I’ve been collecting 7-inch, 45 RPM vinyl records, also referred as singles or 45s, for few months now. Here’s my toughts about the inspiration, aestethics and fun involved.
It all began from bargin purchase of 1963 Braun SK55, record player with integrated tube amplifier, in full working order. The player is upgraded version of one of Dieter Rams’ early masterworks for Braun, SK4. After cleaning it up from layers of dust and dirt, the player started to shine white and transparent, like it used to do. What a (functional) beauty!
I realised, that while the player had no problems playing 7,10 and 12-inch albums, it was more designed to play 7-inch records. The record plate was just over 7-inch by diameter, so 7-inch vinyl record covered the plate nicely. During its release, in early 60s, 7-inch records were on top of their popularity. Standard wars were over. 45 rpm was the most popular speed format for singles, that normally cost 99 cents at the local record store. Braun simplified the player design as well, to match the popular speeds, 16, 35 and 45.
So I started my new format record hunt without any preconception of what to expect from availability, selection, physical condition, best outlets and typical price. Though they press new 7-inch records, I was more interested of sounds that were recorded at the time of the release of the Braun SK55. So I went directly for second hand. However, I had no preference over any band, group, country, language, artist or genre. I simply was ready to grab, what comes along at a decent price.
To my surprise, best places to find bargins were not the standard record stores. (For statistics sake, there are about 3-6 decent record stores in major cities in Finland, most not carrying vinyl, most not doing well.) Some of them had good selection of 45’s priced between two polarities, classics at 10-20 euros, and marginal, worse condition or recent (80s) releases anywhere between 50 cents to 2 euros.
The best places to find your 45’s ended up being garage sale warehouses, where individual record collectors or random amateurs store & sell their records. I’ve visited warehouses in three cities and best deals and findings have always been at forgotten stall in the back corner. I haven’t bought anything online, likes of eBay anf others. I still need to see the product.
Now, here’s what me, amateur 45 -collector, have found out about the domain of garage archives sale.
Since you don’t have the possibility to listen the record at the warehouse, you have to do visually all the quality evaluation work. Also the lighting is often really bad for physical condition check. When a cool piece is priced anywhere over 3 euros, you don’t really want to waste it in something unplayable. Scratches, dirt, misplaced etching, bending etc. Remember that there might be really good reason, why nobody want’s to own this particular copy.
You also can evaluate the issue, perhaps original or reissue, year of release, is it cover or original version, is it part of a re-recorded collection? Most second hand 45’s are sold without covers. Beware that covers are also easily mixed, so check the content of cool looking record sleeve.
I’ve basically done all possible mistakes, and ended paying something for record thought to be something completely else. Luckily the prices paid are really low.
My worst purchase? Most likely 70s italo pop classic with bad etching fault (meaning when you clearly see that the pressing is not in the middle of the record) or hit single with only one side, b-side only playable because of the same thing. My best surprise must have been treasure found inside sub-low-price cover, in my case Ornette Coleman 45’ or Beatles 45’ at the end of long row of discs for 1,50 euros. Do I think about the collector value or vinyl as investment? I check my purchases from Discogs just to get a touch on the value/rarity factor.
Currently, I have a collection of about 75 decent sounding 45’s - 60s classics, jazz, pop from Italy, Spain and Finland, 70s, 80s. All of them has been hand picked by me individually. Average price is about 2 euros. I’ve learned much as a purchaser. I do try to avoid dull reissues or covers or classic releases and I keep reminding myself that the has to be ‘a find!’ -factor involved. A 20 euro record is rarely a find, it’s a steal, and you have lost the option to discover the same 45 at 3 euros.
Generally speaking, collecting 45’s is fun. You see exciting places, meet exciting people, your puchases don’t weight so much, and don’t take too much space, you learn about the history of the record format and songs, there is good availability of material, you don’t spend too much and you still have the opportunity to find treasures.
So, although there are real bargin gems to be hunted for, beware and your take time. For each beauty there are about 50 really crappy, by content or by condition, 45’s that you really should not buy or even carry home.
Here’s some more inspiration from the world of 45s, taken from vinyl enthusiasts blog Dust & Grooves.