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5 Tips: How to Buy Vinyl Records Online

Tips for Buying Vinyl Records

My brother just got his first turntable. He’s never collected vinyl before and asked me for some tips. So, here are the 5 things YOU need to know when buying vinyl records online, regardless of whether you are starting a new record collection or moving your buying into the digital space.

If you are like him, you’re probably a bit nervous about not having the VAST knowledge seasoned collectors like myself develop. You are also probably a bit worried about over-spending on the albums you DO buy.

These tips are for finding the RIGHT albums, getting the BEST deals, and scoring some AWESOME records!

1 | Know Your Want List

Whether you’re popping into your favorite (or some random) record store on a whim or perusing an online store or marketplace, it helps to have a want list close at hand. I recommend using Discogs to create your want list.

Familiarize yourself with that site:

You can think of it like Wikipedia for albums. In addition to having a vast community of users who are constantly adding new releases and variations of existing releases, it allows you to add items you own AND create a want list of items you’d like to get someday.

Discogs Wantlist

Pro tip: as your collection grows, you’ll want to have a log of your collection at hand as well so you don’t end up with duplicates.

Believe me: that’s a thing.

As noted, Discogs allows you to add items to collection as well.

I mentioned “variations” just a moment ago. That brings me to my second tip:

2 | Know Your Variants

You can think of a variant as an alternate version of an album. 

Depending on the release, the variant likely matters. A lot.

Do you want a reissue or an original pressing? Do you want the black vinyl version or a limited edition color variant?

Does it matter to you which version you get? If so, knowing precisely the version you want to add to your collection will facilitate decision making. 

New releases by relatively little-known bands may not have a ton of variants, but the more popular the band or album, the more variants exist.

In the background of the YouTube video I put together covering these tips, you can see my copy of David Bowie‘s The Man Who Sold The World. As of the publishing of this post, this album alone has a whopping 150 vinyl variants!

Bowie Discogs Variants

Variations can include very minor differences between pressings, like alternate runouts in the dead wax of vinyl (that area between the grooves and the label).

Variants can include alternate packaging including different album art, possible bonus tracks, and they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and … you guessed it … prices!

3 | Know Your Budget

Interest in vinyl has caused significant increases in prices over the past decade. In fact, 2022 was the first year since 1987 where vinyl outsold CDs!

Knowing what you’re willing to pay for everything in your want list in crucial if you’re like me and you pick up records on the regular.

If you aren’t particular about the specific variant you want, you’ll likely want to compare pricing across all of the vinyl variants out there. If you are, you’ll want to make sure that what version you’re looking at is indeed the one you want.

Knowing your budget goes beyond what you’re willing to pay, and that brings me to the next tip.

4 | Know The Competition

Even if I find a record within my desired budget, I always shop around.

I’ll start by looking at average prices of the release on Discogs — after all, they give you this information at the variant level! — then I’ll check pricing across multiple sites, like Discogs, Amazon, ebay, and even shops like Rough Trade, label sites like Sub Pop, or even a band’s Bandcamp page if it’s a newer release.

Voxtrot Bandcamp Page

I do ALL of this before making a decision of whether — and WHERE — to buy. 

Pro tip: When comparison shopping, factor in tax and shipping! As an Amazon Prime member, I get free shipping, but sellers on the Amazon Marketplace don’t always price things competitively, so beware.

That brings me to the fifth and final tip…

5 | Know Your Cart Value

I love this one. If you hit a certain threshold, some retailers on sites like Discogs and Ebay will eliminate shipping charges.

Even if they don’t, adding a second or third record to the order usually decreases the shipping cost per record, and that can move a record from being outside your budget limit to within it!

Remember that first tip? Know Your Want List? Let’s touch on it again for a moment.

Your cart is another reason why knowing your Want List comes in handy. You can search for other items in your want list to see if that seller has them, thus reducing your shipping costs per item or even eliminating shipping altogether!

What Else?

If you’ve made it this far and you’re a longtime collector? What tips would you give to someone just starting out? Let me know in the comments here or over on YouTube.

And if you’re just starting out, let me know what your first purchase on vinyl was!

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