As we’ve stated many times here on Music Strive, collecting vinyl is a fun and fantastic pastime. Yet with their popularity, there’s a price you have to pay – literally.
With the economy going haywire these days, vinyl companies don’t make it easy to build a collection without making your wallet bleed. However, building a vinyl collection on a budget is possible.
All it takes is a little patience, some time, and strategy. Here are some tips on where to find cheap vinyls, and how to go about looking for them.
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Before going further, there’s something you need to understand about vinyl collecting on a budget: it can be time-consuming!
There are plenty of places you can go to find cheap vinyls, both in stores and online. But in both places, you’ll have to do some digging. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty, looking for the needle in the haystack.
Traditional brick-and-mortar shops remain the most engaging places to shop for vinyl, and lots of them can have great deals – if you know where to find them.
The best stores to check out are vinyl shops (duh!), antique shops, used book stores, and thrift stores. Each one has their own vibe, and strengths and weaknesses. Let’s check them out!
This is an obvious choice – but believe it or not, vinyl shops aren’t always the best option. They will have lots of variety, and there is a very good chance that they’ll have what you’re looking for. After all, they do cater to widespread demand.
However, vinyl shops tend to remain on the expensive side. They’re niche and they know it, which means they’ll upcharge whatever they can. It’s not uncommon to see classic records selling for $20 or more (when I say “cheap” records, I’m looking for something $10 or under).
But this shouldn’t discourage you completely. You can still find great deals if you look hard enough. “Looking hard enough” is something you’ll see again and again in this article – at the end of the day, the joy of record collecting comes from the hunt, not the finding.
In my experience, vinyl shops put a lot of value in physical appearance. This means that if the sleeve looks untouched, they’ll jack the price up because it looks “pretty.”
Here’s the catch, though: “ugly” looking records can still sound great. And since we buy vinyls so we can listen to them, the audio should take preference over appearance.
You can find plenty of vinyls that sound identical, but they’re packaged in widely differing jackets. You should be able to find VG-grade (“very good”) vinyls that sound great, for a great price.
Using this strategy, I’ve found Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin records for $7 or less!
Almost every antique shop I’ve been to has some corner dedicated to vinyls. If you can find a large antique mall with booths owned by multiple sellers, you have an even better chance of hitting the jackpot.
Admittedly, antique shops tend to be disorganized and messy. Most of the time, you won’t find the popular records you find in a vinyl shop. Instead, they’ll be one-hit wonders and oldies that no one but your 82-year-old grandma knows.
But again, patience can be very rewarding! Sometimes sellers are very aware of what they have, while others don’t have a clue.
For sellers that know about music, they will mark their merchandise accordingly. However, they also know that they’re competing against chains. As a result, they often sell them for cheaper. I’ve found Joni Mitchell records and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for only $10!
Conversely, clueless sellers often sell all their vinyls for the same price. Once, I found a booth that was selling mint condition vinyls for only $5!
Although they might require more time to browse, antique shops can be the cheapest places to buy vinyl.
This one might come as a surprise. I live in Ohio, and we have Half Price Books shops everywhere. Each one sells a decent collection of vinyls, and they are reasonably priced.
In general, I’ve found that book stores will be cheaper than vinyl shops, but more expensive than antique shops. They will be organized like a vinyl shop, but with less variety.
In short, I see book stores as a middle ground between vinyl shops and antique stores. They’re worth visiting just for vinyls.
Thrift Stores and Garage Sales
Finally, we come to the spottiest of them all: the classic thrift store and garage sale. Both will be highly unorganized, and have no guarantee that you’ll find what you want. Most of the time you’ll find moldy, scratched up records.
But still … they’re worth checking out, especially for big band jazz and classical music. I’ve found Louis Armstrong and first-print calypso gems for $3!
Part of the appeal of vinyl lies in its physical nature. You pick them up, put them away, and place them on turntables. This experience extends to shopping, where you have to walk down aisles, dig through crates, and chat with cashiers.
But despite this, sometimes you just can’t find what you’re looking for in brick-and-mortar stores. Thankfully, there are still plenty of online options that value community, analog, and budgets.
Discogs is, without a doubt, the king of vinyl sites. Built as a vast online marketplace between sellers and buyers, it allows you to find virtually every record under the sun.
Lucky for you, with such a large community, budget deals are everywhere! Because of this, it is probably the cheapest place to buy vinyl out there.
Similar to eBay, Discogs allows users to set up seller and buyer accounts. Sellers are rated by customers. You can purchase items with PayPal as well, to keep your wallet safe.
There’s much more to Discogs besides the marketplace, though. You can create an online inventory of your own collection, and they will give you an estimate of how much your collection is worth. They also have a newsletter.
In short, Discogs is a great one-stop shop for all your vinyl curiosities!
Amazon sells just about everything, don’t they? They’re third-party record market is remarkably active.
Amazon might not be a vinyl one-stop shop like Discogs. But since it’s used by just about everyone, it deserves a place on this list.
Plus, even though I’ve never bought a used vinyl from Amazon myself, it’s still integral to my “vinyl hunting strategy,” which I’ll outline below.
There are plenty of websites out there that specialize in selling vinyls in niche genres. The great thing about these guys is that they know everything about their genres.
The downside is that the vinyls might not be cheap. In my experience, rare products are either marked way up or way down.
But of course, as I’ve already said plenty of times – it’s worth snooping around! Here are several suggestions you might be interested in:
- Dusty Groove – for classic oldies of all types
- Dub Vendor – if you love di riddims of reggae and its subgenres!
- Growing Bin Records – if you’re interested in a wide array of underground acts
- vinylonthe.net – if you’re into punk of all types
My “Vinyl Hunting Strategy”
As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” In our case, I can tell you where to find cheap vinyls, but it’s not very helpful without incentive or strategy.
Feel free to do whatever you want when you go shopping, but here’s a rundown of how I go about finding great vinyl deals:
Step 1. Look up what you want on Amazon and see what third-party sellers are selling it for. As with anything online, be sure to tack $5 on for shipping.
I use this as a litmus test to see what the general asking price is. Since Amazon is the fastest and easiest place to find records, it’s helpful to use as a benchmark for your search. If you can find something – great! If not, it’ll be quick and painless to buy.
Step 2. Compare Amazon with Discogs. Make sure to use filters when you search. I never buy anything less than VG (very good) quality. I also buy from my own country, or one nearby, because that will lower shipping. You can find these filters on the left side of the screen.
Step 3. Now that you have a general idea of what people are asking for online, do some research and find local shops you can explore. Then check ‘em out!
Step 4. Once you’ve done your hunting, cut the costs and see what the best deal is!
If you’re just casually searching, it’s always fun to get lost at thrift shops and Discogs!
With the wide array of online and brick-and-mortar businesses out there, it’s totally possible to build a vinyl collection on a budget!
By combining vinyl sources with buying strategies, I hope I’ve been able to give you some practical advice on how to peruse the cheapest places to buy vinyls.
Until next time, enjoy your new vinyl discoveries, and always, ALWAYS have fun!