some commonly misused terms in record collecting

Estimated reading time is 5 minutes.

THERE IS SOME CONFUSION regarding the use of certain terms for buying and selling records that is rampant on the Internet! It is also true at record stores, record collectors conventions, and through the mail using self-published sale lists, ads in magazines such as Goldmine—but not to the degree that one encounters it on the ‘Net. Here I will address several terms that are often confused with one another and thereby misused.

The misuse of these terms, regardless of the intent or lack thereof by the seller, can lead to misrepresentation and bad bad bad vibrations. Most of these terms apply equally to compact discs (CDs), the current media that replaced the LP and gracelessly ended the Vinyl Era (1948-1988 or so).

Please keep in mind that while the percentage of total sales of prerecorded music that is made up of vinyl 45 rpm singles and 33⅓ rpm albums in 2013 is small, it still means millions of records per year are being sold.

And, the total number of vinyl records sold has been growing slowly but steadily since at least 2000, each year making up a slightly larger percentage of sales—especially as the sales of CDs have plummeted due to internet downloading.


UsedRecords LPs 1200 crop
Once a record has been played, it is by definition ‘used’! In fact, once the shrinkwrap has been split and opened on an LP, the record should be considered used. That does not mean that this used record cannot be graded NM or even Mint; but whatever grade it is assigned, it remains a used record.

Out-of-print record is not always collectable

A record that has ceased to sell in quantities that makes its continued availability on the retail shelves of stores throughout the country less than profitable is usually deleted from the record company’s active catalog. Once deleted, the title is out-of-print, which is abbreviated as either OOP or oop.

Merriam-Webster Online defines out-of-print as it applies to book publishers, the industry in which the term originated. It is of use when discussing records:

•  In-print means that it is “procurable from the publisher.”
•  Out-of-print means the opposite, that it is “not procurable from the publisher.”

An out-of-print record is NOT necessarily a used record: if the out-of-print record is an album that is still in its original, factory-sealed shrinkwrap, it has never been played and is therefore not used.

Of course, a record need not be still-sealed to be unplayed; it’s just that it is impossible to prove to another person that it has not been played if the shrinkwrap has been opened.


Peanuts CharlieBrown recordcollection 700

Used is not necessarily collectable

This one should be REAL easy: a record that has been played at least once is a used record. A used record may be in print or out-of-print. A brand new 21st century manufactured record that you pay $19.99 or $24.99 or more for today (the 180-gram virgin vinyl reissues come to mind) and that you take home, open the shrink-wrap, and play once, is a used record.

Its retail value as a used record plummets from the price that you paid for it: it is usually in the $7.99-9.99 range in stores that carry used records.


JeanHaffner RecordExchange 900
Jean Haffner founded the Record Exchange in St. Louis in 1977. His collection currently resides in an old library building in south St. Louis. With over 10,000 square feet of music and memorabilia, this is one of the largest vinyl collections in the country. Jean is an old buddy and former contributor to my price guides.

Sealed is not always factory-sealed

For the first sixteen years or so in the history of the 33⅓ rpm LP record albums, albums were shipped to wholesalers without any kind of protective wrapping. By the mid-1950s, some wholesalers took it upon themselves to have the albums enclosed in loose plastic bag-like wrappers that were heat-sealed. This protected both the record and the jacket.

These bags were much thicker than the shrinkwrap with which most record-buyers and collectors are familiar and they were very loose around the album. They are often referred to as baggies.

By 1964, the record companies had adopted the use of a lighter plastic-like wrapping that was shrunk by heat to cling tightly to the album. This is where the modern term shrink-wrap originates. So, from 1964 to the present, albums could be considered and advertised as “still factory-sealed.”

A factory-sealed record album has a perfect wrap: the plastic is clear and completely transparent. The fit is so snug that it can pull the corners of the album down and in. The seam where the plastic wrapping was heat-sealed is usually right along the right side of the album, where the jacket opens to allow access to the record. (of course, exceptions occur.)

By the 1970s, companies that purchased returned records—that appeared mint and unplayed—were re-wrapping them, although the results were not often quite as perfect as factory-sealed albums. The plastic wrap was not as thin and often not as transparent. The giveaway was that the seam often ran up the back or front of the album, and then often with a bubble-effect around the heat-sealed seam.

This may sound arcane, but it’s really simple: once you have seen a re-wrapped album you will never mistake it for a factory-sealed album again!

These re-wrapped record albums are usually advertised as “still sealed,” implying factory-sealed. When purchasing an expensive album so advertised, you are advised to inquire of the seller for a description of the shrinkwrap.


MJ cartoon 900
We old farts tend to forget that there were several generations of record buyers after us who loved their records as much as we did ours—and some of them are collectors now. Great cartoon by Nate Beeler for The Columbus Dispatch.

Old is not necessarily collectable

Merriam-Webster Online gives us the pointless definition of collectible—the more contemporary spelling but not the preferred spelling for some of us—as “suitable for being collected.” So, if I say, “A collectable is anything suitable for being collected,” am I not then constructing a tautology?

Wikipedia does it a little bit better: “A collectable or collectible (aka collector’s item) is any object regarded as being of value or interest to a collector; [it is] not necessarily monetarily valuable or [an] antique. There are numerous types of collectables and [numerous] terms to denote those types.”


Crumb records800

The original image that I had at the top of this page was by Robert Crumb, a collector of pre-WWII blues, folk, and jazz 78 rpm records. As much as I love the drawing, it made for a terrible backdrop when I switched to a new theme. But I wasn’t about to let it go entirely, so it is now the last image on this page.



1 thought on “some commonly misused terms in record collecting”

  1. ERNIE

    Thank you for the kind words. Your comment found its way into my SPAM folder, so I didn’t see it until now.

    Please keep reading my site and sending new comments!

    And please keep turning your friends onto my site.



Leave a Comment