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Record Shows 101: Get the Most Out of Your Next Crate-Digging Excursion

Headed to your first record show and not sure where to start? Intimidated by aisles and aisles of record crates and seasoned collectors? We've got you covered! We've rounded up some of the best tips to help you get the most out of your next trip to the record store and score big!

Early bird admissions

This isn’t much of a secret, but many record shows have two levels of admissions: one for regular attendees, and one for early birds. For a few more bucks, early birds can show up an hour or two before the crowds start to form. If you’re paranoid that flocks of people are going to swoop in (bird puns intended?) and buy all of the rare records you were hoping to find, this might be the option for you. There’s a few pitfalls, however. Vendors probably aren’t going to be flexible with you on prices this early, since they have the entire rest of the show to make sales. You’ve also got to be pretty sure there’s going to be something worth your while to offset the extra cost of admission that you could potentially be putting towards more records. If you’re willing to pay full price and you think you’ll find a rare gem by showing up early, give it a shot!

Don’t be afraid of dollar bins

While dollar bins are more likely to be three-dollar bins nowadays, don’t be afraid to dig for gold! Some of my best finds have been in bargain bins, and I’m less inclined to care about a few pops here and there if the price is right. There’s plenty of serious collectors that will skip right over dollar bins in search of mint condition pieces, but I say their loss! This also means you’re more likely to stumble upon something seriously amazing where no one else expects it. Check the vinyl itself for quality, make sure it’s not too warped or there are no huge gouges that will render it unplayable, and consider yourself good to go!

Bartering is okay

To a certain extent, that is. Don’t be a jerk about it, but it never hurts to ask a seller if they’re willing to be flexible on a price. In fact, they’re probably expecting you to. If there’s something that they sunk a serious chunk of change into that they need to make a certain profit on in order to be worth it, they’re going to be firm on price. Don’t push it. But do ask, especially if you’re on the fence about something, and a small discount will be the deciding factor for whether you buy or walk away. Most sellers are especially happy to knock a few bucks off the total if you buy a handful of things from them, and might even do it without you asking.

Check the walls

I can’t tell you how many times I almost missed something amazing by forgetting to look up. This goes for both record shows and stores. Regular sellers tend to have a good setup with a combination of record bins and wall displays, and the walls are often where rare and pricier albums sit. That doesn’t mean that everything on the wall is going to be expensive– sometimes the vendor just wants to showcase something they like, or that they think might draw someone in.

Don’t be afraid to ask!

If there’s something you’re hunting for that you can’t seem to find, don’t be afraid to ask for it. If it’s not physically at the record show, the seller might still have it at their store, or amongst the items they didn’t choose to bring with them that day. Records are heavy, and people aren’t inclined to bring their entire collection with them. I’ve had vendors tell me they had what I was looking for and they’d bring it to the next show, or that they had it at their shop and they’d put it aside for me if I was coming by soon. A lot of these record store owners are friendly with each other, and they may even be willing to point you to a seller that has what you’re looking for.

Get cards and flyers

Ah, print materials, the most analog form of communications. If you frequent a lot of these record fairs and shows, you’ll find that many of them are still surprisingly word of mouth. If a dealer has a brick-and-mortar record store, they probably have a business card with them and would be more than happy to send you off with one. It’s a great way to find more record stores, especially if the record-dealer is less tech savvy and doesn’t have a big online presence. I’ve also received a fair share of printed flyers for the next upcoming record show, and you’d be surprised at how many record shows still rely on individual mailing lists, flyers, and the random facebook page for traffic.

I hope this has inspired you to get going on some serious crate digging! Any more tips that have helped you out at a record fair? Let us know!


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