10 Tips for Starting a Record Collection


In 2022, music buyers around the world purchased more than 40 million units of vinyl. It bears noting that one in every 25 of these was a Taylor Swift record.

But still, this marks the 17th consecutive year-over-year rise in vinyl sales. We’re past the point of calling this a vinyl revival. Wax is fully mainstream once again.

Meanwhile, high demand and record pressing shortages continue to push prices upward. Vinyl is more expensive than ever.

But fear not.

It’s never too late to get started. There are still good deals hiding out there. And there are still ways to build a kickass collection without spending a fortune.

Dig these 10 tips for the novice record collector and start stacking wax!

1. Support Your Local

Rule #1 of collecting–shop the independent stores in your neighborhood. They are the lifeblood of the vinyl trade.

Walmart and Target may sell records, but the prices stink and the selection is paltry.

Record dealers are typically small business owners with low profit margins in a highly competitive space. Do everything you can to keep the good ones in the black. Find the local shops in your area, visit regularly, and always hit the “New Arrivals” section first.

Chat up the folks working behind the counter. Make new friends. They’ll cut you deals, order stuff at your request, and notify you personally when items on your Wantlist show up.

Develop a good relationship with your local shop. The benefits cut both ways.

2. Tell Everybody You Know

Bore as many people as you can with overused sentiments like “vinyl just sounds better.” Somebody will offer you a hand-me-down milk crate of LPs just to shut you the hell up.

Seriously. Record sales may be surging, but there are still tons of people that would rather have a Pandora account and free storage space in the attic. Boomers–I’m looking in your direction.

People are always getting rid of records, and many want nothing in return for them but a good home.

Make it clear that yours is a good home for vinyl. Before you know it, a friend, a relative, a co-worker, or a friend’s relative’s co-worker will gift you a free box of classic rock. 

3. Get Your Fingers Dusty

One of the coolest things about records is that they pop up everywhere. Thrift stores, used book shops, antique malls, flea markets—vinyl is a mainstay in the swap marketplace. And it’s usually cheap too. But here’s the catch. You have to look at a ton of crap to find the good stuff.

This is where the most dedicated collectors get their best stories. You’ll always remember the day you knuckled through 1000 musty sleeves at a church fundraiser to find that hardcore holy grail, the one you bought for 99 cents from a parishioner who only expressed horror at its grotesque cover without a blessed clue of its incredible value.

But that only happens when you dig.

4. Salvage Your Stereo Equipment

Thrift stores are great for vinyl, but they’re even better for picking up old stereo equipment. You don’t need to spend much if you’re just getting started.

You need a reliable turntable, a receiver and a pair of basic speakers. Your turntable may also require a preamp in order to connect to your stereo properly, but this needn’t cost a fortune.

Start with some used equipment. You will likely upgrade over time, but you don’t need to invest a ton upfront.

The most important thing is that you have a good cartridge. Anything less is a threat to the health of your records.

The cartridge is the thing that houses the needle, or stylus. In other words, it will come into direct contact with your record. Make sure it’s a good one. Top brands include Audio-Technica and Ortofon.

If you aren’t prepared to assemble a stereo, you can get the classic suitcase record player. The self-contained style of player requires no external speakers or receiver. Everything is built in.

Companies like Crosley and Victrola make a ton of cool looking retro-styled players for pretty cheap. But speaking with candor, there are dramatic limitations to this type of turntable, both in terms of sound and needle quality.

I don’t recommend this for serious listeners.

5. Join the Online Marketplace

There are numerous thriving marketplaces for vinyl. Naturally, like just about anything else, you can find a lot of good, new releases on Amazon for modest prices. Many of the same merchants list albums on ebay, both as auction and “buy now” items.

But my personal favorite outlet is Discogs, which is purely a community for music buyers and sellers.

The majority of sellers on Discogs are independent record stores, which not only need your support, but collectively offer the best selection and curation on the web.

Not only that, but you can catalog your collection on Discogs as you add new acquisitions. In fact, you can set up a Wantlist and receive regular alerts when stuff you’re seeking pops up on the marketplace. It’s also easy to set up your own seller’s account and start earning bucks on your rapidly appreciating LPs.

Finally, Discogs provides all kinds of useful data on the sales history of individual records, as well the ratio of individuals who “want” versus “have” a record, and how many copies are available on the marketplace today. In other words, in addition to a marketplace, you’ll get a stronger sense of what things should cost based on their scarcity, availability, and past performance.

As a bonus, Discogs has a wicked cool feature on its mobile app called VinylHub, which zeroes in on your current location and identifies any record stores in your vicinity. I use this feature every time I travel. 

6. Join a Social Media Collector’s Group

Part of collecting is learning. The best way to expand your horizons is to commune with other like-minded collectors. You can do this on channels like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Quora, Instagram..wherever you do social media.

There are all sorts of groups in which members post throughout the day to share their listening selections. Find a vinyl group on your preferred medium and see what others are listening to. Whatever your niche—classic rock, hippie jam banding, K-pop, German industrial metal, Weird Al Yankovich—there’s a group of collectors out there just like you. Find them and you’ll find all kinds of new music.

Not only is this one of the best ways to really catch the vinyl bug, but you’ll get all kinds of insider tips on new releases, pre-order opportunities, and discounts. As a bonus, now that you have an outlet for your music geekery, you can spare your normal friends the ear chewing. 

7. Take Risks at the Dollar Bin

Every record store has a discount section bursting at the seams with Johnny Mathis, Barbara Streisand, Dan Fogelberg, and Mitch Miller. No offense to these artists. Their records simply have no value. But you have to slog through them to find the diamonds in the rough.

At a cost of a single dollar per record, you can build a basic backbone for your collection—a banged up copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, a 12-inch single version of Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, a Donna Summer compilation, a Simon & Garfunkel LP…

A decent dollar bin may be a rich cross-section of musically worthwhile recordings that–because of their condition, availability, or limited demand–are cheap but nonetheless awesome, and in some cases, even essential.

And at the cost of a dollar, you can also afford to judge records by their cover. Pick something up just because it looks cool, compelling, or interesting. At that price, even if the album sucks, you just got an interesting piece of art for a buck.

And for what it’s worth, sometimes it’s actually worth a lot. Valuable obscurities lurk in dollar bins waiting to be discovered, even to this day. 

8. Always Stop at Garage Sales

Speaking of valuable obscurities, the marketplace will never fully know just how many of these treasures are living in crawl-spaces and attics waiting to be unearthed. The most remarkable things aren’t hanging on store walls. They are in somebody’s house, collected long ago before it was rare or desired.

Neighborhood garage sales and community flea markets are the novice collector’s best friend.

It’s one of the cheapest ways to buy stuff that has been cared for.

If you really like what you see, make a fair offer on a full stack and you could go home with a nice new chunk for your growing collection. And of course, always be haggling. When it comes to used vinyl, the sticker price is often just a starting point. 

9. Make a Wantlist

If you’re just starting out, your Wantlist is everything. Frankly, I’ve been collecting for decades and my Wantlist is still kind of everything.

Start by setting a few big targets for yourself. Make a list of the things you must have. Use it as a guide when you walk into a store or search online.

To reiterate, it’s especially awesome to keep a Wantlist on Discogs. When rare records or good deals pop up on the marketplace, you can receive alerts. If you’re like me, this is a dangerous and costly function.

Naturally, your Wantlist is just a starting point. I’ve rarely departed a store, online or otherwise, with only items from my list. But it helps to know what you’re looking for. 

10. Get Some Basic Cleaning Materials

Get a record brush, a cleaning solution designed for LPs, and a few microfiber cloths. None of this will cost you very much, but these items are essential for the upkeep of both your records and your turntable.

Record grooves gather debris which can impact play and gunk up your needle. It can also magnify scratches and flaws in your records. This is especially true with thrift store, garage sale, and dollar bin purchases. You will carry home many less-than-pristine records—LPs that are both dirty and dinged.

The better you clean your records, the better they will play.

Certainly, some things won’t come out in the wash. Sometimes a record that skips is just a record that skips. But you should make a habit out of cleaning all new acquisitions before spinning. They’ll play better, last longer and they’ll be a lot nicer to your record player. 

Bonus Tip: Always Practice Proper Storage

At some point, you have to get some proper shelving. Records are heavy, they take up a lot of space, and they don’t like being cramped. Milk crates are fine if you’re transporting them or selling them at a yard sale, but it’s no way to treat a record that lives in your home.

Family members deserve proper shelving.

The Kallax from Ikea is easily the most popular unit among collectors. Its perfectly square 13-inch shelves seem almost customized for vinyl. Moreover, these affordable and easy-to-assemble units come in infinite square-counts. I have two units comprising 33 squares.

Of course, there are plenty of other options, many far more elegant and stylish than the Kallax. Salvage book-browser from an abandoned library. Reclaim a mid-century Sears China cabinet with solid wooden shelves from your grandma’s house. Curb-score one of those wall units that held a big TV in the 80s.

Just make sure it’s something sturdy, that your records stand upright, and that they aren’t packed in too tightly. 


One final warning before you really dig in…this is totally addictive. Once you get started, the only real limit to how far you could go is how much space you have. And if you are planning on getting addicted, you might as well accessorize.

Songs About Records