Friday 20 April 2018

Treasures: Vinyl a sound investment

Ireland's fine arts, antiques and collectables column

Love Me Do signed by The Beatles
Love Me Do signed by The Beatles
That's All Right

Eleanor Flegg

What was the first record you ever bought? Anyone born before 1980 will be able to answer that question.

Buying a record was a defining moment. Your choice of music said a lot about who you were and purchasing it on vinyl was like bringing home your identity in a plastic bag. How about your first MP3 download? Chances are, that wasn't such a memorable experience at all.

"A record is the ultimate interactive music format," says Dennis Cassidy of The Record Spot. "You buy it, bring it home, unwrap it, take it out of its sleeve and put it on the turntable… then you have to get up every 20 minutes to turn it over."

For people who grew up with vinyl, this archaic ritual is tinged with nostalgia.

Many of his customers are vinyl natives, seeking to recreate the lost record collection of their youth. In the early 1990s, many record collections were discarded or abandoned in favour of CDs, but the compact disc proved to be a short lived format. Now, vinyl is back in style.

More surprisingly, Cassidy also sells a lot of records to people in their late teens and early 20s. "They missed out on vinyl the first time round and they're looking for something more tangible than a digital download."

Another factor in the resurgence of interest in vinyl is that the analogue recordings have a different quality of sound. "There's a lot more subtlety in the vinyl," says Cassidy. "You're missing out on a lot of timbres and nuances with MP3."

On the flip side, vinyl records are vulnerable to dust and scratches. Incorrectly stored, they can warp in the heat. The attic, for example, is not a good place to keep vinyl. At The Record Spot (it's in the basement of The Rage on Dublin's Fade Street) you pay between €20 and €30 for a new album or a reissue of a popular classic by the likes of Led Zeppelin or Joy Division. But these, although they look like vintage albums, don't date from the time the music was recorded. A record can be reprinted, just like a book, and original or early pressings are much more collectible than later ones.

For example, you could probably pick up a reissue of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon for less than €30. A first pressing of the same album, in excellent condition and including the original posters, could be worth €800.

Online nerd forums discuss the relative merits of various pressings with the enthusiasm of wine tasters discussing vintages but, from the outside, one pressing can look very much like another.

If you want to determine the value of a record, the best bet is to check out the serial number (it's stamped into the vinyl close to the central label). This number differentiates one pressing from another. Enter the serial number into one of the many online search engines and you should come up with its likely market value.

Almost all records are worth something. If you bring a box of records into a dealer you'll probably be offered 30pc of the sales price in cash or 50pc in store credit. While this isn't going to make you rich, it does offer the opportunity to replace the records that you don't want with some that you'll enjoy listening to.

"We check for damage and that the sleeves are in good condition, but nothing is too weird for us," says Cassidy. "We try to keep the collection as eclectic as possible." He's recently purchased a vintage record called How To Use A Typewriter. "Somebody might use it for sampling," he speculates.

Alex Chamberlain, dealer in vintage vinyl, is based in Kilcrohane, West Cork. You'll find his shop, Toy Republic, above the post office. "It's like an old fashioned record shop - you can flick through the albums," he says. "Young ones like the covers - they're full of information. With downloads you can get the information off the internet but you don't physically own it. It's in cyberspace."

Chamberlain's wares range from 1980s pop singles (four for €1), through the usual suspects of vinyl - David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison - to 1960s and 1970s reggae. "I can't get enough of it," he says.

His most expensive album is the short-lived original of Led Zeppelin's debut album, known as the "turquoise version". At €3,000, it's a collectors' item. "I wish it was signed," he says. "But that's not going to happen. They spent most of their lives not talking to each other and now the drummer's dead."

Signed records can be very valuable, often as much for the autograph as for the album itself. Chamberlain once had an original pressing of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), signed by all the Beatles. "Someone offered me €23,500 for it," he says.

If you have a rare or valuable album, you're better selling through a specialised record auction than a dealer, but most auctioneers aren't interested in trawling through boxes of old records. The best plan is to check out the prices online first.

"Most sellers have an inflated idea of what their record collection is worth," says Stuart Purcell of Whyte's.

There are, of course, exceptions. In March 2015, a first pressing of That's All Right, a seven inch single recorded by Elvis Presley for Sun Records in 1955, sold at Whyte's for €1,000. In the same auction, a seven inch single of Love Me Do (1962), signed by all the Beatles, sold for €3,600.


In the salerooms


An antique auction at City Auction Rooms in Waterford will take place on Monday at 10.30am.

It will include two paintings by Thomas Ryan PPRHA (b.1929): Liffey, Up Stream, oil on canvas (60cm x 70cm), is estimated between €5,000 and €7,000; and a signed self portrait, est €4,000 to €6000.

There are also two paintings by Arthur Maderson, Almost Dusk, (€4,000 to €6,000) and Lady In Red (€1,200 to €1,500).

The auction also includes a Waterford droplet chandelier (€900 to €1,200); a Waterford 10 branch chandelier (€1,600 to €2,000); a Victorian mahogany grandfather clock by Richard Dillon of Waterford (€800 to €1,200); and a Victorian oak and mahogany-cased grandfather clock with a brass face, by Benjamin Andrew of St Austle (€1,500 to €2,400).



An Antiques, Art and Vintage Fair will take place in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire on Sunday from 11am to 6pm. Expect more than 30 exhibitors from Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK, selling items ranging from antique furniture and vintage décor, antique silver and art, to vintage fashion, mid-century homeware, rare books and quirky collectables. Admission is €3.50.


An auction of Fine Jewellery, Watches and Silver will take place at O’Reilly’s Auction Rooms next Wednesday at 1pm. Highlights include a four-row cultured pearl necklace with an antique diamond set cluster clasp (€8,000 to €9,000) and a fine pink sapphire and diamond halo cluster pendant and chain mounted in white gold (€5,500 to €6,000).

There will also be a number of small affordable items, many of them antiques. Brooches offer particularly good value, including an antique 18ct gold crescent brooch set with turquoise and seed pearls (€180 to €220) and an antique 14ct gold crescent brooch set with turquoise and seed pearls (€120 to €140).

A talking-point piece, a tiger tooth brooch mounted in 9ct gold is €80 to €100. For full details, see


An auction of fine interior furnishing will take place at Adam’s on Sunday at 12pm.

Highlights include an 18th century mahogany long case clock made by James Aickin (fl. 1738-1780) of Cork (his name is proudly inscribed on the brass dial).

This dates from an era where grandfather clocks were truly individual and is estimated between €3,000 and €5,000. Another piece of Irish heritage is for sale in the shape of a Belleek first period model of a Crouching Venus (1863-1890).

The piece is 46cm high and estimated between €2,000 and €4,000. A sentimental Victorian painting, Puppies Bathtime by Charles George Hards (fl. 1883-1891) shows an original that paved the way for multiple clichéd imitations and is estimated between €3,000 and €5,000. For full details, see

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