About the value of vinyl records

So, just what is the value of vinyl records? First, we need to define what is meant by value.

Is it monetary value? Well, maybe. Certain vinyl records do have a monetary value. Rare pressings or records by highly sought-after artists have been known to fetch a pretty penny.

Or is it the importance or worth of a record? Compared to CDs or streamed/downloaded tracks, vinyl records, it is claimed, have a greater worth because of their sound quality.

On the monetary value of vinyl records

According to finance.yahoo.com, the most expensive vinyl record ever sold was a single pressing of a 2022 performance by Bob Dylan of his 1962 classic Blowin’ In The Wind. Sold at auction in London for approximately $1.8 million, Dylan had taken a leaf out of the Wu-Tang Clan’s book with their release in 2015 of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, which although attracting a higher price, was pressed on CD, not vinyl.

Other fifties and sixties artists, notably The Beatles and Elvis Presley have pressings of vinyl records that have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, of the top ten highest prices for vinyl records, six were released by The Beatles or related acts. If nothing else, this demonstrates the collectability and long-term value of vinyl records. 

On the importance of vinyl records

But what of the importance of vinyl records in terms of their aesthetic; their sound? Of course, sound quality is surely the defining characteristic for the music lover?

It’s no accident that although the technology used to reproduce the sound of a vinyl record has changed dramatically over the years, the technology of the actual discs themselves remains relatively unchanged. Compared to CD or other digital renderings of music, the analogue sound produced from a vinyl record has a richness and a warmth which knocks the others out of the park. Analogue recordings are uncompressed, so the sound produced from them is much closer to the original performance.

As well as the aural experience, vinyl records offer a physical connection that CDs apart, other digital forms simply cannot. Even opening the plastic jewel case of a CD, and setting it to play, pales into insignificance when compared to the ritual of setting a record to play.

First, there’s the act of sliding the record out of its sleeve. Then, it’s placed on the turntable, the needle is carefully lifted, then gently placed on the record before the hiss and crackle preempt the music. And then the music starts and you’re there, in the booth with the singer; you can hear the squeak of the guitarist’s fingers as they move over the strings. Drums sound deeper; more sonorous.

On the fall and rise of vinyl records

But of course, in this age of our ever-increasing need for convenience, the ritual of removing a record from its sleeve, and all that malarky seemed to pass us by. It probably started with the cassette tape but accelerated with the advent of digitised music on computers or even smaller devices. A quick click or swipe and you’re away. Of course, the sound quality just isn’t as good, but you can stand that because of convenience.

Those audiophiles, however, just would not accept the march of digital music. So although sales of vinyl records dipped, falling below the level of CD sales from 1987 onwards, they didn’t just disappear. There was always a steady level of album sales on vinyl. The renaissance continued in the background and by 2023, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), by 2023, sales of vinyl records once again outstripped those of CDs.

On the purchasing of vinyl records

It’s not crusty old audiophiles, however, who buy the majority of vinyl records sold nowadays. In 2022, the RIAA’s data showed that those who were teenagers in the 80s and 90s accounted for 45% of US vinyl sales. However, younger buyers, those aged twenty-four to thirty-five, were no slouches in parting with their hard-earned cash either.

An interesting discussion is to be had around the habits of the record-buying public once they have their new purchase in their hands. It is believed that 7% of buyers of vinyl records had no record player upon which to listen to their purchases and a whopping 48% who buy vinyl own record players but do not use them regularly. Are they buying their vinyl as an investment? Are they keeping them in pristine condition in order to sell them for profit at a later date?

Much in the same way that CDs began to sell rapidly, the bulk of vinyl purchases are reissues of classic albums. Of course, the real value of vinyl records is in vintage vinyl classics. Releases are great in terms of driving the market forward, but the scope for appreciation is much greater in buying those first pressings of those classics of yesteryear.

British Punk Rock is an especially lucrative genre of vinyl to own. For example, an unplayed copy of the Sex Pistols’ unreleased single God Save The Queen sold for £15,990 (about US $21,000) in November 2019 at Wessex Auction Rooms in Chippenham, Wiltshire, England.

On the future of vinyl records

There is intrinsic value in vinyl records. Owning a physical product such as a record has many benefits. You can have CDs and memory sticks full of MP3 recordings. But they are prone to accidental deletion or gradual degradation, be that physical or data corruption. Part of the value of vinyl records is in their robustness, their very physicality.

Because they are such a simple piece of technology, with no moving parts, and the technology required to play them is relatively simple, records are future proof too. They are also in demand due to the fact that much older music is only available on vinyl, it hasn’t yet been digitised, and maybe it never will.

Vinyl records have been around since the late Victorian period and will be around for many a year to come.

But, never mind what I think. What are your views? Do drop me a line in the comments box below.

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