Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Vinyl Record Collection

Whether you’ve been collecting records for two years or two decades, it’s never been a better time to get into vintage vinyl records. Vinyl has been making a huge comeback. So, where do you start? If you’re looking to get started or upgrade your expanding vinyl record collection, here are some of our best tips for buying records, storing them, and keeping them in great condition.

Where to Buy Vinyl Records Today

Like we said, it’s never been easier or more fun to get into growing your vinyl record collection. Today, you can get records pretty much anywhere, too. These are some of the best places to score some deals:

  • Thrift stores
  • Vintage clothing and furniture stores
  • Record stores (the obvious choice…)

patron shifting through vinyl records

How to Buy Records Online

Casual shopping in vintage stores and local record shops may be a great way to spend an afternoon, but these places tend to be saturated with lots of easily-accessible stuff that exists in millions of copies still circulating in new releases today. We all love Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, but do you really need eight copies of it?

Ironically, if you’re looking for more niche releases, you’ll find the best records online these days, specifically from other audiophiles on message boards and marketplaces like Discogs or Ebay.

The Vinyl Grading System

You can get records almost anywhere today, but if you’re buying them cheap from secondhand stores, you’ll likely be let down by the poor quality a lot of records seem to be in today. That’s why people pay some serious premiums when they’re expanding their vinyl record collections. Stuff that’s rare and in perfect or near-perfect condition generally catches the highest prices from good record stores, message boards, and marketplace sites.

When you’re buying from a reputable site or store, you’ll likely come across the Goldmine Grading System. This is the criteria that lots of collectors use to grade vinyl records’ quality:

  • Mint (M): This indicates that a record is perfect. Even if it’s vintage, it should still look and sound as if it just arrived new from a record store. To be considered truly mint, there should be no scratches, imperfections, or warping. Mint records are also ones that have never been opened. As you can imagine, mint records will usually come with a pretty steep price tag, especially if you’re looking for an old release of an album, single, or EP that’s no longer in circulation.
  • Near Mint: (NM): This is the second best grade. A record that’s near mint should still lack any visible defects or marks. It’s likely already been opened from its original packaging. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a near mint record has been played before.
  • Very Good+ (VG+): A record with this grade will play well and sound great but there may be minor marks, scruffs, or other imperfections. None of these should affect the sound quality, though.
  • Very Good (VG): Records with this grade will have more obvious imperfections, flaws, and marks. They generally sound okay but their age and wear will definitely come across after you play them a few times. These also tend to be the most common records you’ll come across.
  • Good (G): Good records can be played without any skips. However, you’ll notice a lot of surface noise. The sound quality will definitely be indicative of how old or worn these records are.
  • Fair (F) and Poor (P): Unfortunately, these records will probably sound terrible. They’ll have obvious cracks, scratches, and warps. Expect these records to skip or repeat whenever they’re played.

Get the Best Possible Record Player You Can Afford

If you’re investing a lot of time and money into finding your favorite artists on vinyl, ensure you’re using the best possible turntable, too. Just as there are tons of ways to upgrade your vinyl record collection today, you can also find a lot of great starter turntables for less than $500.

To start, decide which of the two primary types you want: belt drive or direct drive. A lot of DJs like direct drive players because they allow you to spin up to speed. However, most turntables you’ll find in stores or online are belt drive. These run on rubber belts, and with these, you can isolate the motor and reduce its vibration for better sound quality.

Storing Your Vinyl Record Collection

If you’re collecting records over time, odds are you’ll need to find a good way to keep them organized and easily accessible. Here are some tips for storing your record collection:

  • Keep them vertical. This will keep them from warping.
  • Store them indoors, at a cool temperature with minimal humidity, heat, and no direct light. Keep your vinyl record collection in a relatively dark, temperature-controlled environment at about 65 to 70 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Only handle your records with clean hands. Washing and drying your hands will prevent your records from collecting dirt.
  • Only handle records at the outer edges or by the labeled areas.
  • Use the best record storage. Consider using milk crates, boxes or shelves as long as they’re sized appropriately and can keep your records upright.
  • Keep records in their sleeves when they’re not being played. Always use inner sleeves and outer sleeves for protection.

black vinyl record player stand

Regular Cleaning and Long-Term Upkeep

Last but not least, cleaning and maintenance. Cleaning your vinyl record collection ensures you’ll be able to enjoy your favorites for years to come. Follow these six basic steps:

  • Use an antistatic brush to remove dust before spraying cleaning solution.
  • Before spraying, inspect your records for marks, warping, or fingerprints.
  • Spray an alcohol-free cleaning solution.
  • Wipe your records using circular motions that emulate the circular grooves.
  • Rinse and dry your records.
  • Keep them stored according to our tips above.

If you need some help keeping your records clean and in great condition, check out our record cleaning kit. Read our blog for more tips to keep your record collection in great shape.