More than a digitally perfect CD, and way more than a compressed audio file downloaded to a portable device, a vinyl record is a record, if you will, of an artist or genre at a particular moment in time. From the pantheon of 1950s jazz to the Psych records of the 1960s, vinyl records in their original jackets deliver sound as well as sensibility. No wonder contemporary artists like Pearl Jam and Radiohead insist on releasing their new work in a variety of media, with vinyl at the top of the list.

Vinyl records were not the first form of analog sound recordings. Cylinders came first, invented by Thomas Edison in 1877. Edison did a great many things right, but his phonograph cylinders were bulky and expensive to produce, so in 1887, Emile Berliner invented a gramophone that could play flat discs. By 1929, the cylinder was dead.

The earliest records were not even made of vinyl. Some were fashioned of hard rubber but most were pressed out of shellac, which was a mixture of resin and fiber (cotton was commonly used). Shellac records had their drawbacks (they were so brittle that if you dropped one it was likely to crack or shatter), but the format lasted until about 1950 when vinyl finally took over.

The first vinyl records had actually been manufactured by RCA many years before, in 1930. Those discs were 12 inches in diameter and meant to be played at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, or RPM. Although vinyl records generated a lot less playback noise than shellac, the Great Depression was no time to be introducing a new entertainment product with limited manufacturer support, so vinyl didn’t catch on then.

In 1948, Columbia introduced its trademarked 12-inch, 33 1/3 LP (for Long Play). RCA countered with a 7-inch, 45 RPM EP (for Extended Play) disc. For two years, consumers faced a format choice that caused phonograph manufacturers to equip their devices with both 45 and 33 1/3 playback speeds (many companies also added 78 since that format was still quite popular). As we now know, vinyl 33 1/3 LPs prevailed, while smaller, 7-inch vinyl 45s were used for singles.

Vinyl records had numerous advantages over shellac, with durability and sound quality being the top two. But vinyl was hardly a perfect medium. The discs warped when subjected to high temperatures or improper storage, and they tended to acquiring a static charge, which meant they attracted a lot of dust. You could wipe the dust off the disc, but you had to be careful because the discs were very easy to scratch. In most cases, this use caused hiss; in some cases, a record’s groove would be so damaged that the needle would keep skipping back, providing the source for the phrase "broken record."

So why collect imperfect vinyl records when CDs offer the same music but without the background noise caused by a needle moving through vinyl grooves? Many people believe the sam...

DJs like vinyl, too, because it gives them more control over the music they are playing than if they were spinning CDs—it’s like the difference between driving an automatic versus a car with a 5-speed manual transmission.

Beyond these differences, there is the fun of collecting itself. In some cases, as with early pressing of the second and third Grateful Dead albums, the vinyl versions are the only way to hear what those records sounded like before they were digitally remastered.

Album art is another reason to collect vinyl. For the Rolling Stones’s "Sticky Fingers," artist Andy Warhol created a cover that featured an actual working zipper; some years later, artist Robert Rauschenberg designed a clear plastic cover for the Talking Heads’s "Speaking in Tongues." The Who’s "Tommy" came with a booklet filled with art and lyrics, and if you want a copy of The Beatles’s infamous "butcher" version of "Yesterday and Today," you’ve got to go back to the original vinyl.

Also collectible are the 45s. Motown 45s features artists from Michael Jackson to Stevie Wonder, and few logos in popular music are as iconic as the crowing rooster on the yellow Sun Records label, especially if the name of the recording artist at the bottom of that label is a guy named Elvis Presley. Finally, thanks to their retro-looking labels, 78 records are appealing, regardless of who was recorded.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas pays homage to international female opera singers of the LP era. Chronicling more than 800 singers, the… [read review or visit site]



Despite its mysterious title, 317X is plain and simple—an online gallery of vintage LPs, with a 1950s vintage fee… [read review or visit site]

Jesse Barron's collection of Beatles 45s, picture sleeves, magazines, books, and memorabilia. Browse singles and al… [read review or visit site]

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

This great site, from the Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors, offers detailed background information an… [read review or visit site]

The Remington Site

The Remington Site

Since 1999, the Remington Site has offered classical music collectors a glimpse into Remington Records, an independ… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Har-you Percussion Group Self Titled Lp Vg++ Latin Jazz Funk Soul HearBlack Renaissance Harry Whitaker Baystate Lp Nm Japan Spiritual Jazz Funk HearMinority Band Journey To The Shore Jsr Lp Vg++ Shrink Private Funk Jazz HearVelvet Underground & Nico Verve V6-5008 Lp Mono Andy Warhol BananaLed Zeppelin I - Very Rare Orig Uk 1969 Turquoise Cover, Uncorrected Matrix Lp.Dale Hawkins Oh! Suzy-q Chess 1429 LpJoe Mcphee Nation Time Cjr Lp Nm Private Funk Jazz HearBrute Force - King Of Fuh 1969 Uk Mega Rare Unissued Apple 45 The Beatles Ex+Weldon Irvine Time Capsule Nodlew Music Lp Vg++ Private Funk Jazz HearBubbha Thomas & Lightmen Country Fried Chicken Lp Nm Private Funk Jazz HearPink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon - Solid Blue -complete - GoodLightmen Plus One Energy Control Center Lp Vg++/nm Funk Spiritual Jazz HearDescendants Of Mike & Phoebe A Spirit Speaks Strata East Lp Vg+/vg++ Danser's Inferno Creation One Lirs Lp Shrink Private Funk Soul Jazz HearEunice Collins At The Hotel Mod Art Soul Funk Rare 45 HearShamek Farrah First Impressions Strata East Lp Vg+ Funk Jazz HearIron Maiden - Soundhouse Tapes - Original + Insert - Uk - 1979 - ExcellentThe Sonics Here Are 60s Garage Psych Killer Lp In MintYvonne Baker You Didn't Say A Word Rare Cameo Parkway P-140 Northern Soul Vg 45Hilton Felton Family & Friends Hiltons Concept Lp Shrink Private Funk Jazz HearThe Beatles - The White Album 1968 Uk Double Lp Parlophone Export*nm 1969 Uk 1st Press** Harsh Reality Heaven & Hell Lp Philips Prog May BlitzGow-dow Experience Self Titled Lp Vg+ Shrink Private Spiritual Jazz Funk HearBeatles - Please Please Me - 1st Uk Press Black & Gold - Stunning Nm/ex+ AudioRare Soul 45 Lenny Curtis Nothing Can Help You Now/who You Gonna Run To On EndPearl Jam Oct. 23, 2003 Benaroya Hall Promo 4xlp Colored Vinyl Box Set Unplayed!Latin Soul 45 Tony Middleton Spanish Maiden/aqui Llego On Storm Nm/vg++Lloyd Mcneill Quartet Washington Suite Lp Vg++ Private Spiritual Jazz HearHarold Mckinney Creative Profile Tribe Lp Vg++ Shrink Spiritual Jazz Funk HearMtume Umoja Ensemble Alkebu-lan: Land Of The Blacks Strata East 2xlp NmMinor Threat, Filler Ep, Dischord, 1st Press, KbdListen Northern Soul - Ann Sexton - You've Been Gone Too Long (seventy 7 Demo)Led Zeppelin 1 - Turquoise - Uk 1st Press - Uncorrected Matrix - Very GoodOwen Marshall As Captain Puff In The Naked Truth Aditi Lp Private Funk Jazz HearThird Man Records Vault Packages 3-16+white Stripes Ickythump Mono Lp Jack WhiteBeatles "yesterday & Today" Lp Capitol Stereo Butcher Cover 2nd State Ex ShrinkThe Beatles - Second Album - Uk 1965 Cpcs *export* Parlophone Lp 1/g 1/gPink Floyd Pulse Rare 4lp Vinyl BoxWendell Harrison Message From Tribe Vol 3 Lp Vg++ Shrink Private Funk Jazz Hear+++ The Who - My Generation - Brunswick Uk 1st Press - Nr Mint Superb Rare PsychPink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon - First Pressing With Solid Blue TriangleReggie Andrews & Fellowship Mystic Beauty Hme Lp Vg+ Private Spiritual Jazz HearThe Beatles - Please Please Me - Uk 1963 1st Press *gold* Label Mono Lp *ex*Northern Soul - Roger Hatcher "sweetest Girl In The World" On Excello (orig Nm)Betty Lou Landreth Betty Lou Ya Ya Lp Vg++ Private Funk Jazz HearForty Seven Times Its Own Weight Cumulo Nimbus Fable Lp Private Funk Jazz HearRare Soul 45 Tony Middleton 'paris Blues/out Of This World' Orig. Promo On MalaPenny Goodwin Portrait Of A Gemini Sidney Lp Vg++ Private Funk Jazz HearThe Beatles Yesterday And Today Lp Original 2nd State Butcher Cover Unpeeled NmLada Edmund Jr. The Larue Soul A-go-go Decca Promo Nm 45 HearNorthern Soul 45 New Wanderers This Man In Love/adam & Eve On Ready Vg++/nm Mfsl~rare Sealed Lp~pink Floyd~meddle~1988 1st Press~audiophile Ltd Edition~oopNorthern - Helen Shapiro - Stop And You Will Become Aware - Rare 7" The Rolling Stones - Beat Beat Beat - *near Mint* Genuine German 1965 10" LpThin Lizzy The Farmer 1st Single 1970 Very Rare Irish Rock Rarity Phil LynottHilton Felton A Man For All Reasons Lp Vg++ Private Funk Jazz Breaks HearBlues Pills - Bliss Ep Sealed Mint 1st And Only Pressing Rare Psych Heavy RockMotherfox Fallen Into Love Hot Shot Shabang Modern Soul Boogie Rare 45 HearAlex Brown In Search Of Love Northern Soul Funk Promo Lp Holy Grail Sundi 5001Roy Hamilton You Shook Me Up Rca Wlp Promo Northern Soul R&b Nm 45 Hear

Recent News: Records

Source: Google News

Vintage Vinyl's favorite Christmas songs
USA TODAY, November 21st

USA WEEKEND's Vintage Vinyl music experts present their favorite songs of the season. Tom Heiser: 1. Blue Christmas,Porky Pig. I dare anyone to listen to this and not get into the holiday spirit. It blows Elvis away. 2. Frosty the Snowman, the Ronettes...Read more

Vintage vinyl: Juke Joint Revue to light up Opolis
Norman Transcript, November 20th

The Juke Joint Revue is coming to the Opolis Saturday night. The show's bill includes full sets by two live rockabilly combos and Juke Joint Jenni, of The Spy FM, spinning platters along with Lone Star state special guest DJ KaryRebel. If You Go. What...Read more

Best of Jimi Hendrix @ 'Vintage Vinyl'
The Courier-Journal, November 19th

Yes, Jimi Hendrix gets overplayed quite a bit on classic rock radio, and yes, it's beyond irritating how his family exploits the bottom-of-the-barrel outtakes and alternate live tracks in order to release product every couple of years. But here's the...Read more

Vintage Vinyl: Madonna's 10 best songs
USA TODAY, November 13th

Our music experts, on the Material Girl: Jeffrey Lee Puckett: For all of Madonna's influence and innovations, it's a song from her first album that still best defines her many charms. Borderline is as timeless as it gets. Tom Heiser: At the risk of...Read more

Craig Ferguson, Big Smo and Vintage Vinyl, November 13th

Late-night talk how host Craig Ferguson will perform on Friday at the Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway. Ferguson has been the host of CBS's “The Late, Late Show” since 2005, though he's stepping down in December. (He'll be replaced by British ...Read more

Music Matters: Cowboy Mouth's LeBlanc started with vintage vinyl
Pensacola News Journal, November 6th

It all started with a needle. When Fred LeBlanc was 11 years old, he worked in a used record store. The owner hunted garage sales and flea markets for vinyl to fill the shop. The 1970s were a different time. “Back then, if you wanted something that...Read more

Vintage Vinyl owner sentenced for marijuana production
Regina Leader-Post, September 10th

REGINA — The terminally ill owner of Vintage Vinyl and Hemp Emporium has already paid a hefty price after police raided his properties and found he was growing more pot than allowed by his existing medical marijuana licence. On Wednesday, Pat Baumet ...Read more

Vintage Vinyl's Lew Prince Shrugs Off White House Award; Prefers Minimum ...
Riverfront Times (blog), July 25th

The co-owner of Vintage Vinyl was back in the nation's capital this week to receive a Champions of Change award from the White House. But if you think Lew Prince is flattered by the honor, think again. The real award, says Prince, will come once...Read more