Selling at a Record Show

Saturday, for the first time, I was on the vendor’s side of the table at a record show. It was The Town and the City Record Show at Mill #5 in Lowell. This was a low-key show, certainly less hectic than many I’ve been to as a buyer, and a good place to give selling a try.

The deal is I can buy more records as long as I don’t have to buy more shelves to hold them. So from time to time I need to sell some items from my collection to make room for new ones. This time, I decided to rent a table at the show in an attempt to make more than I normally would by selling to a used record dealer.

I was reasonably successful at that. After five and a half hours of selling, I came home with about $350. I took in $393 by selling 43 records and 7 CDs, less $40 to rent the table and $2.77 in credit card processing fees.

The median estimated value on Discogs for the items I sold was about $570, but not all my records were in top shape. Almost $400 wasn’t a bad return. For comparison, the low estimated value on Discogs for the items I sold was about $210, and a seller is generally doing well to get anything close to the low estimate from a dealer for common records, especially since the dealer usually doesn’t take all the records you want to sell. As an example, after the show I brought 107 of the leftover records to a local dealer. The 47 they bought from me had a low estimated value of about $120, but I only got $75 for them.

That’s not to say I made a profit! Who knows what I actually paid for my records? I certainly paid more for most of the records I sold than a professional dealer would have. And the time spent weeding through records, pricing them, and lugging them around isn’t included in my expenses, but it wasn’t trivial.

But it wasn’t just about the money. It was fun spending a day hanging around with other record collectors, chatting about the thing we love.

I’ve gone to a lot of record shows as a buyer. Being on the other side of the table was a learning experience. I’m no expert after one show, but I did figure out a few things, some that I might do differently if I do this again:

  • Be ready to make change. Stock up on ones and fives before the show.
  • Be sure to have some way to accept credit cards. It doesn’t hurt to support other payment options (PayPal/Venmo/Apple Pay/Google Pay/etc…). Make it easy to pay with QR codes, card readers, etc…
  • Don’t bother to bring CDs. Few are worth enough to matter, and most buyers are there for vinyl. Bring more LPs instead.
  • Don’t bother to price cheaper records individually. It’s not worth the effort to differentiate between a $2 record and a $5 record. Put anything you might sell for under $5-6 in a box and sell them for $3 each/4 for $10. When I was younger these would have been the dollar bin records, but those days are gone.
  • Don’t overprice the good stuff, but don’t try to underprice it to try to drive sales either. Price your records high enough to allow you to negotiate a bit if necessary.
  • If you have special items, do jack up the price. Maybe no one will buy that $150 disc as an impulse item, but as I know from personal experience, a buyer will often talk themself into your price if you have an item they REALLY want.
  • Don’t try to sell gear. People are there for the discs. Some people were intrigued by the budget ultrasonic cleaner I had available, but no one was really interested in taking it home from the show.
  • Be prepared to see people mishandling your records. Some people apparently never learned that you should only touch the edges and the labels. If a record is really valuable don’t bring it, or put it on display behind your table, seperate from the boxes that people paw through.
  • Know you’re going to carry most of your records away. I had 161 of 204 LPs (and 139 of 146 CDs) left at the end of the day.

Will I ever do this again? Maybe, especially if I decide to sell off my collection before I’m too old to deal with the work involved. It would break my heart to sell my favorites for the price a dealer would pay. I might take the LPs to a show or two first, to hopefully find homes for my favorites with people who will appreciate them (and pay a good price for the privilege). And who knows? Maybe the next show will be filled with CD buyers?

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