Deconstructing A Record Collection

CES coverage will continue, but first this: the daughter of a west coast record producer who had amassed a large vinyl collection she'd inherited and wished to sell contacted me last Spring asking how best to do it.

"What was in the collection?", I naively asked. But the woman wasn't a record expert and really didn't know how best to describe the contents. After some back and forth I suggested a data base, which she spent a great deal of time and effort creating as an Excel spread sheet, complete with catalog numbers.

As I perused the list last summer I noted Jethro Tull's Stand Up had an Island "ILPS" prefix catalog number, not one that began with an A&M "SP" prefix. In fact, the collection was heavy with imported collectible record prefixes and many other titles that if original pressings, would be also be highly collectible. I chose a few and asked her to send some cover images. That led me to ask for some lead out groove area photos showing matrix numbers and other critical information. Among the images were -1A lacquer number suffixes for mono pressings of Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited.

I expressed my excitement at seeing those and at that point she offered to fly me down for a day to inspect the collection. I arrived early in the morning and spent the day and well into the night looking through and "deconstructing" the collection that she and her husband had painstakingly organized in alphabetical order.

As I began pulling records out and assembling them in piles on the floor I could sense her husband's distress. Why did I do it? We communicated for quite some time by email about how best to sell the collection. I explained that if she sold it as is, a dealer would pay her "by the yard" and she'd get a fraction of what many of the records were worth.

She could sell that way, or she could sell records individually on Ebay or, I told her, I could organize the collection in groups and dealers could bid to buy a particular group or groups. That is how I helped the family of a Stereophile writer who passed away suddenly and tragically at 40 years of age, and it both made the selling relatively easy and it helped maximize the amount for the estate.

So, as you'll see in the video, I broke down the collection into what I felt were blocks of various genres of collectibles. It's a remarkable record collection in that most of the records are absolutely mint or mint minus. It includes a great deal of promo records and radio station copies, sealed records and white label promos. There were many duplicates and a collection of '50s Chess promo originals by Bo Diddley that was nearly complete. Also among the collection were obscure records that when checked for on line sales, produced large sales numbers. Many were what can be called "folk-psychedelic", "prog-psychedelic" and just plain oddball. But the more oddball, the more they fetched at auction as documented on Popsike.

Many records had fetched three digital dollar amounts. So jaded did we become that $50 became disappointing. Despite what was pulled off the shelves, the shelves remained packed with collectibles, though to be clear, there were also many common records, only made someone uncommon because they were either sealed, or in mint or unplayed condition. There were multiple copies of dozens of great records.

So will the collection be sold whole or in groups? Or will they be sold individually on Ebay?

At this point the family isn't sure. For now though, you might enjoy watching this one day "vinyl adventure" reduced to a half hour. BTW: by the time I began shooting the video I was beat as I'd left for the airport at 4:30 AM that morning! So please forgive the lack of lucidity).

Ortofan's picture

Did you make an offer for the collection before you left?
If not, why not?

Michael Fremer's picture
I did not. I could not afford it and I don't have room. I have (almost) enough records as it is!
Ortofan's picture

...turntable, tonearm, cartridge (and even phono preamp) if that trade-off meant you could use those funds for the acquisition of that many more LPs - for example, some of those rare "never heard of/never seen before" and/or mint condition discs from this collection?

Michael Fremer's picture
First of all I will never trade the Caliburn for records.... yes I could sell plenty of "stuff" to buy some of those records but prices are not set and I think they should auction them off on Ebay so if that's the case I'd bid like everyone I am sitting on thousands of unplayed record as it is...
Martin's picture

when and how this collection will be sold off.
I would be up for the 1-a Dylans and a lot of the Blues stuff.
Plus most likely a lot of other stuff in that collection.

longlivethequeen's picture

How much do you think my cd and download collection will be worth many years after I pass on? Remember, they will all be in Mint Condition. Ha Ha Ha!

Vinyl Forever - Digital NEVER!!!

Montoya's picture

Keep us informed if the sale and or auction will be available to everyone some very prized items in this collection.

Paul Boudreau's picture

...the drool! Metaphorically, of course.'s picture

Mikey, an incredible Record colletion and video, thanks for sharing. It got me thinking;just imagine how many similar LP collections are out there, most fifty years and older. And like this one not seen or heard from in all that time. In any event I'm certain most of them will find happy homes to keep them protected from for the next fifty years.....

atomlow's picture
Michael Fremer's picture
I realized what it was while editing the video. By the time I recorded that segment it was late at night and I'd been at it since the A.M. without a break....
wao62's picture

Why sell off that fantastic least save some of it. I heard a young baby in the background, & most of those records will be worth a lot more when that baby is ready to go to college! Anyway it's nice for a family to spend time together listening to music instead of watching the TV.

OldschoolE's picture

Mr. Fremer, in spite of being tiring, it had to be fun at the same time.
I love obscure compilation records and such from the 60s & early 70s.(Oddball, Folk-psych, Prog-Psych, what have you). I've run into some that have obscure songs by artists who either later hit it big or were big at the time and just did something of a rarity for the record.
I wonder why they want to sell all those records? Anyway, that's up to them. Mr Fremer, your the real deal going out there and helping them.

VirginVinyl's picture

What a inspiring collection. Unopen and never played. I'm interested in the various selection.

forevervinyl's picture

I was unsure if you were hired or volunteered to look at this cool collection. As someone that has been appraising collections professionally for years for charity donations, flood damage, divorces, consignment sales and insurance companies (, the way to get the maximum value for the collection is to selling them one at a time, with the customer taking the time to list them, or either on a consignment dealers website or Amazon at set sale or Ebay at fair market retail value or auction is the only way to go. Selling these in bulk will command only 25% of fair market value. Don't believe me? Look up seller: Eddieville on Ebay. Eddieville sells rare collections in piles or bulk on themes. Eddieville is a dealers best friend since most of the records go for a lot less than if he just sold them one at a time. His recent auctions, when sold at bulk, show an average price of $8 to $10.00 a record for collectible items. That is just what will happen to this collection if sold in bulk. I'll suggest that the owners also consider donating this collection to the Archive of Contemporary Music in NYC ( and taking the tax write off. ARM is opening a new location in Austin, Texas that will allow people to listen to all the records at the location. It looks like the collection has over 4000 records and even if you average the collection at $10.00 a record (which it would be much, much, much higher) that's a $40,000 tax write off and in one big chunk. The collection looks closer to six figures in my eyes. Remember, when donating a record collection, you are suppose to appraise them at fair retail market value. Popsike is just one valuation method. Even on consignment, they'll get a lot more from us than selling them in bulk. Thanks for the video. Nice to see a smoke free home record collection.
Scott Neuman - President and Owner

Michael Fremer's picture
Scott, I'm well aware of the options and and have so advised them. I told them to definitely try Ebay one at a time for the highly collectibles (which is an amazing percentage)... They are not in a rush but want to amass $$$ for a college fund for the kids so I think they'll first try one at a time... I didn't do it for $$$. They paid my expenses and I got a few records for my time. They are not sure how they wish to proceed at this time. I know B. George so of course that's a possibility... Thanks Scott!
marcel_kyrie's picture

So, out of all of that, which records did you snag?
BTW, I like one guy's idea of sitting on them for some years. Their value can only increase, and since they're using it for a college fund, they could wait. Of course, there's storage to consider...

forevervinyl's picture

Third option is a combo of both. Pull the super rare and sell them online and donate the $10.00 items. ACM loves records. David Bowie works and advises them to name drop and Keith Richard just donated his blues collection to them.

faskenite's picture

Joke! Thanks Michael for sharing this. Always fun to roam through a quality collection.

762rob's picture

Michael your excitement must have burned through the fatigue, thanks for sharing.

I would probably still be in there!

thomoz's picture

I laughed out loud when you got to the two sealed Millennium records. You never see that one in any shape, not in the last 25 years at least!

I heard you mis-identify 2 albums, 'Vive Le Rock', Adam Ant, produced by Tony Visconti - and The Damned - 'Music For Pleasure' is their 2nd album and is commonly seen on coloured vinyl. The Barney Bubbles cover is an anti-marketing classic.
The King Crimson album was, of course, 'Lizard'. A masterpiece, as is 'Islands' and their first two.

PaulG's picture

Just looking at the room, I'd guess there are maybe 10K records. If each disc sold for $10, you're looking a six figures plus for the collection. We know there are a subtantial number of $100+ discs, so I think we are conservatively in six figures if each disc were sold separately. Since the owners are not in a hurry, I would hire a knowledgable collector to sell the discs on Ebay or through Discogs or Amazon and give him 15% of the gross. To start, I'd hire a high school or college student to catalog everything and research going prices. That would set a reasonable bar for the collection's total worth. I know it's more efficient to sell chunks to dealers who specialize in genres, but I'd only do that if I were under some sort of time pressure. This collection is far more valuable one-by-one at retail collectable prices.

Michael Fremer's picture
They created a spread sheet and have done the research. They took the time to do it correctly. Then I came along and deconstructed the whole thing, which was in alphabetical order...
Goochified1's picture

What a collection. I was excited to see that I even have one or two of them. I got a few glimpses of some old Who (presumably first issue Decca) and a Clash 12". Very nice stuff here all around. This guy was a real music buff. BTW, that Damned album you held up, Music For Pleasure (on Stiff UK), was their second album. The first was Damned Damned Damned, the one where they all have pie on their faces. Thanks for the trip through this guy's records!

PaulG's picture

I found it interesting that you clumped material by record label (specifically Island & Vertigo, Chess etc.), which makes sense in genre defining. I would probably just use record store sorting (Rock, Soul, Jazz etc.) which is how I have things now in my collection.

Long ago, I used to clump things according to sub-genres (prog rock, British folk) or who plays with whom, but it got unwieldy. Pure alphabetical probably makes the most sense if you have no idea what's there and want to find things in a database. And where do you put Cat Stevens? Rock? Folk? Pop? Grouping by labels is something that's meaningful to us oldsters (over 40?) because in the age of iTunes or Spotify, labels are meaningless.

I used to be able to have a pretty good idea of what a Stiff or Rough Trade or Chess or Blue Note would sound like. I knew that Warner Brothers spent money on interesting packaging. Now, record labels are mostly faceless conglomerates except for the indies who still make my day...

Michael Fremer's picture
Alphabetically, but I was "deconstructing" on the basis of value and by meaningful categories for easiest and most profitable selling.
vince's picture

Nice collection! Thanks for sharing!

I can't imagine cataloging the collection all at one time using Excel. However I can imagine doing so using Discogs. Every time I get a new record I clean it and enter it in my Discogs database. The data is available on my iPhone, so when I am at the record store I can take a look to see if I already have whatever has caught my eye (unfortunately the condition information does show on the iPhone). Discogs also provides value information so you can value your collection. Thus, I can estimate the value of my collection at any time. I just wish it was half as large and diverse as your friend's collection!

Michael Fremer's picture
To do what you do...
Rudy's picture

I've had some hard times in the recent past, and there were times I thought I might have to sell off some of my collection. Fortunately I didn't, partly because I know I'd never have the opportunity to find some of these items again at a fair price, and also because I'll have something to hand down to someone else who will enjoy it.

That's why it pains me to see it when someone has to sell off a collection, especially one that is as meticulous as the one in this article. There is always room to trim down and reduce, but hopefully they will be able to hang onto at least a handful of key titles to enjoy and pass down to their children (who hopefully will appreciate it).

vinyl_lady's picture

Thank you Michael for sharing that collection with us. I saw several that I have in my collection and many, many that I would like to have. I think the Move and those Phil Spector produced records have my name on them. LOL. Please let us know if, when and how they are going to sell the collection. I am very interested in bidding on many of the records you showed us and I'm sure there are many more we didn't see.