Breaking Up (a Collection) is Hard to Do, But Might be Worth It

By Dave

June 2nd, 2008

We recently got an email from a friend who wanted advice on how to sell his collection of old 45 RPM records. (Note that we here at Collectors Weekly don’t buy items, and can’t help you sell your items or tell you what they’re worth).

The email read as follows: “I was cleaning out my attic and found a whole box of used 45 RMP records, including Johnny Cash & Carl Perkins on the Sun Label, early Beatles and so on. I wish to sell the whole lot and am making up a list today of what I have. In your opinion what is the best way to dispose of my records? They came out of a SEEBURG JUKEBOX circa 1954.”

breaking up a collection is hard to do!

Neil Sedaka - Breaking Up is Hard to Do 45rpm record

Whenever deciding whether to sell a collection off as individual items or a lot, the decision completely depends on the category and also on your personal goals (do you want to save time or maximize revenue?). In any case, doing your homework – research before selling – is key.

There are many dealers and auction houses that will buy an entire collection and give you a very fair price. You can put a whole collection up on eBay and depending how well you inventory it an describe it, get a very fair bid.

However, if you want to maximize revenue, and you have the knowledge and capability to take the items to market yourself, selling them individually is usually the way to go (with exceptions such as items that go together and have more value as a set).

Let me give you an extreme example: I collect antique telephones, and came into possession of a very nice Western Electric candlestick phone which had one of the more coveted types of dials (the #2A) which makes the distinctive clickety-clack sound.

I didn’t want to keep the phone, and had decided to sell it on eBay. But I was told by other collectors that I could maximize my revenue if I took the dial off and sold it separately from the phone, because there are collectors who will pay top dollar just for that dial, to add to a phone they already have. Moreover, the dial had a rare porcelain number plate (the white ring that has the numbers on it), and I was advised to remove that and sell it separately as well, if I really wanted to maximize revenue.

I haven’t had the time to do this yet (its still sitting in my basement), but it does illustrate the ‘breaking up’ principle. Now back to our friend, and his 45 RPM record collection.

Records, it turns out, are very much like stamps: a whole lot of them were produced, and only the rarities are really worth anything. Most old stamps, for example, believe it or not actually sell for below face value. Why? Because there’s no collector market for them, but because it would take a whole lot of time and effort to actually use them on envelopes (try sticking 41 one-cent stamps on a letter).

Of course there are rare stamps that can sell for hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars. And similarly there are records that can sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars (so-called ‘psych‘ records for example are particularly hot right now, and given their small print runs often command top dollar).

So here’s what we told our friend: “We’re not experts on records, so can’t give you specific advice. But we would suggest, after you make your inventory, that you go directly to eBay and do some very specific searches on the exact records you have. That will give you a sense of whether some might be worth something. It seems that most records are worth almost nothing, while some rarities can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. After researching what you have you may do better if you sell them individually than as a lot. Good luck.”

Now we might also have told him to take the collection to a local dealer and get their opinion too, and with some other antiques or collectibles category, we would have. But there are few local record dealers (just record stores who buy used LPs wholesale and resell them retail), and the records market is global. So unless you have an extremely high-end collection of rarities a major auction house would be interested in (probably also signed), with records, the Internet is the way to go.

Bottom line: when considering selling off a collection whole or in parts, inventory the collection and do your research homework by looking online and talking to experts. Only then can you make an informed decision.

2 comments so far

  1. Matthew Diker Says:

    have collection of die cast pencil sharpeners to sell can you tell me of any group that can help me. Thank You

  2. Ian Ross Says:

    Just short comment on records both 45s & LPs . The value usually depends on the condition and issue . Most collector books , Example Record Collector will quote the top price for MINT CONDITION records .

Leave a Comment or Ask a Question

If you want to identify an item, try posting it in our Show & Tell gallery.