A few years ago, running low on cash, I made the life-changing decision to sell 99% of my CDs, in one go, to a dealer recommended by a friend. It took him just 20 minutes to assess a price on the 2500 or so CDs I’d accumulated since the mid-90’s and I was surprised to hear that some of them were even rare – something that hadn’t occurred to me at all. CDs can be rare? The cash enabled me to pay my rent for the next two months, put food on the table and yes, with the small change, I might’ve had a little holiday in the pub.
I have no regrets at all about ditching the CDs. There’s more space in my flat (the dealer took the racks too) and to be honest, not for a second did I miss any of them. The twenty or so I held on to are gathering dust in a box, whilst my vinyl shelves expand weekly.
Out of curiosity more than anything, I recently spent the best part of a day cataloguing my vinyl collection on Discogs, mainly so that the next time I’m in a record shop, I’ll be able to quickly check before idiot-buying that 4th copy of The Wolfgang Press’ ‘Sweatbox’ 12″.
Once I’d logged everything, Discogs’ autobot informed me that the maximum value of my collection is around £15k. The median, around £10k and at the very least, the local RSPCA might make up to £6k when I eventually shuffle off this mortal coil. Fifteen grand is a drop in the ocean compared to some vinyl buffs I know but the vast majority of my stuff is either mass-produced (ie – 80’s pop), tea-stained or simply of no interest to anyone of sound mental health (cough : SPK – Auto-Da-Fé).
At the top end of my pension fund, The Go-Betweens – G Stands For Go-Betweens: The Go-Betweens Anthology Volume 1. Ironically, I didn’t buy it – it was a birthday gift from a friend. This boxset has been known to sell for over £900. Behind it, The Sea Urchins – Pristine Christine – the very first 7″ record on Sarah Records. I was and still am, a big fan of the band so, short of really needing lots of emergency dental work, as with The Go-Betweens box, it stays where it is. I’m not so sure what I feel about what’s in third place : Piano Magic – Never It Will Be The Same Again – given that I actually play on and “wrote” quite a bit of it too. It was limited to 100 copies but the record label gave an additional 30 copies to the band themselves, some of which didn’t have the outer sleeve and insert. A sealed copy can sell for over £300 on Discogs.
Things get a little more interesting after that. Who, during Britpop’s glory days, would’ve guessed that Pulp’s ‘This Is Hardcore’ gatefold, double vinyl would eventually fetch a starting price of £99? Or that Grouper’s first album (which I impulsively bought for a tenner as I exited an early London gig) can now fetch up to £185? Do over 2500 people really want my copy of My Bloody Valentine’s ‘You Made Me Realise?’
Of the latter, I was a huge fan early on, bought every record they made, saw them live many times, even back when they wore matching thrift shop suits, had generic bowl cuts and toured with The Membranes. These days, ‘You Made Me Realise’ is actually the ONLY My Bloody Valentine record I own. “Does it spark joy?” as Marie Kondo might ask. Not really. I mean, I love the song but the record is just a dusty remnant of a misspent youth, surely?
But is selling this record tantamount to selling my youth? After all, what evokes one’s youth more than the soundtrack to it? When this EP came out, I’d have been left home two years, had suffered my first heartbreak, was working in my first ever job (as an office clerk) and I was dancing in a local club every Saturday night to records exactly like this one. At 2am, I’d walk the two miles home, drunk as fuck, through the red light district, high on life, high on independence. Knife or no knife, the girl on that record cover would’ve been my dream girl. How could I possibly break up with her?
Well, in this digital age, perhaps all I need as a portal back to those times is the song and not the record itself? Wouldn’t a hundred quid be more useful to me right now? I live in London – that’s at least 3 pints isn’t it? Of course, there’s a much bigger picture here : why do we buy records at all? After the initial first play (you do play them, right?), as with books, don’t they just sit on a shelf gathering dust for months or even years? If we’re not playing them regularly, why are we buying them? Does the mere ownership bring us joy? Or is the real joy in the hunt, the procurement? Are records really mirrors, reflecting who we are? Or do our collections exist solely to tell everyone, “This guy has great taste?” I can have great taste and not own any records at all, surely?
Thought : Do even the individual members of My Bloody Valentine own a copy of ‘You Made Me Realise?’
I dread moving house but being a renter and not an owner, that day will inevitably come. Do I really want to lug all this vinyl down the stairs, into a van, up the stairs of my new home and well, put it on yet another shelf where it will be generally ignored? This microscopic pension pot would last me less than a year if I sold it all. By Winter, I’d be a skeleton.
And it’s here that the “Why?” becomes amplified. We enter this life with nothing, we leave with nothing and our belongings end up in charity shops, bins and record fairs. I’m ostensibly amassing a collection for the next guy – the guy who buys it either from me or from whoever ends up in charge of my paltry estate. The ever so temporary joy in procurement is but an orgasm, easily forgotten, easily succeeded by another.