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Am I A Record Collector?

November 28, 2017

I recently attended an Audio Society of Minnesota meeting where the featured presenter was writer Josiah Titus, a contributor to Dust & Grooves.  Titus gave a fascinating presentation on his experiences meeting obsessed record collectors as part of his participation with the Dust & Grooves project. This got me thinking: am I a record collector?

I have a lot of vinyl LPs (see the 12’x6′ Wall above), CDs (see the 12’x5′ wall below) and some 45s. I obsess about acquiring particular albums. I recently had to purge a bunch of CDs my adult children left behind and it was traumatic for me and would not have happened without the encouragement of my wife. But I got through it.  It felt good in the end – kind of like when a scab finally falls off.

 I have a nice stereo, but I don’t think of myself as an audiophile. Similarly, despite having more LPs and CDs than the average person, I don’t see myself as a record collector either. I see myself as a guy who has a higher than average passion for music. A bit of a music-head, but not nearly as music nerdy as others I have met.

I don’t see my albums as having value beyond the pleasure they give me from listening to them. That is, they are not collectibles. I like being around them in my listening space, but I don’t think I fetishize my albums.  They just provide warmth.

So here are some facts on the matter:

  • I have about 4,000 LPs, 3,000 CDs and 200 45s.
  • When the CD era arrived I pretty much stopped buying vinyl LPs, but I never got rid of vinyl LPs (most people did).
  • When I see one of my favorite albums in good shape for a good price I will pick it up as a spare.
  • My records are filed in alphabetical order, but I usually have about 200 un-filed because they are “in rotation.”
  • I get up early and wait in line for several hours on Record Store Day.
  • I love record stores and could easily spend a couple of hours digging in a small shop.
  • I named my blog after the infinite loop in the lead-out at the end of the record.

Despite those facts, I have never bought an album on Discogs. I don’t think I have ever paid more than $20 for a used record – it is rare I spend more than $5.  In reality I listen to most music via Spotify on my iPhone through ear buds – but if I have the time I like to listen to LPs on the big boy stereo.

To the casual observer, I am a record collector. In the obsessive world of record collecting, I am just a guy with a bunch of records – a piker. I like good music and I like listening with a bit of ritual attached to it. Although I do not see myself as a record collector, on the record collector scale of 1 to 10, I am clearly higher than a 5.

PS – As part of my final edit of this post, I figured I should fact check my LP and CD counts. My original count was a pure guess.  For the fact check I did not count every LP and CD, instead I counted two sample shelves from each of my storage units (there are about 80 LPs per cube of my IKEA Expedit and about 55 CDs per shelf of my Boltz rack). The result is I originally underestimated my LP count by 50% and CD count by 40% (the counts above are now solid estimates). I am starting to reconsider discounting myself as a collector.

  1. That is quite the collection, Mr. Groove. I bet my collection is about 25% of yours which includes zero 45’s. (I used to have a fair amount, lost them over the years.) My vinyl is all shoved in a closet, hasn’t been touched or played since CD’s came in. (My kids raided some of them with my blessing.) I don’t replace albums anymore and probably purchase a handful per year. Much of my listening these days is via Bluetooth speaker/computer. Suboptimal I know but I’m overall too lazy to trek downstairs and actually put a CD on the stereo. As to vinyl, I am not of the “it sounds warmer on vinyl” crowd. Prove it says I. I’d say you do have a bit of the obsessive in you but not in a bad way. I too used to like to haunt record stores. But now that they’re fewer and far between (goodbye Tower and HMV) I find it too much trouble to seek them out.

    • Vinyl can be the best, but not always. It requires an investment in time and equipment to capture its true beauty. As I say in the post, out of convenience, I mostly listen to Spotify on my phone though inexpensive earbuds. Regarding record stores – I am lucky to live in Minneapolis/St Paul where we have at least 25 stores in the metro area. At least 5 of those are really high quality stores with unique aesthetics. Thanks for weighing in.

      • We used to have a lot of record stores in and around Boston. There’s a chain called Newbury Comics and some pretty good used record stores in Cambridge. BTW, it occurred to me later that I’ve come full circle. I started by buying singles (first one – I’m A Believer by the Monkees) and now mostly buy and download singles (most recent one – Stone Free by Jimi Hendrix.)

      • Why by downloads vs streaming like Spotify? So much cheaper.

      • Ah, yes. I left out a piece of information. I buy songs that I want to learn to play on guitar. If I own them, I can slow them down which is how I learn solos. Actually I can do that on YouTube as well but Hendrix’ studio songs are not on YouTube.

      • Well you must be a decent player to be learning Hendrix solos.

      • Yeah I’ve been playing for quite a while. A lot of guys like Hendrix, Clapton, Page, SRV utilize a lot the same blues and pentatonic scales. So once you start leaning them, you start seeing patterns. Hendrix’ solo in Stone Free is played almost exclusively in one position on the neck. I gotta tell you that the musician’s secret is slowing it down. Then you just laboriously learn one note at a time. But trust me when I say I thought I’d never learn any of this stuff. I thought it was brought here by the gods. And then one day I was able to start doing it.

      • Amazing what dedication can accomplish.

      • It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on. 😂

  2. Steve permalink

    What shelving system do you use, I’m struggling with finding a good one, yours looks like it’s up to the job, can you tell me who makes it?

    • I use a unit from IKEA called Expedit. It was cheap – a 6’x 6′ unit that holds 2000 records is about $200 – however they don’t make it anymore. But they have a very similar product that is supposed to be just as good called KALLAX. I can’t vouch for it (google it and see what you kind find). The biggest issue with both is that they have open backs so you have to be careful not to push your records too far back (or take the extra step to modify it – google Expedit/record shelf and you will get lots of advice). They come in a variety of sizes. I originally bought the Expedit from IKEA and when I needed another and it was no longer made I bought a used one on Craig’s List.

      My CDs are on a system called BOLTZ – very solid and well designed – but a bit pricey – they have a web site.

  3. jprobichaud permalink

    Haha. Dude. I think you’re a collector… I am nowhere near your stature and I like to think of myself as a collector, though in reality, I am merely in training….

    • If you have 25 LPs and they are really important to you – you are a collector.

      • jprobichaud permalink

        I think I’m coming up on 200 and pretty much all of them are important to me.

  4. You have pretty much described me. I buy stuff I want to listen to, or they are my favorite artist and I don’t have that particular release/pressing, even if it’s just a greatest hits. I’m a Rolling Stones collector so, yes, I have bought RS LPs for more than $20 and I have LPs in my collection valued in the $100s. I also have a modest collection of RS memorabilia. Yes, I got rid of my vinyl during the CD age but I know where some of them are (at my little brother’s house!). My middle brother is the obsessive one, buying LPs just to sell on eBay. I buy what I want to listen to, especially if they are in nice condition. Only once have I bought LPs with the intent to turn them over – a box of jazz reissues in great condition, but they didn’t sell for much. I have close to 550 LPs and 45s in my collection, and probably just as many CDs and probably a lot more if you count all the bootlegs I’ve traded for and/or downloaded through the years. Also about 100 DVDs of music performances (also mostly bootleg).

    And I also listen to Spotify a lot. It’s perfect for exploring.

  5. I’m with you on a lot of your take. Things change, other interests and commitments come up but I will forever be music lover. I acquired an old Seaburg Jukebox years ago so at the time I went on a 45 binge. I’ve slowed down on my acquiring all forms but I still fall off the wagon. I’d like to have a closer look at that stack you have I’m sure we have a few of the same but I’m curious on the ones I missed. Good one Axl!

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