Just finding old gramophone records is easy; the difficult part is finding the ones that you want. These days you can find somebody selling off their old vinyl at most car boot sales, and every charity shop in the land seems to have a pile of old 45s priced at a few pence each. It's only after searching through these that you realise how widely the musical taste of previous owners must deviate from your own. If you are a general collector like me then the contents of jumble sales, car boots, junk, second-hand and charity shops are well worth a look- you never know what you might stumble across. If you are after something specific then it probably won't be long before you consider the exercise a complete waste of time.
The other problem with looking for something specific in places like these is that you tend to find other records that interest you- that's how I started. Many years ago I decided to replace the old singles that I possessed in my teens- around twenty or so. These had dwindled away over the years- loaned to friends who never returned them, left at parties or otherwise lost. It took me two years to find copies of all those records, and by that time I'd accumulated almost a thousand others. I now own many thousands of 45s and am still looking for more. You have been warned!
Of course, it may be that you are just after the music and don't care about the format- a CD would do, for example. That makes life much much easier, especially if what you want was originally a hit. Obscure 'B' sides of records that few people bought are a different matter- these may never have been re-issued at all and finding the original 45 might be the best way of getting hold of it. So before paying a fortune for an original, rare, 45- when all you actually want is the music- check that it's not been re-released on CD. There are several CD labels that now specialise in less well known, but collectable tracks so don't assume because it's rare it's not on re-issue. Who knows, you might even find someone with the track you want on MP3 these days. If you do decide to buy a re-release/ re-issue then make sure that it is just that, because there are plenty of cheap CDs around which contain 're-recordings' which often don't compare well with the original version.
However, the previous paragraph is pretty close to sacrilege for a web site dedicated to the 45 like this one. Owning the original 45 provides a buzz (even a few crackles sometimes!) that you just don't get from a re-issue whatever format it's on. Of course they generally cost more than the modern version- sometimes much more. So what is an old 45 worth and what should it cost? The answer is simple and true, but usually unsatisfactory- a record is worth whatever you can persuade somebody to pay for it. This will depend on supply and demand, the record's condition and who it is that you are trying to persuade. Records are funny things to sell- especially old 45s. If somebody doesn't want your rare record for 50 pence then you will find that they probably still don't want it for 5 pence. On the other hand a desperate collector might be prepared to hand over whatever outrageous amount you demand for it. There are price guides available; in the UK there is Nick Hamlyn's Price Guide from Music Master, and Record Collector's 'Rare Record Price Guide'. However, these should only be regarded as very rough guides- not as price lists. Less rare records are frequently to be found at far lower prices than these guides indicate and very rare items are usually auctioned. In the end, if you find what you want and are prepared to pay the asking price then it's worth it- whatever the guide says.
Finding Re-Issues on CDs
If your required track is on a CD then chances are that you can find it through the internet. Try plugging the name of the artist/ band and the title of the number you want into a decent search engine (Google is easily the best) and hopefully one or more of the returned items will refer to the CD you require. It may be somebody advertising it for sale. In any event you can always plug the CD Title in somewhere else- like Amazon or even Tesco- or why not try out your hard pressed local record shop who will doubtless be eager to order it for you. Some CDs may not be easy to find and you may need more specialist help- one CD dealer who specialises in re-issues of earlier material is Finbarr International (CD Dept), Folkestone, Kent CT20 2QQ, England (although that may not look like a complete address, it's all you need- trust me)- they also sometimes answer the phone (office hours only,+44 (0)1303 259316). They are quite used to dealing with overseas customers, but be warned- they aren't likely to stock the latest Kylie album, but if you are looking for obscure Doo Wop or Billy Fury then they are worth a try.
Finding Original 45s
As I pointed out above, finding one specific 45 can sometimes be very difficult, especially if it's a rarity. The general rule here is to make it as widely known as possible that you are looking for the item. Somewhere, there will be a dealer who has your record or knows someone else that has. Of course, somebody somewhere probably has a copy in their attic which they'll gladly part with, but contacting them without knowing who they are is unrealistic. Contacting dealers is a different proposition and this can be done in several ways.
Advertising a 'Want'
There are are a couple of specialist record collecting magazines in the UK the best known of which is 'Record Collector'. Each month the magazine publishes lists of records 'for sale' and as 'wants' within its small advertisements section. This has been a good way to make a 'Want' known to dealers and fellow collectors alike- but it isn't cheap and doesn't guarantee a result. Record Collector has an online trading system of its own now attached to its web site- though it frequently seems to have problems. You can advertise for free on the web site of BIRDpages (British Independent Record Dealer Pages)- an excellent site to find dealers in your area. You can also advertise a want at the web site of the Music Fair organiser VIP or even put one on my guest book which you can find on my home page- again at no charge.
Record and Music Fairs are events at which dealers congregate with the objective of selling their stock to eager collectors. They are excellent places to meet dealers, ask questions and to compete with fellow collectors at rummaging through the bargain boxes. If you are looking for a particular record it's a good idea to simply walk round a record fair announcing the fact to every dealer There's a good chance that one or more of them will be able to put you on to somebody that has it for sale. Don't expect something for nothing though- most record dealers are enthusiasts, but they have a living to make.
VIP are one of the largest Fair organisers in the UK, especially for the midlands and the south, and they are responsible for some of the largest in Europe including the mammoth event at London's Olympia- well worth checking out. Their web site also has a very large data base of items 'for sale' and that too can yield results- so pay a visit and don't forget to plug your 'want' into their search engine.
For those of us in the north of England, we can enjoy large record fairs too. Checkout Transpennine, for example, they are responsible for some of the best fairs north of Stoke On Trent including the occasional mammoth at Manchester's G-Mex.
Oh, and of course don't forget to 'rummage' when you are at a Record Fair. You might just find what you are looking for- or you might come across something else you like better. I can't remember how many times I've been asked "Are you looking for something in particular?"- to which I reply "Yes, but I don't know what it will be until I see it!".
Of course, you can always surf the net in your quest for old 45s. There are a few dealers who try and keep lists of records for sale, but they aren't always up to date so don't rely on them. Although it's not to everybody's taste, a better place to look is probably the online auction site Ebay This has come on by leaps and bounds as a place to trade in old vinyl since I originally wrote this piece- so why not give that a try too?
Anyhow, don't give up the chase if you draw a blank to start with- those old 45s really are all out there somewhere!