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Music to My Ears: Steps to Collecting Retro Records

Updated: May 14

While vinyl records first appeared in 1948, they’ve made a recent comeback—and with good reason! There’s nothing better than the tactile feeling of flipping to the B side of your favorite Beatles album or collecting each limited-edition Taylor Swift release. With vinyl records, listening to music isn’t a pastime—it’s a hobby. 

If you’ve always wanted to join the world of vinyl record collectors, now’s your time! We’ve created a simple step-by-step guide to get you started. With our help, you can get inspiration for what types of records to collect, learn how to clean and store your vinyl collection, and more. 

Why You Should Start a Vinyl Collection

While just about everyone has access to a library of music with the touch of a button, thanks to the modern inventions of smartphones, there’s something unbeatably romantic about holding a physical copy of your favorite albums. Owning a vinyl collection is a physical way to appreciate the intangible beauty of music. And, while it may feel hipster, vinyl records really do just sound better! 

When it comes to enjoying a vinyl collection, listening isn’t your only option. Many collectors love to decorate their homes with their favorite finds to add their own personal and retro touch to any room in the house. And with plenty of display options, you can show off any breathtaking covers you wish!

Can Vintage Vinyl Records Be Valuable?

If a vintage vinyl record is kept in good condition, is extremely rare, or has unique value, such as a singer’s signature, the value will increase. Just because they don’t have a high monetary value doesn’t mean they are worthless! Many collectors buy based on nostalgia or a very niche interest and will spend whatever they can to own the missing piece to their collection.

Tools for Collecting Vinyl Records

Antique record player

Before you grow your vinyl collection, make sure to have these essential items on hand:

  • Turntable

  • Speaker system

  • Microfiber cleaning cloths

  • Storage method

  • Spare protective sleeves

5 Steps for Starting Your Own Vinyl Collection

If this type of collection resonates with you, you’re in luck—anyone can collect vinyl records! Between buying bargain 45s at a thrift store and spending hours searching for ultra-rare releases, there are countless modern and vintage records all around us. Follow these five steps to get started: 

Step 1: Determine What Type of Vinyl Records Interests You

Collectors of all kinds, from nostalgic toys to antique kitchenware, will all tell you the same thing: collect what makes you happy. Most people’s vinyl collections are curated based on their music tastes or special interests, whether it be every record put out by a specific artist, ones within a specific genre, or autographed covers only—the options are endless. Before you start purchasing vinyl willy-nilly, determine what types will make you happy and keep your passion for the hobby alive. 

Step 2: Pick a Way to Shop for Vinyl Records

Vinyl albums display

Because records are sold in myriad places, collecting vinyl records is an accessible pastime for just about anyone! If you’re buying new releases or ultra-rare valuable vinyl, online shopping is your best bet. Sort through online auctions or connect with individual sellers around the world to hunt down specific albums, all from the comfort of your own home. 

Enjoy the thrill of the hunt by stopping into physical record stores, vendor malls, and flea markets on a regular basis. Flipping through the endless bins of alphabetized records is half the fun and something every collector must experience at some point. Don’t forget to ask about specialized vintage events at vendor malls near you to meet like-minded collectors! 

How to Spot a First Press Vinyl Record

Vinyl record in crate at antique store

First-press vinyls are popular collectibles due to the nostalgia associated with owning an original and their high monetary value. If you suspect one is a first press, take a closer look at the record’s dead wax. Most original pressings will display matrix numbers like A//1 or B//1 (depending on the side). 

Step 3: Inspect the Condition of Each Vinyl Record

Never buy a record at an Indiana vendor mall without opening the sleeve and inspecting the disk. All too often, people take their finds home only to realize the vinyl is missing or there are scratches that are beyond repair along the grooves. Avoid this by holding it up to the light and searching for surface-level scratches and any aged warping.

Are Vinyl Records Worth Anything if Damaged?

Damaged vinyl records will always be worth less than those in better condition. Records are often graded from poor (P) to mint (M). If you find damaged vinyl that holds special meaning to you and your collecting, like if it’s an album of Muppet tunes that perfectly accompanies your Sesame Street collectibles set, then you can always buy it anyway. You could even upcycle it as wall décor or a melted trinket bowl

Crates of vinyl records with Blind Faith album displayed

Step 4: Clean Your Vintage Vinyl Records

The secret to giving your vinyl records a long life is learning how to clean them properly. First, lightly brush your microfiber cloth along the disk to remove dust and static. Then, dampen the cloth with distilled water and wipe along the disk in a circular motion, avoiding the center label. After hand-drying the record, wait until it’s completely dry before storing it away with the rest of your vinyl collection. 

Pro tip: If you’re buying from a record shop or a trustworthy vintage vendor, ask them if they can clean it for you, as most professionals have these materials on hand. 

Step 5: Choose a Record Storage Method

How you store your vinyl collection is up to you. Do you want them to be displayed for you and your house guests? Do you have so many that you need multiple storage boxes underneath your bed? Decide which storage method works best for your vinyl collection: 

  • Wood crates—which are often found in a vintage furniture store

  • Thin wall shelves—perfect for switching out featured records to refresh your home décor

  • Square glass frames—a safe way to showcase your favorite finds on a gallery wall

Whether you love to listen to the groovy, high-quality sounds of pressed vinyl music or are looking to become a vendor yourself, anyone can find what they're looking for at one of our antique mall locations. Stop in today to find the tunes you crave! 

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