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How to Build a Fantastic Vinyl Collection on a Budget

Vinyl Records Featuring Famous Rock Music For Sale In Music Media Shop
Radu Bercan/Shutterstock.com

Since it first came out, vinyl has remained a popular medium for music and is even experiencing an exciting renaissance! And while it can cost a fortune to build a really terrific collection, there are several other options and tricks for snagging vinyl on a budget.

While it might be tempting to grab a brand new reissued vinyl fresh off the shelves of your local music store or preferred online vinyl retailer, that isn’t the only way. There are plenty of other places to source vinyl, some of which you may not have considered otherwise. We also have a few tips that’ll help you be a savvier shopper next time you decide to go crate digging.

Check the Used and Clearance Sections

It’s a fact—new vinyl is expensive! One of the best ways to save a few bucks here is to look through the used and clearance offerings in your local vinyl store. Here you can often find great albums that are gently used and significantly cheaper. And the more obscure your tastes are, the more likely a hidden gem is to go unnoticed or buried in the back of the clearance section.

Go to Estate Sale Auctions and Garage Sales

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right? Maybe your neighbor up the street is doing some spring cleaning via a garage sale. Or perhaps the old audiophile who lives in the mansion up the hill just passed away and their relatives are holding an estate sale auction. Either way, these are fantastic places to find popular and rare albums alike!

Unidentified young couple choosing vinyl records (A Collection Of Beatles Oldies album) at flea market.
Elena Dijour/Shutterstock.com

For one thing, you’ll have less competition. Garage sales and estate sale auctions aren’t for everyone, nor are their contents listed and set up for sale online. While it’s up to you to show up and peruse the selection, you might be the only person there to find a mint-condition Beatles album or a rare limited-edition pressing.

Settle for Lower-Quality Vinyl When Shopping Online

Love window shopping on sites like Discogs? Instead of limiting your search to pricey Mint or Near-Mint records, consider expanding it to lower media condition grades. Obviously, if you can afford it, we recommend sticking with vinyl in (near) perfect condition, but settling for lower quality will lower the price.

The compromise isn’t ideal, but it’s still worth considering if you’re on a budget. Lower grades include Very Good Plus, Very Good, Good Plus, Good, Fair, and Poor. Sticking around the middle of that scale is your best bet, but avoid Fair and Poor options.

For scale, Mint-quality records have never been played and are likely still in their original seal. Neither the record nor its sleeve (or any of its inserts) will show wear and tear or other imperfections. Fair- or Poor-quality records will probably be super warped or cracked and most likely won’t be playable (at least without some skipping or other issues). This grade also means the sleeve and other inserts might be missing, torn, or otherwise damaged. Be aware that these lower condition grades might affect playback or not last as long as newer or higher-quality options will; you may need to re-purchase these later down the line.

Ask a Friend or Relative

Got a friend or relative that loved vinyl back in the day and has a sweeping collection? You might ask them if they have any albums they’d be willing to part with. They’d enjoy talking to you about music, plus they’d probably be thrilled to see those albums in the hands of someone who can more readily appreciate them. It doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

Group of friends listening music - vinyl at home
Milan Ilic Photographer/Shutterstock.com

Visit Thrift Stores and Flea Markets

Sometimes, folks don’t know what to do with old vinyl records or can’t be bothered to try and sell them online or at a proper shop. In turn, they end up dumping them at thrift stores or selling them super cheap at flea markets just to be rid of them. There’s never a guarantee you’ll find anything at either. However, if you’re the type who enjoys frequenting them to begin with, you might be surprised with what you stumble upon one day if you get lucky.

There are plenty of stories of people finding terrific albums from Led Zeppelin, Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, New Order, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beatles while only paying a few bucks for each. If you’re willing to pour over your local Goodwill’s inventory regularly, you can easily flesh out your collection and possibly even find a crowning jewel or two.

Look on Hobby Forums

If you like hanging out in hobby forums with other enthusiasts, like Reddit’s Vinyl subreddit, you can easily find lots of advice for sourcing vinyl. Some forums are dedicated to buying, selling, or trading vinyl (or turntables and other equipment) and can even help those seeking a particular album figure out where to get it from. These folks are super dialed into the scene, and you might even make a few friends along the way!

Our Favorite Tips and Tricks for Vinyl Shopping

Alright, now that you know where to look, you’ll need to know how to look. With these expert tips and tricks, we’re sure you’ll be able to score a vinyl collection so massive it’ll make all of your friends jealous.

Go Second-Hand

As we mentioned above, don’t be afraid to buy used! Most vinyl shops won’t buy back records in crappy condition, and you can easily clean up used records if they’re dirty. Easy peasy. Also, it can sometimes pay off to buy an entire record collection if you are able to look through it and confirm beforehand there are tons of albums you like and that everything’s in at least decent condition.

Yes, it’s a larger purchase upfront, but it’s an easy way to fill up your shelves, and you can always resell anything you don’t like to recoup some of the cost. Some shops might even give you in-store credit you can put towards albums on your to-buy list!

Verify Value Online Before Purchasing

Smartphone, earphones and vinyl on colorful background with copy space. Modern retro and minimal style in pastel colors. Music concept.
Galica Borisz/Shutterstock.com

If you are wanting to buy a few albums from a garage sale or thrift store, hop online real quick and verify what they are worth before you pay the sticker price up at the cash register. Many stores either have no idea how to price records properly or intentionally charge a ton in the hopes that you won’t know they’re ripping you off.

By taking a few minutes to verify things on a reputable site like Discogs, you can feel better about your purchases. Likewise, you can gain some peace of mind about putting an overpriced album back on the shelf and looking for alternatives elsewhere with a lower price.

Avoid Fancy Pressings

High-quality pressings typically weigh more than cheaper pressings, and they use new vinyl instead of recycled vinyl. This added weight makes them more durable, prevents unwanted vibrations, and, of course, makes them sound better. If sticking to your budget is important, we recommend opting for standard pressings for the vast majority of your collection and only springing for heavyweight pressings with just a few of your favorite albums.

Be Patient

Good things take time, and building a vinyl collection is no exception. Don’t expect to find every album you’re looking for within the first few months of this wonderful journey because you probably won’t (especially if you’re trying to stick to a budget along the way).

Be willing to spend a lot of time digging through the racks at several stores, looking at unconventional places (like thrift shops or flea markets), and pouring over the selections at online vinyl shops. Trust us, the wait and the unknown make it all the more exciting when you do find an album on your list!

Before You Go …

As you continue to grow your vinyl collection, you’ll also want to make sure you have a quality turntable and some accessories to enjoy it with. There are plenty of turntable options out there to suit all budgets—whether you only have $140 or over $500 to spare—no matter whether you’re new to vinyl or a seasoned enthusiast.

You’ll also want to take a moment to learn how to properly store and clean your vinyl records, so they stay in pristine shape for years to come. If you regularly clean your records, handle them properly, and store them correctly, they’ll last for decades. There’s no better value than that!

Suzanne Humphries Suzanne Humphries
Suzanne Humphries was a Commerce Editor for Review Geek. She has over seven years of experience across multiple publications researching and testing products, as well as writing and editing news, reviews, and how-to articles covering software, hardware, entertainment, networking, electronics, gaming, apps, security, finance, and small business. Read Full Bio »