My name is Nick French and I am a collector. And, yes, it can become an addiction. I used to shop because I enjoyed shopping and often the pleasure came not from the item bought on eBay, or other sites, but from winning the auction

A mix of being single and being blessed with a good income meant that my disposable income was high. Very soon my house became a museum for toys, records, cassettes, CDs, comics, comic art, videos and DVDs, watches and a whole host of other sometimes useless but to me desirable items.

Pleasure and enjoyment

But don’t get me wrong, I didn’t collect for the sake of collecting and I certainly never bought anything with an eye on its resale value; I bought things because I liked them. I displayed my art and toys; I read my comics; I watched the DVDs and I played my records, cassettes and CDs. I was a collector but I was also a consumer.

Now that I am of an age where I am selling everything, if I make any money from the sales then that will be by accident and not design. As I said in my previous articles on this topic, I am an accidental investor.

Everything has a price

There is a quote from Anne Bishop that says, “Everything has a price, it’s just what you’re willing to pay for it” and this could be the mantra for all retailers and auctioneers. It is something that it very pertinent in my thinking at the moment as I start to sell off my collections. This year, I have had success in selling my music collections at auction and so, as I do, I thought it might be of interest to others who might, in varying degrees, be considering doing the same.

The decline of physical products

Only a few years ago, you couldn’t sell vinyl records for love or money. Even charity shops put an embargo on accepting donations of LPs and singles as they simply couldn’t sell them again.

In the 90s and early 00s, the world had moved on to cassettes, then CDs and, latterly, to streaming services. So many of us who had spent years glued to our record players and music centres decided to get rid of those cumbersome units in our living rooms. And then, by the end of the noughties, the decline in the desire to own physical musical products had killed the market for CDs. We can have access to every record ever made on our phones, so why would we want to own something that takes up room?

So, even if we wanted to play our record collections, we no longer had anything to play them on; either our records were thrown out or banished to boxes in our lofts and garages. In other words, demand for records just died and, as such, artists stopped releasing new material on vinyl and second-hand values plummeted.

The vinyl revival

But then, something happened; something that I predicted. I always felt that baby-boomers had a different experience with recorded music than the later generations of millennials and gen Z. We like to hold things and to own things. We may get caught up with new technology but eventually I always felt that there would be a return to buying records.

People started to miss the touch and crackle of records. Artists started to miss the income streams that disappeared with zero record sales (as it is well documented that downloads and streaming don’t reward the artists enough) and a whole generation of music lovers from the 70s, 80s and 90s found that they had post-children disposable income and nostalgia for their youth. Vinyl came back into fashion and demand returned. Not for the mass product of yesterday but for special editions and coloured disks, all to be sold at a premium.

And that in turn was a catalyst for buying back the records that they had bought in their teen years. And that created a demand for the records from the few of us that hadn’t culled our collections in the interim. A demand that was boosted in lockdown as the monotony of staying home allowed more and more people to revisit all those market drivers themselves.

The auction

And so I have hit the market at the perfect time. Demand for some records are at an all-time high and I have been very happy with the sale of some of my hidden gems, some of which achieved £50-100 each. But don’t get too enthused; it is the older records that command the best prices and all of my albums were immaculate. Condition is everything.

And, also, remember for every gem, there are 50 or so “also-rans” that only command a couple of quid each. It is the same in all markets. 99% of the items taken to the BBC’s “Antiques’ Roadshow” are of very little value, it is only the 1% of gems that are featured onscreen and are valued at such figures that all the onlookers exclaim “Ooh!”

The same with my records, overall I have made a few thousand pounds; some were gems and some achieved good numbers simply because there were so many of them. What did surprise me is that my cassette collection also made money!

The final track

So now is the time to look out for those boxes of albums. The boom won’t last forever, but there is a wave in the ocean yet. Go to specialist auction house, negotiate a good commission rate and, as long as you have reasonable expectations, you won’t be disappointed.

As I said, I never bought anything with the intention to sell. Even after the auctioneer’s (well-deserved) commission, I am very happy with the receipts that I have received. The accidental investor may not have made any profits in real terms, but in monetary terms I have probably made my money back. That isn’t a bad outcome, particularly as I have had 50 years of enjoyment from the collections along the way.
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