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Check price guides before unloading old vinyl

Last year, I sold my copy of Built to Spill's "Keep it Like A Secret" over Craigslist for $5. This weekend, I saw the same LP--it might even have been my copy--at a local record store for $70.

I don't consider myself a vinyl collector. Although most of my music is on vinyl--about 700 records, compared with less than 200 CDs and a smattering of digital-only files--I buy it because I like the sound, and pay little attention to original labels versus reissues, imports versus domestic, cover art, and all the other arcana that collectors concern themselves with. Still, like anybody else who haunts record shows, I've always hoped in the back of my mind that I'd stumble on the next Butcher Cover--that's the original cover of the Beatles album "Yesterday and Today," which the record company pulled almost immediately and can now fetch $1,000 or more (especially if it's one of the ones that the record company recalled and pasted the new cover over).

Would you pay $70 for this record?

This weekend at my local record store, I saw an LP I sold on Craigslist last year for five bucks. It was the 2001 Built to Spill album, "Ancient Melodies of the Future," used, in near-mint condition. (For all I know, it was the same copy I sold.) I listened to it twice, didn't like it, never got around to listening to it again, and finally cleared it out along with a bunch of other indie-rock vinyl I'd bought in the last decade but never liked. (Wolf Parade, The Rapture, The Walkmen, and other regrets.)

At first, I thought I had misread the price tag. $69.95? That had to be a mistake. I've never--never--been able to sell a used record to a record store for more than $5, and usually got a lot less, which is why I finally turned to Craigslist. I asked the guy at the counter how they came up with that price, and he said that there are various record guides, and that I should really do my research before selling anything.

I know I looked it up on eBay, but turned up blank, so I mistook the lack of supply for lack of demand. Perhaps I should have checked GEMM or the Discogs Marketplace (free registration required). If I had, I might have noticed that the only version of this LP available online was listed at more than $30, and that's for very good condition. ("Very good" means pretty bad, but not quite unlistenable...don't ask me, it's a collector thing, same as with coins). Another site, Music Price Guide, listed it for as much as $69, although this seems like a scam ad-link-farm--most of the items on sale link to long-expired eBay auctions. Still, it gives you an idea what people have been asking for a particular title.

Did it have the poster? I'm pretty sure it did. Oh well.