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.



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