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Investing in vintage vinyl – a beginner’s guide


Starting any new collection can be daunting and vintage vinyl is no exception, with collectors choosing to specialise in a genre, a specific artist or group or sometimes even label and album artwork. To help the novice collector negotiate the minefield of vinyl collecting, we have put together some top tips to help, starting with buying your first records.

What to look for in vintage vinyl record covers

While you should never judge a book by its’ cover, vintage vinyl is slightly different! The odd, age-related signs of wear and tear can be forgiven but a battered cover should raise red flags. A record that has been kept in a plastic outer sleeve is likely to have been cared for well if it has been kept protected. Likewise, an intact inner sleeve, with no tears could mean the record has not been removed too often, as would the sleeve clinging to the record as you remove it.

How to examine the vinyl closely

Before buying vintage vinyl, take the time to look really carefully at the surface of the vinyl, starting by examining it under the brightest light in the shop. If the record is dusty, ask the dealer to wipe it for you so that any hidden imperfections will show up. Hold the vinyl and rotate carefully under the light - you should look for a lot of glare, as a shiny surface is an indication that the groove is less worn down.

Next, check for scratches. Those that are parallel to the grooves will make the stylus skip, while scratches that run perpendicular to the grooves will create loud pops. If you do detect scratches, run your finger over them – you may see them but if you can’t feel them your stylus may not either. The best way to examine the impact of any scratches is to listen to the record.

Can I play vintage vinyl before buying?

A reputable vinyl seller will appreciate a customer wanting to listen before buying so ask if the record can be played. You will be able to look for warping as the record is sitting on the platter and you will be able to listen for any loss of sound quality.

What to look for when buying a record player

Although this seems obvious, make sure your record player will play the vinyl you are buying. Records spin at different speeds so a 78rpm vinyl will not play on a record player that only spins at 33 1/3 or 45rpm.

What’s the difference between a record player and a turntable?

While most people use these terms equally, it’s important to know the difference before shopping! A record player is a standalone piece of equipment with integral speakers. It can be plugged in and off you go. A turntable on the other hand requires external equipment to be plugged into it, such as speakers, to be audible. If you are starting out, a turntable set up will be more expensive.

What to do before you play your vintage vinyl

You’ve bought your first piece of vintage vinyl and you have something to play it on so you will want to play it as soon as you get home. Before you do, clean it thoroughly. You will get the best sound if you do and you won’t risk damaging the stylus on dust or dirt. Our blog How to clean vinyl records and store them safely has lots of tips to do this.

How to build a vintage vinyl collection

Be prepared to play the long game here – building a good vintage vinyl collection takes time and patience; you may have an idea of the records you want in your collection but finding them easily can be a completely different story. Our blog on Where to find quality vinyl records for sale will point you in the right direction.

Why buy vintage vinyl from Hemswell Antique Centres

Visiting Hemswell Antique Centres while searching for vintage vinyl for sale is a great day out for the whole family. Our expert dealers on site let you take your time and are always happy to answer questions. As collectors of vintage vinyl themselves, they understand the need to examine the record’s condition and you will never be put under any pressure. While making your decision, you can browse our four buildings which house items from over 400 dealers, and take a refreshment break in one of our coffee shops along the way.  

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