A Personal Guide to finding your obscure white whale vinyl
So, you’re getting a little more into the “hardcore” side of vinyl collecting. For some of the more obscure bands, and even bands who are not-so-obscure, you’re sure to run into a problem. There’s an album you love that you want to own, only to find that its only vinyl pressing is extremely rare and expensive. Personally, I would rather there not be a vinyl pressing at all than to have that price tag on Discogs leering at me intimidatingly. Luckily enough, more often than not, there is some sort of repress offered that is less expensive than the original, but sadly that is not always the case. Sometimes the rarity may have to do with the era it was released in. For example, the late 90s and early 2000s were what I like to refer to as the “vinyl-pocalypse” in which labels tended to neglect vinyl due to its “death”. Due to the surge in popularity of vinyl, these small releases have become upwards of ten-times their original retail value. A good example of this is the Beck release “Midnite Vultures”. That album came out in 1999, which is a time where everyone was just using CDs, or tapes in some cases. At the time of this article, there is only one existing pressing of the album and the cheapest copy for sale is a whopping $206.49. You would think that with such a big artist like Beck combined with a big label like the David Geffen Company there would be some more availbility with the release, but since vinyl was a dying format, you can’t really blame them for having a small pressing. It’s surprising they had one at all!
It makes sense; Beck is popular and many fans praise Midnite Vultures, so there is a large number of people interested in owning the vinyl. The demand outweighs the supply. But what about albums by more independent or lesser-known bands? My favorite album and white whale is Secaucus by New Jersey band The Wrens, released in 1996. It’s a power-pop-punk explosion of emotional yet somewhat bashful delivery. It’s a release that did not sell that many copies, and just when they were getting some recognition they were fired by the label, which has led the album to be forgotten. When I went to research about a vinyl pressing, my heart sunk when I went to discogs and saw that there was a pricetag of $500 right next to it. But then I started to think, what in the world does an album no one has ever heard of cost so much for? I still don’t really have an answer to this, because many albums that were in the same boat as them are dirt cheap, even ones on the same label, but some are also almost as expensive. I have determined with some fellow collectors on reddit that there are plenty of collectors out there who specialize in these rare indie releases, so there is also a competitive market.
Eventually, someone went ahead and purchased it. I thought it was funny but then realized… now there was no other copy available for sale. Discogs, in my opinion, should always be your go-to for trying to purchase a record secondhand. It’s a helpful and versatile tool for all collectors There is a large community of people who help to contribute to the database and rate sellers, giving you the most accurate and efficient experience possible. But what if you can’t find it there? I turned my searches to Ebay, of which there was nothing more than the CD. Well… what are you to do then?
I’ve listed off all the methods that assisted me in my journey to find my seemingly impossible-to-find white whale:
#1: Discogs. I mentioned already how helpful discogs is from the casual to the hardcore collector, but I really mean it. You can use it to send you notifications even to your email when an item on your wantlist is for sale. Just click “Add To Wantlist” and wait for that notification when someone wants to part with their copy! I have personally seen many copies go for sale this way of other expensive (but less hard to find) releases like the album Stratosphere by Duster. With this in place, you may just find a guy who wants to get rid of it as fast as possible!
#2: Ebay. Discogs is a database/marketplace, which means it’s usually easy to find information on the release you’re looking for. Ebay is not quite the same, since it is exclusively a marketplace and every item listing is uninque, but this has its advantages. I checked Ebay almost every day for a vinyl copy of Secaucus, and one day I actually found an auction of it which came from the UK. I didn’t win the bid because of a complicated misunderstanding, but I was able to find it just simply by checking.
#3: Discogs knock-offs. There are plenty of sites similar to Discogs which primarily function as just marketplaces exclusively for media. One I always check is MusicStack. The interface is a bit confusing sometimes, but I was surprisingly able to find many releases which included some by the Wrens, not the one I was looking for sadly. But, not everyone lists everything on just discogs or ebay. The more places you look and check daily, the higher your chances are to find your white whale, perhaps for even a better price.
#4: Get in touch with people. There are so many people on the internet who have a wide knowledge of musisc and make their living off of selling or auctioning records. I came into contact with someone who was selling a copy of Secaucus for a hefty price, and his copy was really nice. I asked if we could work out a deal, which he politely declined, but he told me he would keep his eyes and ears peeled for a copy in the wild, or if one of his vinyl-junkie contacts had one they were looking to get rid of. If you can find someone that will help you, your experience may be a lot easier. This step helped me especially, because I was able to discuss the release and have more people in on looking for it.
#5: Get into touch with the band. Even bands who ended their careers decades ago may still have social media for promotional purposes, or just to keep in touch with fans or possible future projects. In my case, The Wrens had no idea their sophomore album Secaucus ever made it to wax. They had little control over the release, and now none at all due to complicated old contracts. However, their third album, The Meadowlands, which they have control over has a vinyl pressing that is relatively expensive as well, ranging from $100 to $200. There was a larger number of copies pressed than Secaucus presumably, so I’m not exactly sure why the price went up so much or why it’s still so high, but back in 2014 it was going up for sale at ridiculously high prices like that. But, the band announced that they still had reasonable $20 copies for sale on their website. Sadly, that is no longer the case, but plenty of people avoided getting ripped off just by simply following what the band was doing/saying. Sometimes sending a friendly email or message can get a conversation going, you never know what copies of what a band might have lying around. I’ve even been given random vinyl before by artists who just have a surplus of old merch laying around. I really think this is one of the most important steps!
These are all the steps I took to end up eventually finding my white whale. Every release is going to have its own unique experience when it comes to obtaining it, but these tips can be helpful along the way! I checked Ebay almost every day and I was able to find a listing. I also got into touch with a collector eventually who was able to find a friend of his who sold it to me for $300. Definitely expensive, but in this case it was completely worth it to me due to the sheer rarity of the pressing. I was able to find out more information about it by getting in touch with the band and connecting with fans on Discogs. This is my experience trying to find and finally obtaining my white whale, I wish the very best of luck to you and hope that my tips further your journey!
This article was submitted By James Al-Shazmiir. If you would like to share you experience or knowledge about vinyl records or any other music related topic click here.