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Famed Vintage Vinyl Owner Steven Kay on the Newest Trends in Vinyl

Vintage Vinyl
Tim Breitberg

Vintage Vinyl

Immortalized in the film version of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity and frequented by The Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, Vintage Vinyl in Evanston, Ill., has been a record collector's mecca ever since Steven Kay opened its doors in 1979. Beyond the well-stocked racks of the store, Kay has amassed more than 50,000 records of his own.

How do you know if a record is in mint ­condition?
Look at the color of the grooves, which might be gray instead of rich black if not cared for properly. Look at warpage on records, especially ones from the mid-'70s manufactured during the oil crisis; hold it up as straight to your eye as possible to look at the flatness. Also check for spindle marks around the label, which can diminish the value.

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What's trending right now?
The generation who grew up collecting music of the '60s and '70s are now retiring, downsizing or passing away, so a lot of things that were not on the market even 10 years ago are now coming back.

What are some of the most ­valuable records from that era?
The first Led Zeppelin album, which was pressed in England in 1969, had a different mix and a different color of their name on the cover. And even in not-mint condition, the first pressing of The Beatles' Please Please Me goes for about $3,000.

Which other eras of music are sound investments right now?
It is a good time for people to start looking at Britpop again -- early singles by Oasis or Blur. There's a Blur single, "The Wassailing Song," that goes for about $300 now; they pressed less than 500 copies and sold them at one of their shows. Oasis' first single, "Columbia," which was only sent out to reviewers, is worth about $300 to $400.

How about David Bowie -- did his records go up in value after his death?
The prices went through the roof. There’s always a frenzy after an artist passes away and people think there’s money to be made there. But it’s already beginning to be on the other side of it.

A version of this story originally appeared in the April 16 issue of Billboard.

 

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