records

The recent deaths of music icons David Bowie, Glenn Fry and Natalie Cole remind us how music defines our lives: Just a few bars can transport us into the past.

“One of the most interesting things about my job is when I look at people’s record collections, I can tell what year they graduated high school,’’ said Marc Weinstein, owner and co-founder of Hollywood record store Amoeba Music, which also has outlets in Berkeley and San Francisco. “Music represents the most wonderful period of their lives.’’

Today, nearly every piece of music ever recorded can be downloaded instantly. But true music buffs are rediscovering the old-school sound of vinyl: Sales of vinyl records rose more than 52 percent in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Collecting vinyl can simply be a fun hobby you pursue online or while browsing estate sales. But if you want to get serious, it’s good to know that some records are becoming valuable collector’s items. For instance, Amoeba recently sold a rare version of Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” for $12,000 to a collector who asked to remain anonymous.

Others have become “Holy Grails” for collectors, such as The Beatles’ so-called “Butcher Album.’’ The original cover art of the 1966 album, “Yesterday and Today,” was a photo of the four mop-top lads in butchers’ coats, surrounded by raw meat and decapitated baby dolls. Capitol Records issued 750,000 copies, but there were so many complaints about the disturbing image that the company recalled the albums, pasted on new cover art and reissued them. In November 2013, an album with the original cover art intact sold on eBay for $15,300.

In England, the highest-valued album of 2014 was an acetate pressing of The Quarry Men, “That Will Be the Day/In Spite of All Danger,” which was valued at £200,000, or about $288,000, according to The Guardian. What makes such an obscure record so valuable? The Quarry Men eventually evolved into the Beatles.

If you’re a music lover thinking about valuing or enhancing your own record collection, Weinstein offers these tips:

  • The majority of collectibles are from the first 30 years of album production—1950 to 1980 – and popular and jazz LPs sell more than classical music.
  • If you really love classical music, don’t let lower value stop you from collecting it. Collect what you love; doing it purely for money doesn’t make sense. “There aren’t enough records that go up in value that much,” Weinstein said.
  • Some music retains its value and some does not. Recordings from major artists, for instance, are always going to be valuable. “You can never go wrong with the Beatles and the Stones,’’ he said.
  • Don’t wrap up your records and stow them away: Like good furniture, vinyl was built to last and to be listened to.

Remember that most record collectors, or their heirs, will eventually sell. One of Weinstein’s most poignant collections was purchased from a wealthy family whose son had been ill for much of his life and could only find pleasure in a few activities, including record-collecting. He ultimately amassed a 22,000-piece collection.

His parents kept the records in a climate-controlled vault for 15 years after his death because “it spoke to who their son was,’’ Weinstein said. But eventually, they decided that it was time to part with the records. When they sold the collection, they told him, the albums were going back into the world where they were meant to be, into the hands of people who love music.