I am not a collector in the most common sense of the word. I rarely care about free market value. I only care about personal completeness.
An example: I do not buy expensive records. I guess I collect vinyl by the strict definition of the word, but I do so for a specific reason: I like it, and I like music, and I like the bands I like.
My rarest record might be worth nearly $40. I suck at collecting.
It’s cool. My dedication comes from a different point: I’m in this to pay my respects. I’m repurchasing my favorite albums on record because I feel affinity toward them. These are physical manifestations of my life in music. I collect not to invest, but to celebrate.
For a while there, though, that was harder than it sounds. Several of my all-time favorite records had not been released on vinyl in decades, meaning their cult-status had driven prices up to $150 or more. The market dictated that Modest Mouse’s first two full length albums were worth somewhere around $300. And good luck finding those They Might Be Giants records.
But, as with all good things, patience paid off. Let’s all thank the concept of Record Store Day (and the upcoming 20th anniversary of most of the records you might have liked in high school or college) for a bevy of re-releases and new deluxe versions of great records. That $300+ market for those Modest Mouse records died when both were re-released. And this past Black Friday Record Store Day saw the re-release of one of TMBG’s most beloved full lengths, Flood, paired with an earlier re-release of Apollo 18.
What’s old (and expensive on eBay) is new again. But we’re not all the way there, yet, and there are records I still wish I could find at reasonable prices.
Indulge me for a moment: I’m list-making.
- Mike Watt, Ball-Hog or Tugboat?
- R.E.M., Automatic for the People/Monster/New Adventures in Hi-Fi
- Promise Ring, 30° Everywhere
- Ugly Casanova, Sharpen Your Teeth
- Frank Black, Frank Black/Teenager of the Year
- Jets To Brazil, Orange Rhyming Dictionary/Four Cornered Night/Perfecting Loneliness
LAST PRESSING: 1995
HIGHEST PRICE: $50.09
Watt’s first solo album was more of a who’s who of late grunge, featuring Watt on various instruments backed (and fronted) by everyone from J Mascis to Thurston Moore to Eddie Vedder. It’s an eclectic slab of music, highlighted by former 120 Minutes standby “Big Train,” which has also become one of the most requested songs on my kids’ Rdio playlist.
LAST PRESSING: 1992/1994/1996
HIGHEST PRICE: $62.29/$82.72/$350.00
The mid-to-late 90s brought R.E.M.’s biggest hit, biggest disappointment, and last great album – all in order. Yet, finding these records is difficult, if only because they came at vinyl’s lowest point, when CDs were king. (I also really like Monster, so there’s my dirty secret.) The current cycle R.E.M. is on focuses on re-releasing vinyl on the 25th anniversary. We’re just three years from that Automatic re-release… and still seven away from seeing New Adventures.
LAST PRESSING: 1996
HIGHEST PRICE: $125.00
Emo as hell, yet underproduced. This isn’t the Promise Ring album you’ve heard of, but it’s their debut, and it’s still my favorite. Good luck finding any of those old mid-to-late 90s emo records, most often sold to young punks at 50-person shows.
LAST PRESSING: 2002
HIGHEST PRICE: $180.00
We got the major Modest Mouse albums re-issued, how about the only official album from Isaac Brock’s side project, Ugly Casanova. Just as sought after as the previously unfindable Modest Mouse records, Sharpen Your Teeth still nearly get into that $200 range.
LAST PRESSING: 1993/1994
HIGHEST PRICE: $122.56/$246.66
After The Pixies and before The Catholics was Frank Black’s most visible solo records – I’m a gigantic fan of Teenager of the Year, but most people go for the first, self-titled record. For an artist that waxed poetic about Pong and UFOs and spies, it can’t be long before his early solo work shows back up on the scene.
LAST PRESSING: 1998/2000/2002
HIGHEST PRICE: Unknown/$49.99/$99.99
I dunno. I like Blake Schwarzenbach. But unlike Jawbreaker, there are no former band members actively promoting and spearheading the cause for the Jets to Brazil discography.
Everything old is new again, and that’s exactly how the record industry works. You give a band a reason to re-press some vinyl, these days that’s as good as a bundle of cash. The only people who miss out are those who are too slow to snatch up some classics.
And those poor souls with $300 records on eBay. Sorry, dudes.