I’ve written about this a few times now but it’s time again to look at the price of vinyl. It’s a massive topic in the world of music collecting (obviously) and it’s been a thorn in the side of many a collector for the past while. I know I feel the pinch and have tightened up my buying, and several others have relayed that they too are either limiting or cutting out buying altogether.
But – there is a mitigating factor to consider here. It’s a big one too. The economy? It’s a pile of trash right now. Inflation is out the yazoo (though prices are apparently creeping their way back down). Wealth disparity is at some kind of all-time high and everything just seems like a burning wreck right now. Even if things get better, it will be incremental and will likely take time to get to some kind of plateau.
So – what’s the rule about what happens to the prices of collectibles in a crap economy? Collectibles take a nose dive in price when the economy sucks. It makes sense – spending money on collectible stuff is a luxury, and in tough times many people have to pare down and focus on the essentials. It might be a lovely thought to have a collection of every Air Supply single released in all major countries, but who can afford that when rent is quadrupling in price?
There is a bit of caveat here – this possible drop in price likely only applies to the secondary market. New vinyl releases will most likely retain their current price points. New vinyl has been going up, a symptom of supply constraints and the rising costs of everything. Vinyl costs more to make so it will cost more to buy. Maybe there will be some budget-minded reissues or something once the supply issues are fully worked out, but I would imagine the new vinyl market will remain mostly where it is now.
But old records? Those have been priced to the moon in the past few years. Before the great vinyl boom of the 2010’s, a person could hit up a yard sale or flea market and walk away with a nice copy of an old standard for a quarter or a buck at best. Even a copy of a hallowed release like Air Supply’s Greatest Hits could be tripped over at the entrance to a flea market.
Since the vinyl boom, though, prices of even pedestrian old releases can bust $20. Budget record shopping is almost non-existent. Anything with a hint of collectible value is through the roof, and scarce releases like a lot of 1990’s vinyl have insane prices. That is the market that is likely to suffer in an economic downturn.
I haven’t noticed much action on prices yet, or much of anything from the vinyl market. But the signs are out there in other collectible categories. The collectible card games market (Magic The Gathering, etc) is seeing soft demand and lower prices on old product. The warning bells are already ringing in that sector, and it only stands to reason that other markets will follow.
Of course any real kind of downturn doesn’t happen overnight. There will still be tons of listings on Discogs for prices well above the listed median. But those records will just sit there. Stores that want to move inventory will begin marking down. And private collectors faced with troubling times will list their stuff in fire sale mode, driving prices down.
This scenario isn’t necessarily a boon for the budget-minded collector. The vinyl boom brought about a host of new record stores, owned and operated as small business ventures. Those stores will suffer during a vinyl downturn. This whole thing won’t just be a price correction because of the economy – it will lower demand and stunt the ability of sellers to find buyers. The ability to get vinyl at lower prices would come after a massive culling and our collecting landscape would not be the same.
Now I don’t know what will truly happen – it could be total doomsday, or it could be some lesser version of events that knocks stuff down a bit but doesn’t have earth-shattering effects on the scene as a whole. But the formula for a vinyl downturn is there – simply put, it’s in the economic downturn as a whole. How it all plays out remains to be seen.
On the note of vinyl and prices – I know myself and many others have been limiting purchases, or given up totally. I’ve only bought a few things this year and I have few plans for future buying – it’s expensive and I need my money for other things.
Here is a video done recently by my buddy David on his YouTube channel Hard Rock Reverie. He talks about this issue and his own suspension of purchases. There are a lot of collecting dominoes falling right now and that’s probably not a good sign for the state of the market.