Here’s What Your Old Record Collection Is Actually Worth

A person pulls out the Grateful Dead's 1969 Their Live/Dead album from it's cover sleeve that is orange and pink. The record retails for $40.
The Grateful Dead is one of rock-n-roll's most iconic bands. Their Live/Dead album was released in 1969 and recorded live over a series of concerts. The first live rock album to use 16-track recording, Live/Dead is selling at for $40 at Bananas Records. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

When it comes to selling your old records to make extra cash, don’t get your hopes up.

And know this: Condition matters most. Frank Sinatra matters least.

“At one time the shelf that held all the Sinatra albums was 70 feet wide,” said Doug Allen, Bananas Records’ owner. “We have way too much of that.”

What Bananas Records buys and sells the most are classic rock n’ roll, punk and jazz albums. And that’s for around $5 — if the album and the cover are in great condition.

“Records don’t compare to coins and stamps and books,” Allen said. ”There’s not really anything that’s worth $100,000 or more.”

Many records that sold in the millions are still popular with collectors and album buyers, but so many copies are still in circulation that they don’t sell for much.

On the other hand, records that only sold 20,000 copies — jazz from the 1950s, early punk rock — may be worth more. Allen has seen jazz albums from that era, such as early Miles Davis, go for $500 to $700 a piece, while classic punk might sell for $50 to $100.

Most record collectors these days are between the ages of 18 and 35, and used record dealers will try to buy records that will appeal to both avid collectors as well as other, more casual buyers.  That includes artists like Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and John Coltrane.

“There are still some Beach Boy fans out there,” Allen said. “There’s some country that’s worth something. Early Hank Williams. Some Johnny Cash.”

Allen would pay around $3 to $5 an album for these in good condition. He noted that Michael Jackson albums in good shape are selling.

“Two weeks after his death you could sell anything you could get your hands on for $30 to $40,” Allen said. “Now they are worth about $7 to $10.”

However, don’t bother bringing your Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow or Elvis Presley records.

“These kids who are buying records today, many of them have never heard of Elvis,” Allen said. “That era is gone.”

This three part photo shows the album cover and the actual record of Sonny Rollins, who is considered one of the most important jazz musicians in America. The record retails for $1,000 at Banana Records. Then there is a portrait of Doug Allen, the Banana Records owner, with his warehouse full of records. Some are on shelves while others are in boxes.
Doug Allen, bottom, co-owns Bananas Records with his wife, Michelle Allen, not photographed, which is one of the largest vinyl record retailers in the world with about 3.5 million records. Sonny Rollins, top, is considered one of the most important jazz musicians in American history. His sixth album, Saxophone Colossus, is selling at Bananas Records for $1,000. Chris Zuppa / The Penny Hoarder

An Album’s Value Is About More Than the Music

Other factors affect the value of an album, including a record label or address of the recording studio, which can indicate if it’s a first or second pressing; the country in which the album was released; and whether the album was autographed.

The condition of the album cover is as important as the vinyl itself. Water damage, tears and marks can all decrease an album’s value. However, Allen and other collectors frequently buy the album on its own if it’s in good shape and the cover isn’t, and vice versa.

Allen advises anyone who is trying to sell their collection to take it to their local vintage record store and have them take a look and let you know what’s worth money.

One couple recently brought two wheeled suitcases full of albums into Bananas Record, and they were able to sell many of them for a total of $60.

Pro Tip

Mono vs. stereo? Mint or near mint? Here’s what you should know when selling your vinyl records.

Here’s What Your DVDs and CDs Are Actually Worth

What about DVDs, CDs and even 8-tracks? Allen and Stout have some guidance for anyone trying to unload their old movies and music.

DVDs

Stout will offer up to 50 cents for DVDs from the ‘80s and ‘90s that aren’t very common. This does not include romantic comedies and blockbusters like “The Matrix.”

“Nobody wants to buy romantic comedies, or all the Adam Sandler movies,” Stout said.

A Disney classic in good shape might bring $1 or $2.

“Most of those are destroyed because people let their children put them in and out [of the DVD players],” Stout said.

Pro Tip

Looking to unload your old CDs and DVDs, no matter how much they're worth? Check out these five places you can sell stuff online.

CDs

CDs are less popular each year, as there are fewer cars with CD players. Stout usually pays 25 cents for them.

VHS 

“We haven’t purchased those in 5 to 6 years,” she said, adding that it’s hard to find non-profit retail stores that accept them.

8-Track

“I would say there’s no market for them with the exception of a cult following,” Allen said. “Maybe a KISS 8-track, something you wouldn’t expect.” Those might bring in $10 to $15.

Katherine Snow Smith is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.