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Confessions of a broke music man - Matthew Webster

Blog | Mar 27, 2024

Thomas Edison and his early phonograph - an early record player circa 1877

I’ve decided to become an online retailer and sell my vinyl record collection on eBay.

Sales of vinyl are unexpectedly booming. So, rather than risk my heirs’ simply giving them away, I got selling, as I wrote here previously. Several readers have asked how I’m getting on.

Progress is, frankly, slow, but I am modestly encouraged by a little success. In two months, I have sold 95 records and made £1,350 after all expenses (apart from my time). Not exactly riches, but not to be sneezed at.

I stopped buying them in about 1984, when CDs arrived. So they’re rather dated. However, like book collectors, record collectors want the rarest and earliest possible edition. Some of my

ancient stuff gleaned mostly from charity shops in my teens and twenties is just what they are after.

My best sale has been the first album from the band Hawkwind, for which I received £87, but most go for under a tenner.

I owned many more LPs than I had thought; over 500, rather than the 300 I had guessed. I ploughed through them all (gosh, there’s some odd stuff in my collection), speculating which ones might sell for the highest prices, or for any price at all. EBay can help; you can check what the same record has sold for recently.

I have also spent a while peeling off ancient price labels; selling a record for £10 with a £1.99 Oxfam label on it seems tactless.

If someone buys one, eBay collects the money for me, but I must post the record. I bought some thick cardboard ‘mailers’ designed for the purpose, and they cost about 75 pence each, which of course eats into the profit. And eBay itself, naturally, levies fees.

In my experience, eBay’s fees, together with my postage costs, can total up to 55 per cent of the sale price. However, the average seems to be about 30 per cent; pretty much what you’d pay in a traditional auction.

Then there is the question of returns. Most buyers have been delightful, even sending thank-you notes, but a disappointed customer can initiate the ‘returns’ procedure. It’s happened to me only three times. In one case, the record arrived snapped in two (the courier reimbursed me) and in the other cases the customer thought the records were too dilapidated. Fair enough. I paid for their return and refunded their money; everyone is happy, I hope.

There is the occasional chancer who asks for a partial refund (‘I’ll keep the record, but it’s not worth what I paid’). I am firm and tell them either to keep it and stop complaining or to send it back (at my expense) for a full refund. They never send it back; they are just pushing their luck.

As I said, progress is slow, but I’m in it for the long haul. I currently have 90 records listed on eBay, and eventually I will upload the remaining 250.

If, after a year or so, I’ve still got some unsold (I bet I will have lots), I’ll pull them off eBay and stick them in the local auction house, where boxes of vinyl seem to go for about five pence per record.

The fun will come once it’s all over; I’ll have the pleasure of deciding what to spend the money on. I’m looking forward to that.