Updated: Mar 16, 2022
How to easily value your records using a free database and marketplace called Discogs
It can be challenging, overwhelming and daunting for collectors to assign a value to what they have. Luckily, there are solutions to help you get to a fair market value quickly and easily using websites, apps and specialized software.
Today our focus will be on the website Discogs. Designed for the music enthusiast, Discogs describes itself as aspiring to build "the most comprehensive music database and marketplace." It was started in 2000 as a hobby project by a software engineer named Kevin Lewandowski and has since grown to include entries by over 620,000 individuals, boasting a catalog of more than 14,977,809 recordings and 7,994,758 artists. Although not the Library of Congress, it's safe to say this is the one of the most comprehensive databases out there for vinyl record, cassette and CD collectors.
For this example, I took the 24 record albums that currently live next to my turntable, poured a hot cup of coffee, and began entering them into the Discogs' website. The total process took about 1 hour from start to finish with most of the time spent identifying the correct print of each album. To select the correct print, you visually inspect the sleeves, record labels, album spine and barcodes and use to the identifiers to add the version you own to your collection. By knowing the print version, Discogs will give you statistical information on the rarity, demand and a best estimate of value based on their previous sales.
That means that you aren't adding "The Beatles - White Album" to your collection, but you add the exact print version that you own, or in my case, that you have on permanent loan from your parents. A quick search of The Beatles White album came back with 761 different versions. This is to be expected for a popular album like this one, with presumable hundred of versions and some user generated duplicates. So I went back to my record label to find more identifiable characteristics.
I added the "SMO 2051" catalog number and was left with only 8 results. All of these results were very similar, the only difference being the country of manufacture. So I went back to album one more time and was able to find a mark above the stem on the apple on disc 2 where "manufactured in Germany" was stamped (see below). I applied the filter for "Germany" and was left with the correct version for my album. Discogs estimated the median value of $27 and there are two of this same version on the marketplace currently for sale at ~$76.
Pro-tips: Great feedback was provided by the community over at r/vinyl discord.
Tip #1: If you have a newer records you can use the Discogs app to scan the barcode on your albums and quickly add them to your collection.
Tip #2: The run out groove of the record, (pictured below where you can faintly see "manufactured in Germany") can also be a reliable source of identification. The alphanumeric number found here is used in the pressing factory to identify an album before it received its label. It's referred to as a matrix id, which is debatably as cool as it sounds and will 99% of the time take you to your exact pressing.
White Album was probably one of the worst offenders for duplicate versions. For most albums I could pull up the correct result with a quick visual once-over and one or two searches, tops.