know. But it’s highly likely that the handful of gems are overwhelmed by crates of dross.

      • It’s true, but it shouldn’t be a problem for you to go and check them. I wouldn’t buy any stock without checking it first.

  • Elliot

    I have a small 12″ record collection that is slowly growing. I have been buying records from Ebay for a while now. Just the early 90’s house and dance 12″ records that I found playlists for from the Sound Factory in NYC and NY radio mixes and that I remember hearing on the radio back then.

  • Great question, Mark! How do you take advantage of the great deals/prices but keep your collection overall selective? Back 6-7 years ago, when the job lots on eBay had people unloading 80s and 90s records, I jumped at the chance to buy lots for less than $1 per record. When I received them, I went through them all and kept the best ones in the best shape, then resold the rest on eBay. I built my collection cheaply, kept an overall high quality of records I own, and the resells were more than enough to buy another job lot.

  • Apart from having to move and story vinyl, if you actually play it and your floors can manage it, why not have a large collection? Sometimes when you need to boost your holdings in a genre a job lot isn’t a bad way to go, and pricewise it sometimes can’t be beaten. But nothing is better than flipping through the sleeves in the record shop or the thrift store or the car boot sale to find some amazing, unexpected gems.

  • I’ve probably got around 3000 bits of vinyl if I include albums, 12in and 7in singles. None of it was bought “just because” – it was all listened to and chosen because I liked it, even if it was one track on an import album! I haven’t bought vinyl for decades, and and can’t see myself buying any again, now that most stuff is available online.

  • White Wulfe

    I have maybe 150 records or so that I’ve collected over the years in a few different genres, most of which were picked and listened to for a while before purchasing them. I have purchased a few bundle packs in the past, but the largest one I’ve ever paid for was a 25 record genre specific pack, and most of those records I’ll still listen to. While the idea of picking up one of those large 500+ record lots is tempting, I’d much rather go for quality and a story behind each and every one, even if it’s just sentimental.

  • i have a respectable collection of vinyl that i’ve built mostly from a history of regular vinyl purchases and occasional digging. i have never purchased a full vinyl collection from a seller, but i have bought many small record lots on eBay.. usually for one or two gems listed. records i don’t like i often sell, trade or give away. however, i must admit i have a couple hundred or so records that i don’t want or need …but i do use these whenever i have a novice DJ come by to practice or try to learn.

    these days, weekly vinyl shopping is non-existent. only a few local shops exist, most don’t deal in new records …those who do generally have very limited selections. if i do buy new record, it’s probably online.. and i’m no fan of the shipping charges often costing nearly as much as the record itself. i do still dig, but it’s not as often as i’d like …but it doesn’t help the local dig shop is only open one day a week (sometimes sunday, by appointment only).

    i do like buying small record lots on eBay. it’s a crap shoot, but it’s as close as i’ll ever get to the old excitement of buying a fat grip of records… the anticipation of putting the needle down on unknown records in hopes of finding audio gold.

    i’ve only entertained the idea of buying a complete collection a couple of times… once when the local Satellite Records was closing it’s doors, and once when a veteran local DJ decided to sell his collection to fund his new record label …17 crates of well preserved house music and classic hiphop. sadly, i missed out.

  • stevie e

    I only got about 5 or 6 crates (haven’t counted the actual amount in yrs) but still pull shit out on the regular that I don’t remember owning. I love digging thru my crates finding unexpected gems. scrolling through a playlist will never match up to that. there was never or will ever be that vibe of digging in the record stores as a kid. good ol days I embrace the digital age but will die with my vinyl. there’s even a websight that will press your cremated ashes into vinyl. try that with your newest .wav file.

    • I love it when somebody else would play from YOUR crate, and you’re like, “what is this tune?” because they’ll play a different side or a different mix, from your records. A great way to discover tunes that you didn’t know you had!

  • I think you have already answered yourself… you know bragging just for bragging is not cool, and music quality wins all over quantity…

  • For me personally…I am selective about what I purchase most of the time, for the simple fact that for example, I’m trying to fill holes in my collection, I really like the record, or I need it for sampling purposes. Or even all three. There are times where I’ve brought random stuff on faith, but for the most part it is a purpose. (an exception may be if you were given records by someone)

    The mention of “a story behind the record” resonates so much with me, because many of the vinyl pieces I own do have personal backstories attached to them. Whether it’s how and where I found the particular record, or even a childhood memory…it’s very personal to me because music touches us through our hearts and souls in a special way. As it should.

    As far as buying whole collections, I’ve never done it myself..because I don’t have the funds to do such a thing. I don’t know if I would if I had the means…it depends on the situation… But I would be a little weary because you don’t want to risk buying stuff that has no value to you that takes up space. But it could be great at the same time…

  • Cataclysmic Specialist

    I have been a professional DJ since 1986, collecting vinyl since the age of 3. It has since been taken from me- part of my collection has been deliberately withheld from me from an ex-DJ partner, the remaining by an ex-employer. I started collecting again to replace as well as enhance my old collection. I ONLY buy known records, or ones that I put into rotation. I buy collector quality music that I LOVE. Replacing my R&B, FUNK, SOUL, BAD BRAINS (tough to categorize), GO-GO, PUNK, and the music I play(ed) the most as a DJ, HIP HOP.

  • I will sell you my collection, I have no turntable(s) anymore and don’t plan on dropping the $$$ to ever have one/them again, so really have no use for them. Well, other than they look cool on my wall and 12″ thick PVC and cardboard actually make one of the best surfaces you can put on the wall of a studio for diffusion/absorption purposes.

  • I was much like you- it was about NZD$20 for a 12″, and this is about 10 years ago, so I was picky with my purchases, getting a couple or three tunes a month. I would go to my favourite store, listen to ten records, and buy the one or two that really moved me. Sometimes it was hard to be so strict, other times it was just that there simply wasn’t the money. I ended up with about half the tracks my friends had, but every one of them was gold. And then I discovered the second hands at a store called Real Groovy- all dance genres were mixed together, so you had to spend at least an hour just finding a handful of tracks to listen to. But boy, did I find some treasure! Dub Pistols’ Cyclone, Goldtrix’s Trippin’, and countless others for $3-6! I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about it.

    I have just realised while typing this that it was about the hunt- if I were you, I’d stick to riffling through a record store’s crates- it’s more fun.

  • LLCoolJeans

    I only use vinyl for sampling and turntablism (and occasionally to support local hardcore bands that only put shit out on vinyl.) My turntable is really just an instrument…

    that said, all I can say is dolla dolla bin y’all

  • No days I only buy vinyl for when its the only medium I can get a track on. And even then I ususally digitize it as soon as I get home.
    Last time I went record shopping I noticed a huge diference in what was availible compared to 5 or 6 years ago. To me all those origanal breaks and acapella records that where just so rare a few years ago seemed to be in every shop. I managed to pick up an origanal copy of Change the Beat for less than a fiver, which to me seemed like a bargin seeing as it is a piece of DJ history.

  • Albums yey, 12 inches ney… my stance…

  • Mr Brown

    For me it’s all about quality over quantity, but there is a lot of quality out there so it can build up pretty easy. Why have a room full of crap records??? I’d rather have half a room full of pure gems (gems to me that is)

  • the way i see it is that vinyl is a commodity and ought to be treated as such. Get your hands on it, maybe that old copy of tapestry by carol king could serve your set, if not, trade it like pork bellies. if it weren’t for obscure records we wouldn’t have been able to have heard daft punk’s discovery. i like to check out the thrift stores for old records, sure its mostly crap but once in a while i find some really cool things there. and like i said before trade ’em. it could turn into a really cool swap meet for audiophiles. i love vinyl and kinda want all of it.

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  • disqus_Rv7YDuvxHj

    I would be strongly against collections in the beginning Once you’ve established your own collection then maybe you can reconsider. The best thing about a tangible form, or one of the best things is the associations that you make with it physical Any record off my shelf I know where I bought it and each one has a little story. A record collection is a bit of an autobiography and I would urge you to write your own instead of adopting someone else’s. You’ll be surprised how easily your expidits will fill up.

  • That vinyl eBay auction ended up going for £176. For 500 dance, Hip Hop and House tracks, it was a steal.

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  • Maxted

    I buy plenty of collections and also grab a lot of randoms from charity shops etc.

    All gets listened to and sorted eventually, some things i might want to sample, the stuff that fits my collection gets slotted in, the rest goes back on the market/to the charity shops.


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