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Selling your classical LP's

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   The valuable few

This change in the market has changed the nature of most record collections: the valuable items in them now form a disproportionate amount of their value. Even in a good collection, one I am still eager to buy, I may thumb through the records and pass ten in a row that I would not pay a dime for. Then I find the record that is worth several dollars to me. It is this leavening of really desirable records that makes the collection as a whole worth buying. And this is where my stern warning comes in: if you are selling your records, do not let anybody remove selected items. When I buy a collection, I explain this principle thoroughly. If I take my pick, or if anyone does, and we know what we are doing, the remaining records left behind will have virtually no value.

Let me explain. Several years ago, I drove a considerable distance to look at a collection I had been told included about 10,000 LPs. Before making the trip, I asked the owners, an elderly couple, if they had sold any records from the collection to anyone ­ a standard question. They assured me they had not. On seeing the records, I had no reason initially to doubt the count. (You can count LP records very quickly by taking an average of the number per foot. In most US collections, it is about 70, but UK collections may be denser because of thinner sleeves.) After exchanging pleasantries, I got to work looking through the collection; and after I had gone through the first thousand or so, I stopped and addressed the couple.

"You didn't tell me the truth", I said with confidence. "Who bought records from you?"
They began to sputter. "He didn't take very many", they assured me. "We felt so sorry for him because of his speech defect."
"Oh, Mel", I said.
"Yes, that was his name. Really, he didn't buy very many records."
"I hope he paid you very well for them," I said, "because he bought your whole collection." And I left. It would have been a marginal collection at best but, with the most valuable items removed, the remainder was simply not worth bothering with.

The only exceptions to this rule occur when someone is permitted to remove records relating to some special interest, or when the sellers have some special use for the remaining items. I once bought a wonderful collection which had been donated to a major orchestra. Its librarian removed the records by that orchestra. I would have loved to have them but she did not select records by their value, so the collection remained worthwhile. If the sellers tell me, "Our cousin wants the records, but we wanted to sell the valuable ones", I shall agree to buy only the valuable items. (This happens less and less often now. Most cousins have CD players.)


   One dealer's policy

With permission, I can quote the buying policy of Dave Canfield's Ars Antiqua business. This company, which issues monthly catalogues, is the only one I know of that explains its buying policy to customers. Canfield points out, however, that buying records this way is a special favour he extends only to his customers; in other words, he is paying more this way than normally: "Classical or jazz/blues records may be sent to us for sale or trade credit. We pay what records are worth to us; this is usually 25 per cent of our selling price if the record is mint and we think we can sell the record for at least $12.00 (per disc in case of multi-record sets). Otherwise, we will pay, at most, 10 per cent of our selling price. If we have unsold copies of the item you're selling us, or it has been a while since we've had a copy, we might not pay the full 25 per cent. For material that does not meet the $6.00 minimum price to be put on our Ars Antiqua or Jazz Antiqua lists, or is in less than A-condition, we likely cannot pay anything at all. Such material is usually donated to our public library." Many unsold records at my firm, Parnassus, go the same route, to our local public library, which sells them for 25 cents each. It seems like a fair price.

 


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