I just found a box of old records in my late grandfather's attic, what are they worth? I often get this question and most of the time I have to say, give them to Goodwill. Most vintage records you find have little value because they were pressed by the millions. Being old does not make a record valuable, I have vintage records that are over one hundred years old, but collectors don't want them. So what do collectors pay the big bucks for? To answer this question you need first to understand the types of records that are sold. Vintage records fall into two categories disc and cylinder. Cylinder records are the earliest commercial medium for sound reproduction. Cylinder records were made from around 1890 to 1929. After cylinders came the standard type of 78 rpm record and were made roughly from 1890 to 1960. Most 78s were made from a shellac-based material. Modern LP or 45 RPM records were made from 1949 to the present, and were made from vinyl.
Vintage disc records are referred to as ‘78s’, referring to a speed of 78 revolutions per minute (rpm). In this article we will explore what collectors look for when buying old 78s. There are no set prices for old records, you can find price guides at your local bookstore or online, but that is exactly what they are guides. How much you can get for rare collectible records depends on who you sell it to (a collector or dealer), and whether your records are sold individually or as a lot.
What most collectors of 78s want and what they pay top dollar for are rare jazz, blues, early country music and many picture records. Record condition is another factor that affects price. As an example I've sold a Louis Armstrong 78 on Okeh #8551, "Got No Blues" in fair condition for $10.00, but I have seen the same record sell at auction in excellent condition for $300.00. To get top dollar for 78s they should be in nice, clean, playable condition, without excessive wear. In order to give you an idea what to look for in rare vintage records we will look at the record labels.
First the most coveted 78s wanted by collectors. If you find any of these consider yourself very lucky.
Berliner records are all rare and valuable. They are single-sided with crudely embossed, not paper labels.
Black Patti - Rare and valuable all are wanted by collectors. I've seen this record sell in the thousands of dollars and even a broken one sold on eBay for $300.00.
Black Swan - Not as rare as Black Patti but wanted by collectors.
Autograph - An early electric record, all are wanted by collectors.
Edison - All are wanted by collectors (Needle Type Electric").
Herwin - Rare label all are wanted.
QRS - Scarce label all are wanted.
Here are more examples of collectible 78s that are scarce and all are wanted by collectors.
Vogue - Picture record (no label the entire record has a picture on both sides)
RCA - (no label the entire record has a picture on both sides)
Now we will look at more common records that collectors look for.
Edison - These records are thick and should only be played on the Edison machine or a special stylist. If you have any in the 52000 series you will find bring higher dollar in most cases.
This has been a small sample of the type of 78s collectors look for. There are hundreds of record labels that are collectible and many more that are not. If you think you have records of value please email me and I will try and advise. Records20Century@hotmail.com