The Laws of Supply and Demand in the World of Vintage "pop" LPs

JOv2

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Thread Starter
Again with E-Bay and Discogs…

Having been at this internet purchasing game for about 20 years or so, I recently assembled the following high-level pricing guide based on observations culled during that time.
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The Laws of Supply and Demand in the World of Vintage "pop" LPs
  • The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash
    • 1960s: Artists were popular and/or LP sales met expectations
    • 2020s: Artists remain largely familiar
    • Higher supply, higher demand = fluctuating prices
      • I’ve seen NM vintage Capitol Sinatra LPs selling for anywhere from $5 to > $100.
  • Harpers Bizarre, Al Hirt, Nancy Wilson
    • 1960s: Artists were popular and/or LP sales met expectations
    • 2020s: Artists are no longer familiar or have slipped into obscurity; LPs are not considered collectable
    • Higher supply, lower demand = lower prices
      • Last summer I bought two O.C. Smith SS LPs for $2.99 each (which equates to about 42 cents in 1969 money) — the shipping was more than the LPs!
  • The Mothers Of Invention, Autosalvage, Flying Burrito Bros.
    • 1960s: Artists were not popular and/or LP sales were below expectations
    • 2020s: Artists are familiar today or have achieved cult status; LPs are considered collectable
    • Lower supply, higher demand = higher prices
      • This is also the category where unique releases, desirable/original pressings, or anomalies tend to fall. For instance, the 6-eye version of Dylan’s debute LP, or The Beatles’ "White Album" with the individualized serial numbers. Desirable 1967-68 monaural issues tend to fall here — given the smaller tally of pressings issued.
      • Additionally, this is the category where you’ll always find someone who will pay more for a recoding than someone else: I once watched two collectors bid a Cat Steven’s MFSL Gold CD release into the stratosphere during the last 45 seconds of an auction.
  • Cat, Sky, Joanna Gaunt, Richard Barbary…and probably about 2,000 other one-shot rock / pop LPs issued, 1965-70
    • 1960s: Artists were not popular and/or LPs sales were below expectations
    • 2020s: Artists remain obscure, unknown, or are forgotten
    • Lower supply; lower demand = fluctuating prices
      • These are the white elephants of the record world. While there may actually be 3 or 4 people on earth who would shell out $30 for a SS Billy Vaughn LP — a seller may have to wait 20 years or more for such a sale.
 

Rudy

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One thing I don't get is how an album like Thriller can command prices in the double digits, or exceed three digits for a sealed original copy, when over 40 million of them were sold. I think a lot of it is hyperinflation due to the death of an artist, falsely inflated by seller greed. Some rock artists have similar inflation, even though the original (or most of the original) members are still around, and reissues are still available.

If anything, prices were more sane in the pre-Internet era.

I still remember, well over 15 (?) years ago, someone was trying to sell a bog-common Lonely Bull LP on eBay for an outrageous price. I think it was $72. Never mind that at the time, the closest record store to me would have a dozen nice copies in their bins at any one time, and they were never more than $4.

And that brings to mind one more category for you. Artists who sold millions, yet their records proliferate in the dollar bins where they seemingly multiply overnight and stores can't get rid of them. Like Whipped Cream. I remember a couple of local shops hated that record since they had a glut, and threw many of them away. Same could be said for Eagles Greatest Hits apparently. 😁
 

JOv2

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Thread Starter
One thing I don't get is how an album like Thriller can command prices in the double digits, or exceed three digits for a sealed original copy, when over 40 million of them were sold. I think a lot of it is hyperinflation due to the death of an artist, falsely inflated by seller greed. Some rock artists have similar inflation, even though the original (or most of the original) members are still around, and reissues are still available.
I would wager these buyers and sellers are from the post-2000 "vinyl is cool" crowd and are simply ignorant of assessing reasonable LP value. As a demographic, these people are the number one reason we've seen inflation in both used record condition grading and selling price.
 

JOv2

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Thread Starter
If anything, prices were more sane in the pre-Internet era.

As a demographic, these people are the number one reason we've seen inflation in both used record condition grading and selling price.
Oops. My error! I'm incorrect here: The #2 reason is actually the "owning vinyl is hip" crowd who are ignorant of accurate LP value, while the #1 reason is the glut of E-Bay record sellers who are not competent with accurate LP grading.
 

Rudy

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I've heard of some sellers (especially some who price items for estates sales) hopping onto eBay to get the "market" price for a record. Thankfully, at least we have Discogs now, and their high/median/low price is a much better barometer of where a price should be. But good luck educating some of these sellers. I've even read of some record stores doing that with a customer at the counter. Not good.

For Thriller and other big sellers, I get the impression that it has to do more with a false sense of rarity. The artist is dead? That means the albums are RARE RARE RARE LQQK! So, price it as such, even though there are another 39,999,999 copies around. It's a tired old eBay shtick--just because a seller claims it is rare, does not make it so. And the hyperinflated prices stick. Before Michael Jackson passed, they were priced as dirt-common records. Prices escalated within hours. Same with some others. You can't get a clean copy of an early/popular Prince record these days for under $20; these were $5 items before he passed. And one true rarity I was tracking at the time tripled in price overnight. And they sold!
 

tomswift2002

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Plus there’s also the issue of original versus re-release. Some people, for older pre-digital era albums, only want AAA (analog recorded, analog mixed, analog mastered) LP copies, which, when we are talking LP’s that are over 30 years old, may not be in “mint” or “very good” condition and they don’t want a modern ADA (ananlog recorded & mixed, digitally mastered, analog LP master) copy that’s been recently pressed, so the pre-digital copies go through the roof for price.
 

Rudy

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That's a good point too. There are cases where I'll buy a new pressing even if it's digital, since the price of original pressings is through the roof. Look at any good condition Led Zeppelin record. I could never find the coveted Robert Ludwig mastering of LZ II at a sane price since it was so sought after--it was the pressing that was recalled due to record players of the time being unable to play the record without skipping. (It was cut on the hot side--it sounded fantastic on good systems, but the average record player back then couldn't handle it.) I could pay silly money for a beat-up copy if I wanted to, but I'd rather have them be clean.

Some records also had preferred pressings like Rush's Moving Pictures, even though the original was recorded to analog 24-track but was mixed down to a Sony digital 2-track. (So using the SPARS code, it would have been an ADA LP originally.) The original Ludwig cut is apparently the one to own and I have a copy, but it's a bit noisy and worn due to age. The LP remaster has immaculate vinyl but while it does sound good, it doesn't "pop" the way the Ludwig version does.
 

tomswift2002

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I know that in the late-70’s and 80’s a lot of albums on LP and cassette (and even 8-track) had a digital step. But even back then, a lot of digital albums were mastered hotter on LP than they are today. I think of Tiffany’s “Hold An Old Friend’s Hand” 1988 album that I have on cassette, CD & LP. The CD has the code of DDD, so it was “Digital Recorded & Mixed” and “Digitally Mastered” for CD, but the cassette & LP would’ve been DDA. But the LP sounds a lot hotter than many newer LP’s that I’ve heard—-whether they are reissues of old material or brand new material. The newer LP’s seem to be mastered at a lower level, almost as if the newer mastering engineers were afraid that a “hot” master will bounce the needle.
 

Rudy

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There is so much going on in the mastering chain that it's hard to figure out how an album sounds different between releases. One thing with modern releases is that they'll go back to original two-track masters, where the original release could have had "louder" mastering (with more dynamic compression) that makes it sound louder, but may have less in the way of dynamics.

I know it does make a difference. I got the 45 RPM set of Diana Krall's The Look of Love (on ORG, mastered by Bernie Grundman) and it sounds quite nice--very lifelike.

In contrast, I found a 2-LP 33-1/3 RPM set of When I Look In Your Eyes and it sounds lifeless--at best, average. It is the release from Verve. A lot of the difference is dynamics--it's subtle, but like other Universal remastered LPs I've bought, something they do just sucks the life out of the music. The SACD of this album sounds lush, warm and lifelike.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
A couple of songs that I can recall off hand where I prefer the original vinyl is Barry manilow’s “New York City Rhythm (Live)” and the Beach Boys “Student Demonstration Time”. In both cases, the songs were mixed and mastered to take advantage of analog’s +0 db to +10 dB area. With New York it’s because it’s a Live recording, and in the case of SDT, the Beach Boys were going for that bullhorn sound with popping “p”’s and over distortion (the song’s about the student protests in the 60’s & 70’s).

But all digital-sourced releases are majorly squashed in terms of the dynamic range and quieter mastering.
 

Rudy

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All I can say it, "it depends." They are not all bad. Current releases of Top 40 music? Sure. That's due to production wanting loud all the time. There are plenty of remasters of digital sources that have clean sound and plenty of dynamic range. Maybe not as lifelike as a AAA analog cut, but still quite respectable. If given a choice though, sure, AAA vinyl is the way to go.
 

rockdoctor

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I see albums posted with crazy prices, even in used record stores. One company that specialized in old and hard to get records back in the late 70's was called Square Deal Records out of California. I got a number of records, all sealed copies, from them. Their prices were always very good but even they popped high once in a while. When Carole King's Tapestry became unavailable for a time while Ode Records went back to distribution through Columbia, the price for a sealed copy of the original release went to $12.00. That was in 1977 or 78. Ebay currently has one listed in shrink wrap for $9.99 and other copies for up to $175. for "pre-owned".
They also have a "Rare First Pressing" at $275.
If there is a "rare issue" of Tapestry, it is a release that was done by Capitol Records about the same time as the first re-issue from Ode/Epic. I have a copy of that one that I found in a used record store for under $5.00.
 

Harry

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I have the original Ode Records version - and a couple of CDs - but would actually like a European/UK pressing on A&M.
 

Rudy

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One mistake record stores make is to hit eBay and price their "rare" inventory accordingly. Yeah sure, that copy of Thriller, out of 40 million other copies, is "rare" and worth $300 sealed. 🙄 Doesn't mean it'll ever sell at that price. (And unless it's factory sealed, eBay vinyl is a really bad crapshoot, as most are not record dealers and have no idea how to visually grade or play grade their records.)

That's one reason I like watching the price on Discogs--they'll show a low, high and median price for each release, so we get an idea of the history of pricing if not exact prices.

That brings to mind a recent purchase of mine. I posted a picture of the NM-graded Nat Adderley album that was clearly in sad shape. Not even VG-, in my opinion, and it was pricey. Going over to MusicStack (whose site I find to be nearly unusable, not as bad as GEMM used to be but still a trainwreck to navigate), I found one sealed for half the price. Sure it's rare, but rarity alone doesn't make it all that valuable since it isn't some holy grail long-lost masterpiece. (It's a nice album but not legendary.)
 

rockdoctor

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One mistake record stores make is to hit eBay and price their "rare" inventory accordingly. Yeah sure, that copy of Thriller, out of 40 million other copies, is "rare" and worth $300 sealed. 🙄 Doesn't mean it'll ever sell at that price. (And unless it's factory sealed, eBay vinyl is a really bad crapshoot, as most are not record dealers and have no idea how to visually grade or play grade their records.)

That's one reason I like watching the price on Discogs--they'll show a low, high and median price for each release, so we get an idea of the history of pricing if not exact prices.

That brings to mind a recent purchase of mine. I posted a picture of the NM-graded Nat Adderley album that was clearly in sad shape. Not even VG-, in my opinion, and it was pricey. Going over to MusicStack (whose site I find to be nearly unusable, not as bad as GEMM used to be but still a trainwreck to navigate), I found one sealed for half the price. Sure it's rare, but rarity alone doesn't make it all that valuable since it isn't some holy grail long-lost masterpiece. (It's a nice album but not legendary.)
Anyone that wants a copy of Thriller should check their local thrift stores. I see it all the time in them.
 

Harry

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I returned two different THRILLER albums due to bad pressings. The one I settled on is no prize either...
 

Rudy

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I don't even bother with thrift stores--the quality is the pits. I can't even get good used vinyl at the stores locally anymore--my reject rate is about 60%, unlike two decades ago. The used records today have way too much wear, and just about all of my rejects are dumped for that reason. So I'm only getting sealed vinyl unless it's so rare that I have no choice...and even then, it's NM grade or I don't buy it.
 

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
When I am looking at thrift store records, I pull each one out of the jacket and look the record over very carefully before I decide to buy it.
I also take into consideration what the cover looks like as well. I have found some excellent condition lp's and occasionally sealed copies.
 

Rudy

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Thrift stores here are a different breed and honestly, not many here have vinyl anymore, and even the CDs have mostly disappeared. I mean, if you want ten thousand beaten copies of Perry Como records and Whipped Cream, we had ya covered. 🤣
 
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