Vinyl collecting 101: Collectors give the essentials to getting started

If you’re a newcomer to the world of vinyl record collecting, go ahead and start thumbing through those bins — just remember to handle with care. (Jill Sagers-Wijangco, Chicago Tribune)

Matt Felegy, 32, of Berea, Ohio, has more than 2,700 digital downloads on an external hard drive that fits in his pocket.

He says no one is impressed with that, but plenty of people are astounded when looking at the vinyl record collection he keeps in what he describes as his “record room.”

“I’ve never been excited about stumbling across a download online like I have a rare record in a dusty record store.”

This is among the many reasons that vinyl records have sustained their popularity among savvy collectors.

With the younger generation embracing vinyl along with digital music and others who seek vinyl’s nostalgic qualities, it’s not difficult to understand the rise of record collecting.

“There has been a collective movement toward digital and streaming, but vinyl is a great counterbalance,” says Jason Linder of Concord Music Group, a large independent record and music publishing company based in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Most artists are excited about vinyl. The sound and the fun factor of having a piece that is larger and tangible. Vinyl and streaming music are two portions of the music industry that are growing, so everyone wants to be a part of it.”

With records not going out of style, it’s getting easier for the average music consumer to start a collection.

“There’s a million different ways to collect,” he says. “My feeling is you build a collection of what’s interesting to you.”

Felegy, who collects mostly jazz and records from the ’50s and ’60s, says, “I often grab an album digitally or stream it, and then give it a listen. If I dig it, I buy it on vinyl and add it my collection. This ensures that just about every album in my collection is one I enjoy.”

For many collectors, it’s about having a tangible record you can hold, which is different from downloading music. The record and its cover art can sometimes become a decorative piece in your home. Also, it’s not only about the collection, but listeners say vinyl is more of an experience or event.

“I don’t really buy collectible vinyl, I just go for music that I like,” Linder says. “My records are displayed in my living room, and when people visit, thumbing through the collection is often an activity, which creates a great conversation about music. Sometimes my son and I have “vinyl parties” where we will spend an evening just playing songs from different records that he picks. It is an event, and that is part of what makes vinyl special.”

Shopping for records, and thumbing through bins looking for a great find, is part of the draw too. “Don’t be afraid to pull used albums out of their sleeves to check quality,” Felegy says. “As long as you handle the albums with care. You don’t want to be the guy dropping (them) all over the place. If you are not sure it’s cool to do that, just ask someone who works at (the store).”

Buying from record shops has a certain atmosphere, but if you’re looking for something specific, online is an option.

“If you don’t have a store close by, there are independent online stores as well,” Felegy says. “I am a big fan of for albums and audio equipment when needed. Also, many bands now offer their merchandise directly. I oftentimes order new albums directly from the band, especially if I know it’s not likely to be stocked in stores. That way you cut out the middleman and the band that you like gets a couple extra bucks for gas in the van. Sometimes they will even throw in cool bonus extras, stickers, coasters, T-shirts, etc.”

Newer vinyl records that are safe in the plastic wrap should be good quality, while many rare or interesting finds are likely to be used — and played, which could mean scratches.

“Many people don’t know that if the previous owner had his or her turntable set up improperly, or didn’t know how to adjust, or had a badly worn needle, there can be a lot of invisible damage to the groove that you can’t see,” says Chris Viola, a musician in Portland, Ore., and owner of Guitar Rehab, an instrument repair shop.

Viola adds that there’s a way to wash used records to help with any crud buildup.

“A cup of warm water with a few drops of Dawn dish soap,” he says. “Scrub with a microfiber cloth (it reaches into the grooves) and only wipe with the grooves, never across. Rinse well. For ongoing maintenance, I keep clean microfiber cloths and a 2-inch wide paintbrush by the turntable. Wipe with either of those before and after every playing.”

Most collectors are attracted to the look and feel of the vinyl record, along with the sound, which is thick and rich on a turntable.

“I think a lot of casual vinyl collectors have no idea that a well cared for vinyl record, on a decent turntable that’s been dialed in right and maintained, can sound every bit as crisp, clear and noise-free as a CD,” Viola says. “There’s nothing like the depth, detail and sonic impact of a good vinyl.”

Thanks to the Chicago Tribune for this story

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