How to do your homework as a record collector
Yesterday I attempted to hit up as many record shops in Toronto as I could. It's next to impossible to do them all, so I thought I would check out the new location of Sonic Boom in Kensington Market (For the non-Torontonians, think a Canadian version of a hippy commune for the 21st century working-man...And for the Torontonians, Sonic Boom 2 = FANTASTIC.) Needless to say I was thrilled to find a copy of Blackwater Park by Swedish progressive death metal greats OPETH. Could this be the infamous original that can catch upwards of 200-300 on Ebay? Or is it the mid 2000's reissue, making it just worth the 15 bucks they were asking?
STEP ONE: Finding Value
My homework began a few minutes after I came home. I looked up past ebay auctions in hopes of nailing down the precise value of the original. For ebay users, 'Completed Listings' is posted in the left column, which will give you the last few months of record listings. But what if that item hasn't been sold in years? What if it's that rare? This is where our friends at Popsike.com come in.
Popsike catalogs every online auction of LP's that sold for more than $20. It literally carbon copies the text from the sale page, so you can read all of the details that the original auctioneer included. You can use this information to be sure that you have the same version that was sold. Look for items that have sold most recently, to give you a realistic idea of its value, not what it ONCE sold for in 2001. It also displays bar graphs outlining the lowest and highest the LP has sold for, as well as the Mean and Medium (which are great tools for appraising higher end items).
Beware of the outlier - every so often a $5 record is bid up by morons to $20. This is why you see standard issue copies of Thriller on Popsike - It doesn't represent the norm.
STEP TWO: Do you have that rare pressing?
Besides the title, artist, and record label, many other little details are important. Below is my explanation of a record I have, which I will break into specific parts.
-Clear Darker Blue Vinyl (Marbled, when held to the light) - Second Label
1) Artist: Metallica
2) Title: Creeping Death
3) Size: 12" (Which means single, not a full length album. Most would list that as a 'LP')
4) Record Label: Music For Nations. The record label is incredibly important in identifying value. Many albums and singles are released on different labels in different countries, making the hunt quite tricky. Learning what labels were used for what bands is incredibly important in identifying value.
5) Country: England. Many people are after the 'First' pressing, which could correspond with a country. An example being English pressings of Pink Floyd and Beatles are quite sought after, as they are where they were from.
6) Catalog Number: CV 12 KUT 112. What do you do if the same album was re-released in the same country under the same record label? The catalog number is often pressed on the side of the spine to help you identify pressing. Sometimes the catalog number can be VERY similar to a previous pressing, so be sure it includes all the right spaces, letters and numbers.
7) Date: 1984. This signifies the year the item was released, not the year the album or single was released. This way a reissue can be sometimes found as it has the reissue date printed (We all know the white album wasn't released in 2008, but I have a copy that has that date - clearly not an original)
8) Details: This is where you find any other bits of information you need. In this example the single was pressed on coloured vinyl, and I mention that it was the second label (Sometimes a company will change what their label looks like, making it easy to note a second, third or fourth pressing)
STEP THREE: Putting it all together.
No matter how much you know, you will never know it all. After a few minutes of researching I realized I did not have an original of the OPETH LP. How did I come to realize this? I found out that Koch released the reissues, where Music For Nations did the original. The year on it was deceiving as it didn't list the reissue date, only the year of ORIGINAL issue. It was the catalog number that gave it away this time...
MORAL OF THE STORY : Do your research. At the end of the day it didn't matter to me that it was a reissue. I was happy to have this wonderful music in my collection for $15. I wouldn't have sold it if it was an original, it would just become a more expensive LP on my shelf. Every collector knows what's meaningful about the hobby. Whether it be the value of the LP's, the variations of the pressings or the sounds in the grooves, the steps above will help you. I also strongly suggest contacting another collector. Try hitting up a record show, or popping by your local record shop with the LP in question- perhaps you are sitting on gold!
**For collecting veterans - No, I did not mention Matrix details. That's a whole other can of worms...**