In the second part of this series, I want to get into detail about online used record sales. Actually in all of the web sites I will mention, people also sell new vinyls as well, but the mass sales volume is created by used records. I will also try to point out some tricky things about them and also what you need to be careful of in order not to get ripped off. Record collecting is a thing that can get you ripped off pretty quickly. We again go under the alphabetical order.
The name of the web site is the shorter version of saying Discographies. This is a web site solely dedicated to music and release details. It has a vast (By vast I really mean vast) amount of electronic records detailed in its database and a close to vast amount of Rock records and sub genres. All underground releases are also entered into the database daily by the users (Including myself). This is a mainly user created content with users adding on or correcting other people's entered record details. This is of course a very brief explanation and may miss some marks. When you enter the web site, you'll get the picture.
Discogs is exceptionally updated and detailed in electronic music records/CDs, but they are not that fully covered in other styles like Jazz, Classical Music (Contemporary is covered well), World Music, RnB etc. However, when I'm saying not covered well, it does not only mean you don't find the record altogether. It also means you may find the same record details for the US pressing, but maybe not for UK pressing. All in all, we should give the credit that Discogs database is the biggest source on Internet by all means.
Discogs also helps you keep a record collection which is kind of useful also even though you don't find the details of everything you have if you are a weird guy like me who buys weird stuff.
The sales channel of Discogs is Marketplace. Here you can search for and buy millions of records or CDs. The good thing about this is that it is also integrated with the database of Discogs and therefore you can get info about that release and compare prices of other sellers with 1 click. You can also check the release info page of a certain record you want, see if there is anyone selling. You can also add items to your wantlist and when you log in, if puts the "on sale" items from your wantlist. You don't need to search every item again and again and you don't risk forgetting about that item.
Discogs has a "buy it now" style of working. You may make offers, you may negotiate via messaging, but it that's all. You can also check user ratings and comments. Some people who have an account here also have accounts on Ebay, don't get surprised.
Since Discogs is a web site with user created content and the members consist mainly of interested people, it is really hard to come by a rip off person. Sellers may already be record collectors (I am selling some of my excess stuff as well) and most of the sellers I've interacted with were totally friendly. Some even too friendly. It is certainly a nice experience to shop here. Moreover, a majority of the records on sale are from Europe and in my case, the shipping cost is less of a burden compared to US.
There are around 10 million items on sale on Discogs which around 6.5 mio is vinyls. This is a huuuuuuge catalogue.
Well, the world stops turning right here, right now. I don't think I really need to explain anything about Ebay, so I'll skip directly to the subject. However, there is one thing that when you become a member of any Ebay web site, you are directly a member of all. This is a very nice collective database of user info. On the other hand, I cannot say the same for their sales database. If you are searching for an item on Ebay.com, it will only show results from Ebay.com, Ebay.ca and Ebay.co.uk. Others like Ebay.de, Ebay.it, Ebay.fr will not be shown. You have to search in each also to check for the results. If these were also to be integrated, the life of a record collector would have been much easier.
Compared to Discogs, Ebay.com and Ebay.co.uk has in total only 4 Mio records on sale (As of today). Adding on the other Ebays, it can probably reach or slightly pass the total records on sale on Discogs.
The issue here is not only about the volume of records. Ebay has some advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are starting with the auction system. You can buy rare or "out of the common interest area" records at stupid prices from time to time. I am a living proof of this. There is no guarantee for this, but if you really have the chance, you may get some stuff at unbelievable prices. The last example from my side would be an Early Electronic genre record of Bulent Arel & Daria Semegen's Electronic Music For Dance by Finnadar records (Sealed/Mint) which I paid USD 21 w/o shipping. This record in clean and Near Mint condition costs well over USD 80 everywhere else. Life is not fair ladies & gentlemen. Take advantage of it.
Another advantage of Ebay is that unlike Discogs, people put the pictures of the records themselves. In Discogs, it is the release info page pictures that are there. This may give you a better idea about the cover and the vinyl condition.
The disadvantages of Ebay start with the basics of Ebay. The sellers may be inheritors of the records or just a guy who happened to come by these records. Their ratings may be totally inaccurate in the common sense or they might even be rip offs. The rip off percentage of Ebay is much higher than anywhere else and this is quite normal. I got ripped off once (Of course) and saved myself from being ripped off once more. Moreover, the relations with sellers are not that intimate and you may not even receive answers to your questions. That is why you need to check ratings and comments in the first place. To be fair, I have extremely good relations with several sellers from whom I am buying regularly. I even get their inventories in advance to wrap up some of the items I am interested in before they are even up for bids (After negotiating, come on, what do you think).
The other disadvantage is becoming an ebayoholic. These auctions and the cheapness of some crucial records you buy directly tempt you into becoming addicted to them. I have become addicted and just recently I have sort of cleaned myself out of it, though I'm still not there yet.
Another disadvantage (Again my case) is that the big chunk of records on sale on Ebay are from US and the shipping costs from US are gruesome. The highest fee I paid for shipment is USD 125 or something and this explains itself. OK, I bought a big number of records from a single guy, but anyway, 125 is a big number. If this was from UK, I would have ended with something around USD 60-70 max.
Ebay also has a "buy it now" style of sales as well, but that covers probably around 5% of my total purchases. Buy it now should either be really attractive to divert you from an auction, the record should not be available anywhere else or you use it to combine shipment. Otherwise it becomes a very unnecessary source of sales. That is just why the Turkish version of Ebay (Only Buy it now) will eventually lose. You take out the thrill, I go and buy from another web site or a local record store.
Now this is a record and memorabilia sales online store that says it specializes on rare items. Due to this, people tend to exaggerate prices. I don't know what people are eating or drinking, but some of the prices on this web site are totally nuts. I've seen some prices which are 10 times much higher than the market price. Of course this comparison belongs to the same record, same release country, same edition, same condition etc. This web site specially has the Japanese versions of lots of records and naturally these are extremely expensive than their Western versions. I still could not find any reasonable answer to this phenomenon apart from the fact that records and CDs are initially more expensive in Japan anyway. However, when you compare the same release of Western and Japanese versions, the price difference does not cover up the initial sales price change. And I can't even understand any word I see on the record. I personally have some Japanese releases of some records. I bought them out of necessity since I couldn't find the western versions. Now I've ended up with a couple of records which I cannot read anything from, not even the song titles. Thinking on Eil.com and similar web sites, I would also have to pay more for this, I would be really annoyed.
Apart from that, the volume of records being sold on Eil is much less than it's competitors. It would be fair to say that it is Rock oriented. Just as an example, I searched John Cage here and only 1 item (CD) available was found. 22 other related items were also found including John Travolta's Face/Off OST. This number is 83 records and 178 CDs on Ebay, 484 records and 462 CDs on Discogs. I believe numbers speak themselves.
One more info about the rare stuff phenomenon. To give the credit, there are quite a lot of true rare stuff on Eil. A good number of these are also worth the weird prices that are valued. However, based on personal experience, I've seen much rarer stuff on Ebay. Having seen a 7" record of Robert Johnson in VG condition being sold at USD 6500, I don't think too many things can beat that. Another example would be a South African pressing of a Sex Pistols 7" which was sold at well over USD 1500.
This is a sales store that is similar to Discogs in terms of sellers and their styles, but without the user generated content. The information on the records and conditions are pretty slim. You may find some rare stuff, that is fore sure while you are not guaranteed that the seller will have that particular item in their stock. This can be understood from the additional "availability" rating they have for users. This is just bullshit. This is a huge setback for this web site. Their good catalogue of sales and rare items is an advantage, but clearly they don't have the upper hand.
Be as it may, the users on Musicstack are similarly friendly like their counterparts on Discogs. My purchasing experiences on this web site have been extremely smooth with positive results. Of course to be honest, my choice would be buying from Ebay or Discogs if I could have found those records there.
To be honest, the most logical thing for a record collector would find the average price level of the release they are willing to buy or bid for. For this, you may need to check Discogs, Ebay and Musicstack. If you are into rare items like I am for 20th Century Composers or Early Electronic music and even Blues or Jazz, it is always worthwhile to check several web sites.
There can be times when you cannot find another one of the same record on sale anywhere. This happened to me with John Cage's Atlas Eclipticalis box set. There I just used my common sense. I paid what I thought it is worth for me. Of course the more you cannot find of the same record on sale, the more likely you will pay a higher price.
The most important thing while buying second hand records on any of these sites is checking the user rating and record conditions. It may be harmful to your health and wallet to buy from lower rating users. Regarding conditions, this is a little bit of a vague issue. It needs a bit of explanation and experience sharing. That will be the topic of the next entry in the series.