There are different reasons why you may want to appraise your records. You may be contemplating selling your records and want to be knowledgeable during negotiations. You may want to take out an insurance policy on your record collection and the insurance company needs an estimated value of the collection. Your collection may have suffered damage already and you would like a professional opinion about the value of its contents so you receive a fair insurance payment. You may be considering the donation of your collection to the Audio Preservation Fund and would like to know the value of the collection to use as a tax deduction.
Whatever the reason you are seeking the appraisal, and depending on your situation, there are two ways you may determine the value of your record collection. You can appraise the value of the collection yourself or you can hire an outside professional to conduct the appraisal. If you feel you are an experienced record collector and can determine the Fair Market Value of each one of your records, then you may consider taking on the task yourself. If you are appraising your collection for insurance or tax purposes, make sure that a self-appraisal is sufficient. Some insurance companies will not insure a collection that has not been appraised by an outside professional. If you are appraising for tax purposes, you can read the IRS regulations concerning collections here
Appraising Your Collection Yourself
If you decide a self-appraisal is the appropriate path to take, you will want to utilize all possible tools to determine the correct value of your recordings. It is always a good idea to use several different references to determine an average fair market value for a recording. You must also take into account the condition of the recording. Most price guides will only list the Near Mint and possibly the Very Good+ price listings. If the recording in your collection is below these condition ratings, you must determine what percentage below the given price listing your recording would possess. For a guide to grading the condition of your records you can visit our Grading
Picking up a copy of a current Price Guide from a local book store or library is a great place to start appraising your records. Some price guides are very specialized in the material they cover, so make sure the one you get is appropriate for the types of recordings in your collection. The Goldmine Price Guide are by far the most prevalent and popular guides in circulation, but there are more out there.
Online Price Guides
There are some websites that offer price listings for collectable recordings. Similar to book price guides, it is a good idea to reference multiple sites to get an average market value of the recording
Online marketplaces for recordings are growing very quickly. The advantage to the online marketplace for the appraiser is the ability to track several sales of the same recording and determine what collectors are paying for the recording. It is a good idea to watch several because this can help you avoid undervaluing or overvaluing a recording if the one sale you watch is not indicative of its usual market value.
Local Record Stores / Markets
Taking a trip to any nearby record stores can be very helpful. Visiting more than one store and browsing their stock may give you a range of prices your record(s) are selling for in the current market. Collectable record fairs and conventions happen periodically around the country. Visiting one to browse the merchandise, talk with the dealers, and talk with the buyers can be helpful as well.
Appraising Your Collection With an Outside Company
If you decide you need to hire someone to appraise your collection, there are several ways to find a professional appraisal service. The first way is to contact someone in your area. If the appraiser is able to physically inspect the records, they will be more likely to determine an accurate value for them. A good place to start looking for a local appraisal service is at a local music store that still sells records. The shop itself may offer the service, or they may know someone in the area that does. If there are no music shops left in your area, you can try searching in the phone book or online yellow pages.
If you cannot find anyone in your area, you will have to hire someone outside of your area. A simple online search engine will return many companies and/or persons that offer appraisal services. Most will require a list of the records in your collection, in either text or spreadsheet format, with a rating that gives them an idea of what condition each record is in. Some may accept shipped collections, but you will likely be required to pay for shipping costs. Some companies offer to travel to your location if your collection is very large, but you will likely be required to pay for travel expenses.
The rates will vary depending on the company. Some will charge an initial fee and then a fee per disc. Some will only charge per disc. Some will charge hourly rates.
Whoever you choose, make sure they clearly understand why you are appraising your records. This will help speed things along and help the required paperwork change hands. If you submit a list of the records in your collection, the more detailed you are about the condition of the record will help the appraiser give the most accurate appraisal.