With today’s seemingly unlimited supply of internet based marketplaces and auction sites, the social element that used to surround our day to day shopping has diminished greatly. Luckily, building a vinyl collection is a great way to participate in the classic shopping traditions of yesteryear, since many of your best bargains will be found in person instead of online.

You see, the web is a perfect platform for vinyl sales, because the customer base is so broad. But for that same reason, it’s bad for the buyer because it allows the seller to ask a premium for the product. So here’s a list of physical locations you’ll want to consider when shopping for your next albums.

Thrift Stores:

suitcases of records - vinyl havenUsually tucked away on a bottom shelf or dusty, dimly lit corner and often stored in the strangest of containers, you can almost always bank on finding at least a few records at any thrift store. Be very careful to inspect these finds carefully as they will more than likely not be very clean and may even be severely damaged. While I’d certainly consider thrift stores to be a worthwhile place to look, don’t get your hopes up too much. Countless times I’ve turned giddy when my eye caught a glimpse of a well known album, only to slide the record out and find it to be in deplorable condition.

Probably my favorite thrift store find would be an original pressing of WAR’s “Deliver the World” with unbroken shrink wrap. And the shrink is still intact to this day. I figured after 43 years, why open it?

Antique Stores:

antique store records - vinyl havenNo, antique shops and thrift stores are NOT the same. One of the primary differences is the way in which they treat their records (as well as their other merchandise). In the thrift world, you’re dealing with donated goods typically of lesser quality, which means that the stores themselves have little financial interest in the products. But with antique stores, these items are typically more valuable and the merch is treated with greater respect while the shop owners are far more aware of the value potential of their products. However, it’s still possible to come across some really great deals on vinyl in these locations since these dealers are usually far more knowledgeable of furniture craftsmanship than they are plastics discs of groovy goodness.

antique 45 rpm phonograph - vinyl havenI find that these shops usually have better quality vinyl than thrift stores and they are almost always kept in more appropriate containers. However, it’s really hit or miss as to whether or not you’ll find any records at all.

I stopped by an antique shop this weekend that was a complete bust when it comes to records, but they did have an antique Crosley 45 rpm phonograph that I came very close to picking up.

Estate Sales and Auctions:

estate sale records - vinyl haven

Much like antique shops, it’s not a given whether you’ll find any at all, but when you do, you can often count on them being in decent shape considering most of them are on-owner records. Searching estate sales can be a bit more tricky however. While sometimes the merchandise is moved to a warehouse, it’s usually sold on location, so it will probably require the most travel.

To prevent driving 50 to 100 miles just to find out that the home owner was apparently a vile music hater and had no vinyl at all, you can often contact the broker who is overseeing the sale or auction. They will generally know whether or not records are available, but may not know more details than that.

Of course there are plenty of great online vinyl stores, like Sound Stage Direct, Discogs, and Vinyl Loop. But let’s face it, we audiophiles need to get out and socialize every once in a while. So we might as well be on the hunt while soaking up some much needed rays.

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