Digging During The Pandemic

I originally had an idea for this topic which was to go into one direction but then as the last few weeks passed, more factors began to come into play which seemed to take things into multiple directions, all interesting and relevant to the topic at hand which is digging during the pandemic and how it affects collectors.

When we first began what most thought would be a short and simple pandemic, led to a full on quarantine with shops and business being fully shut down. With this happening, how in the world will shop owners continue to keep the lights on in a business seeing no physical customers and how will buyers continue to get their fix of records and other deemed necessary essentials of entertainment? Many record shop owners who stayed far away from selling online (with the exception of Discogs) had no choice but to resort to selling via Instagram to keep heavy traffic flowing and product being sold. From what I’ve seen, it’s worked for quite a few shops that constantly had great inventory that buyers actually wanted, especially the more rare and sought after pieces. Some shops sold other things besides records including other ephemera and paper goods, vintage tee’s and more which was definitely welcomed for someone like myself who collects more than just records. Much of the inventory would have been exclusive to those who choose to do in person buying but when rent needs to be paid and lights need to stay on, adapting is the best thing. With so much influx of social media presence and just about everyone trying to open up shop to stay afloat (both legit businesses and private sellers), it became rather overwhelming with the content and with the exception of a few deep crate holders selling goods, much of it was just items that could be found easily on Discogs or in shops in general.

A few reputable sellers would list items with brief descriptions and it was off to the races if you in fact knew what you were looking at and if you didn’t, then you possible took a chance which in my opinion is the definition and part of digging in the first place. Taking a chance on the unknown in hopes of scoring something amazing. One of downsides (but not necessarily a downside) is the ease of obtaining things. There is no “digging” when it’s all right in front of your face and available to the first person that types SOLD. For me, that ease essentially took the fun out of getting new records when they are at my keyboard fingertips versus my crate fingertips. The thrill has always been in the hunt and discovery instead of the “here’s the picture, here’s the soundclip, sold to the first person who says so” realm that we’re residing in.

For myself and being a collector of a few different genres of things, from records to silver and bronze era comic books (which was my first love before records), ephemeral and other vintage items, my focus shifted slightly. Records became too easy to get especially when it’s laid out for you. With Discogs, there was still some sort of search and find that still needed to be done but that also brings me to the next “problem” that’s happening in the record collecting world, the insane pricing that’s going on. I don’t think anyone at this moment can pinpoint where and why the rise in record prices is happening except for the fact that record nerds and especially those with a hefty bank account will pay they absolute highest price in a bidding war for something that isn’t worth half of that. That in return pushes sellers to price things at the last sold price on eBay or Discogs versus what the actual value of it is. How are records being listed for $200+ more than the medium selling price and who is buying them!? Of course some sellers are fishing in hopes of attracting someone who just wants to spend money but in return, it messes up the already messed up, over inflated value of records. It’s gotten to the point where there are no standards in selling, it’s what someone is willing to listen of for or someone is willing to sell it for. The equivalent to walking in a shop and seeing the same overpriced records on the wall that the owner refuses to lower to make the sale. Are you running an art gallery or are you trying to move records?

Another trend which was already in motion previously but more so now with the pandemic taking a toll across the globe is shipping prices. As a collector who if I want something will just pay for it if I deem it necessary, I’ve never haggled over pricing or shipping fees. What’s the point? You can’t walk into your local post office and negotiate how much something should cost to ship internationally so it all comes down to it you really need it or not. Sometimes the shipping is more than a new release record which has become the case especially with 45’s. A $10 new 45 might cost $12-$20 dollars shipping internationally, is it worth it for you? Do you really want the record? Then bite the bullet and buy the damn record! What would be the difference if you suddenly find the record locally or on Discogs now selling for $20 because of import fees (instead of $10) and the shipping now $7-$10. It’s still a $30 dollar purchase and at the end of the day the question remains, did you really want or need it or are you just going to feel left out if everyone else got a copy and you didn’t? There are up’s and down’s with being a collector, you win some and you loose some and if the collector gods are on your side, those same things that you missed, you’ll eventually find when the hype and price dies down.

As I stated above, being a collector of many things, I had to shift my collecting habits a bit to my first love pre record buying which was silver and bronze aged comic books from the 1960’s thru early 1980’s. Comics are always a great investment and just like the record world, trends come and go but if you catch them early or know where the market is going, you can score lovely. But for me, it’s never been about the value of something, it’s always been about pure enjoyment first and if I’m lucky, the value will rise. Since Marvel movies have become all of the rage, many of the key issues have become sought after and suddenly skyrocketed in price which is good for those of us who’ve had them in their boxes and bought them for .25 cents versus those who are now paying $100. I fall on both sides of that coin where I slept on something previously and now making up for lost time. Not that I had ever stopped buying vintage comics but suddenly my craving to dig for them has come full circle once again especially since as a DJ, I’m not able to travel and play records out, that energy (and money) has to go somewhere. One thing that I’ve noticed with my favorite comic dig spots and shops is that pricing seems to be all leveled regardless of which shop you’re at. There hasn’t been pricing that’s out of wack which is probably because of the Overstreet Price Guide grading and values which is published each year. Both buyers and sellers understand and respect the pricing especially when gauging with condition where as in the record world, a G+ could easily sell for what a VG+ record last sold for simply because of rarity, not playability. Comic collectors aren’t paying crazy prices if the cover is shredded where as some record buyers will pay for a G+ with pops, crackles and skips.  Comic collectors want best possible condition and just like records, it’s all an investment at the end of the day.

Fast forward to the present as we see some of our favorite shops reopening for business which we are very thankful for. Not only because we NEED to get out of the house and be publicly social with our friends and shop owners, but because these businesses are still open and the lively-hood of owners are still intact. In the last 30 days, the neighborhood homie @yo_rnc_snaps have been making up for lost time and have been hitting our favorite shops, flea markets and a bunch of newly discovered spots extra hard looking for all things that we find collectible. Records haven’t necessarily been in abundance but the feeling of walking into comic shops and seeing grails on walls and heavy wants in the bins has been amazing. It feels like going to the finest record fair where the best dealers are set up and records are in abundance. That’s a feeling that hasn’t been the case with most record shops these days here in the states (there’s always good digs abroad) with the exception of a few that never disappoint.

With all that being said, hopefully we’re past the worst of things and we’re on the upswing and moving past the pandemic. Nothing as we know it will ever be the same but there are things that we enjoy that have only slightly changed to fit the times. If you’ve made it this far through the pandemic and reading this, then one can only assume that you’re staying safe, healthy and alright and that you’re pushing forward and continuing to collect and enjoy whatever it is that you’re into.