Vinyl in Vogue
- story and photos by Suzi Walters
“Records are coming back!” This is a statement I hear almost daily in my shop, and it is a statement that is both true and false. Vinyl records are certainly back on the pop culture landscape.
There are more being pressed and sold at present than at any other time since the advent and introduction of the compact disc as a medium in the mid 1980s. On the false side of the statement, vinyl has always been collected by music and art aficionados. So to many, records have never been out of vogue.
The appeal of vinyl as the chosen way to get one’s music is multifaceted. Record collectors experience the joy of holding the artist’s work in their hands as opposed to the somewhat transparent nature of a digital download.
The basics of record collecting are quite simple — the most important being buy what you love. If you find joy in a certain artist, that truly defines the value of the object.
However, to get the most bang for your buck, it is helpful to do your homework before the hunt. As a book collector hopes to acquire a first edition of a beloved volume, for a vinyl collector a mint condition first pressing is the most desirable version. With millions of records available out in the secondary marketplace, this can get confusing.
A perfect example of this would be the Beatles, whose discography has been repressed many times under labels like Parlophone, Capital, and Apple, as well as many import labels. To help sort this all out, there are many online databases available where one can enter in the record catalog number. This may help ascertain the generation of pressing. The catalog number is usually found on the top right corner of the back of an album’s cover.
The most important thing is, of course, the music itself. Secondhand and vintage vinyl should be clean, glossy, and appear flat. Imperfections to the eye do not necessarily mean the record is unplayable, though. Unless new and unopened, most used vinyl will have visual flaws. Rule of thumb is to run your finger over these imperfections; if you can feel the flaw, your turntable stylus will likely react to it as well.
Collecting records is akin to collecting an art form, the fun in it being that there is something for everyone. For the serious collector, there are box sets, limited editions, picture discs, colored vinyl, split colored vinyl, imports, and out of print pressings. For the casual collector, vintage and second hand vinyl is not hard to find, and the hunt is an absolute blast.
Whether taking a joyful ride down memory lane or discovering tunes and soundscapes that inspire and entertain you, the real truth is that records aren’t just back, they’re here to stay!