Ever go into a store, see something you want, look at the price and say 'I'm not paying that!, I'll find it cheaper somewhere else!"? I have done that a lot. Or maybe you thought it was overpriced but bought it anyway because you really wanted the item or were too lazy to shop around? I have done that too. Experience has taught me that the monetary value of any given object, and especially used items, is only what someone is willing to pay for it.
So how do I go about valuing my vinyl? There is a plethora of published value guides available for purchase. Some of these publications release new additions annually, some not as often. While they all offer some good advice with regards to collecting, identification and grading, I prefer not to use these books as I find that the values are simply too static.
There are several factors that can effect the value of a record. A dip in the economy, as we have all experienced, can greatly reduce what a collector is willing to spend. For most (if not all!) of us, such things as rent/mortgage, groceries, etc... take precedence over that groovy 1968 private pressing in original shrink.
Sometimes a rare album will be re-issued on vinyl or CD and the value of the original will drop now that the music is more easily accessible and at a much cheaper price. It should also be noted here that many psych reissues, which tend to be limited editions, have proven to increase in value over the years, and can be a valid collecting option in their own right. Also, a cheap reissue can reveal that the music on that expensive rarity actually sucks (more common than one might think).
Renewed interest in a band can increase values significantly as well. Back in the early 90s I was collecting Pink Floyd vinyl almost exclusively. Foreign pressings, bootlegs, coloured vinyls, you name it. In 1994 Pink Floyd released The Division Bell, their first album in six years, and began a world tour the same year, resulting in the live Pulse album in 1995. Pink Floyd was now in the forefront of a lot of minds and accordingly values of used Floyd vinyl increased, sometimes doubling. I bought the new releases but at this time I generally decreased my overall Floyd purchases and started to focus on other bands.
And so, rather than rely on a published value that may remain fixed for a year or more I prefer something that better reflects the natural fluctuations in the market. This thinking might lead one to see what a given title is currently selling for, be it in a physical shop on the street or online. Certainly Ebay would be the easiest place to check for most. I was speaking to a guy recently who mentioned a record he had and that it was worth $60. In my mind I thought he was overvaluing by a long shot and I asked him how he figured $60. He told me he saw one for sale on Ebay for that price. Remember the question I opened this article with? I told him, yes it may be for sale for $60 but will it actually sell for that much? Ebay is full of overpriced items that don't sell. I referred him to a website I use often, and you will find in the links column, popsike.com. Popsike is an auction value database listing closing prices for finished auctions. In other words, what a record actually sold for. You will get the high and low ends as well as the average. Another site that does this is Collectorsfrenzy.com (also in the links).
I go with the average, considering the extreme highs and lows to be exceptions. What might cause these exceptions? Low ends might just reflect a general lack of interest in the artist or title at the time of auction/sale, though they could represent a sudden surge in available copies. A sudden or overall lack of copies of a title can obviously work the other way and cause an interested collector to spend a bit more than usual. There are many other reasons a
record can sell for a noticeably high price. Many vinyl collections contain within them sub-collections. I have a sub-collection of John Mills-Cockell in the works, within the body of my overall vinyl collection. Let's say there was only one release I needed to complete that sub-collection and let's say it isn't very common. I might find one for more than I would normally have paid for it, but as it is the last piece, I might be willing to pay more rather than keep hunting for months or even a year for a cheaper copy.
Foreign pressings will often sell for more than domestic pressings and likewise foreign buyers will often pay more for our domestic pressings than we will. I knew a fellow in Birkenhead, England who owned a used record shop. Over pints he once told me that business wasn't so good locally, but he had a collector who flew in from Japan once a year and bought a shed load of vinyl "at top price", essentially keeping this fellow's business afloat. I experienced the same selling British pressings of early Floyd singles at a flohmarkt in Klagenfurt, Austria. Collectors from Italy would snap them up without haggling or question. I've also known some more affluent collectors who regularly travel abroad on vinyl hunting expeditions, buying foreign releases for a fraction of the prices in their own countries.
Overall, the best thing to remember is that vinyl is worth what you will pay for it or what someone else is willing to pay you for it. All factors considered:)