Home > Author blabber > Letting Go: My First Foray Into Selling Used CDs

Letting Go: My First Foray Into Selling Used CDs

It is true, the painful anguish of selling music really does feel like being fed to a sumo wrestler.

This blog is entirely built around the idea of buying CDs, so rare is the time when I actually try and sell them back.  Some of you might even say it is blasphemy to return music, for one should always try experience an album through repeated listening, song background research, and artist appreciation.  Uh huh.  Well there has come a time when the plastic and paper has taken up a little too much space in the apartment.  I have already tried to convince the wife to throw out some things or to sell some things or anything, really, that didn’t involve my stuff.  But alas, it was my stuff that was causing the visual distress.  Therefore, it was time to sell some of them.

I have a lot of CDs as it is.  There are many, many that I would not think of parting with.  Truthfully, the only way they would all be gone from my sight would be if I suddenly became deeply in love with digital music.  My views on that is a conversation for another time, but needless to say it ain’t gonna happen.  There are quite a few records that I no longer listen to mainly due to changing tastes, changing times, or a bad case of accumulation (which I wrote about here).  After giving many of them one last look, I stuffed about eighty or so CDs into two reusable shopping bags with plans on selling them.  These discs consisted of discs from my days in the nineties as well as old dollar bin purchases that didn’t pan out.  With even more consisting of those promotional freebies detailed in my Court of Flippant Reviews (1, 2), I set off to see what I could get.

Will the hero actually gain any money from this adventure?  Does he really think anyone would actually buy his dusty Guns N Roses CDs?!  Read on, skeptical traveler …

So what is a used, single CD worth these days?  They still sell for a good amount at most music stores, usually ranging from at least $5 to $9.  Some places even try to sell them for $10 or above, which usually is a bit of a laugh unless the discs are rare or out of print.  Given that stores wish to get as much profit as possible, as well as the fact that physical media is walking the tightrope over the digital age, it is pitiful to think that what you bought for $12 fives years ago is now barely considered worth a dollar.

Selling CDs isn’t merely limited to music stores.  Ebay, yard sales, Amazon, friends and other avenues could have been breached, but some are less convenient or more time consuming than I wanted to deal with.  Therefore, three music stores in close proximity around Boston was my destination.  My ultimate goal was to sell enough albums so that I could partially or fully purchase either the Doors’ “Perception” box set or the “Complex Stax Singles” box set.  That’s a lot of hope but hey, I was out to sell a lot of choice merchandise!  Er, well, choice to a deep dollar bin diver I guess.

The first stop was at my favorite record store in the area.  These are the guys I called a few times to get an idea of what they were looking for in regards to condition.  Came in, was greeted well and was told to come back in an hour.  I didn’t really know what to expect when I got back, for the store has a lot of everything.  When I did return I was informed that they were interested in eight CDs.  EIGHT!  Two of them were old Nirvana and Pearl Jam bootlegs from when I was in college, so though I spent too much money on them back then I wasn’t going to miss them.  Another was something by Pizzacato Five, which really isn’t my thing anymore.  I’m pretty sure I sold them back something I bought from them ages ago, so the total money I got was $14.  Not bad I guess.  The guy at the counter did recommend I try a few other places, which was my plan all along.

The second stop was a place that is quite cluttered.  One can barely find anything in there as they have so much stock they don’t know where to put it.  I had no idea if they were buying even more material, but I figured it was worth a shot.  I was greeted outside by one of the counter guys smoking on a quick break.  He took a look at me and my two bags and asked if I had already been somewhere.  When I said I had, he gave me a short response that made me feel that he thought what I had in my hands was borderline worthless, as if the previous place knew what his store was interested in before he got to it.  Ha!  As it turned out, they gave me $9 for about 12 CDs that were a mish mash of genres.  I smiled inwardly as my Guns N Roses “Use Your Illusion” discs were carried away.

After where I had already been, the last stop did not fill me with a lot of hope.  I had only $23 so far and a lot of CDs left, so if the pattern continued I was likely to sell 20 CDs for $3.  Greeeat.  The good thing was that the last store was more wide reaching than the previous two.  It was a bigger, local chain store that dabbled in merchandise other than music, such as books, DVDs, posters, gag gifts, action figures, etc.  If you were a little or big kid with money to blow, this was a good place to spend hours looking.  When I walked in the guy at the counter seemed to be one of those barking types that always seemed to be in a hurry.  He brusquely told me to put the music on the counter and hang out in the store while he went through my stacks.

Unlike the previous two places where I was given the choice to come back in an hour (thus enjoying the nice day, eating lunch, etc), I was sort of imprisoned in a music store.  That sounds like a good thing, but there were a couple problems.  The first was that I was not in a buying mood.  It doesn’t help that once one gets past the discounted new albums one is subjected to rather overpriced back catalogs.  Nothing gripped me enough to buy it.  The second problem was that some insane person decided to put on the Backstreet Boys/New Kids on the Block compilation as a shopping soundtrack.  I was terrorized with “I Want it That Way” and “Hangin’ Tough” while waiting.  I wanted to flee … but … I … couldn’t.  After about thirty or so minutes sucking up the sappiness, the guy finally called me over.

Boom!  Thirty or so discs for $35!  The math doesn’t average out well, but keep in mind what this store was buying.  He took my old R.E.M. (a feature for later), Cranberries, Pumpkins, and other old nineties CD classics.  He took some music that I bought for a quarter somewhere.  He picked up a few promotional CDs that the other two stores wanted no part of.  The one that I was surprised lasted this long, Led Zeppelin’s 3-disc “How the West Was Won”, was finally bought.  What was turning into a so-so day of sales just blew up in my favor.

What didn’t sell anywhere?  Of the thirty or so discs leftover, a lot of it was local or promotional music.  All that free stuff I got didn’t appeal to the stores, probably because many of them weren’t on labels and thus were considered ‘nobodies’.  Hmm.  My copy of R.E.M’s “Monster” didn’t sell, so I’m stuck with its widely considered crappiness.  Finally, a few MOJO compilations were left in my possession.  Considering that two of the establishments have been known to sell these kinds of discs for a pretty good profit above free, I’m surprised I still had them.

In the end, I wound up with $58 in sales.  I was quite thrilled about it, for after the first couple places I thought I would be walking home with most of it.  Now I have to decide whether to save it (boooo), spend it on the enhanced discography of an old sixties rock band, or spend it on a ton of smooth sounding tunes from even older groups.  Feels good to have choices, readers.

If you’re thinking of selling some of your own collection, here is some selling points:

1) Inspect your product.  This is probably the most important, and probably most obvious, tip of the lot.  If you simply throw your music into a bag and hope for the best you will heavily increase your chances of disappointment.  Instead of wasting time, spend it right by checking to make sure that all the art is included for each album and that each disc has very minimal, if any, marks on them.  Where I went the plastic case condition was not so important, but you should check ahead with each store just in case they’re sticklers about it.  Any detail left ignored could mean a few less dollars in your pocket.

2)  Consider your venue.  Depending on what you plan on selling, you will likely only get money for discs that the store thinks it could sell back.  If you plan on bringing your N’Sync or Black Eyed Peas discs to a niche music store, you will very likely be turned around pretty fast.  Instead, sell your popular, mainstream stuff to the wide-reaching store and the less known, special genre records to the smaller markets.  It’s all about the customers and what they’ll be looking for in used music that will likely determine what gets bought and where.

3)  Start with the better price.  This one also sounds obvious, but one has to do their research to realize it.  Call around and get an idea of who is buying, what they’re looking for, and most importantly what one can expect them to pay.  Prices aren’t likely to fluctuate a whole lot between venues, but if you think your records are worth good money then go for the place that could stand to pay the best.  Leave the remaining music to the lowballers to get whatever money you can.

4)  Mentally prepare yourself.  Hopes can get high when selection, condition, and dreams of dollar signs get in one’s head.  Remember, these stores are trying to find albums that they think will sell, so they will not hesitate to tell you that such and such albums do not interest them.  I had to go to three places just to sell off two thirds of my wares, so it might be wise to expect rejection and celebrate when they scoop up some of your music.

Good luck.  And hey, when I say “good luck”, I mean good luck not taking whatever money you get and spending it in the store right away.  Damn you, temptation!

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