A vinyl record playing on a turntable
A vinyl record playing on a turntable

Top tips to start your vinyl collection from our Oxfam Music Shop experts

Music holds the power of making us feel. One song can transport us back to a moment in our lives we cherish. But how we consume music has changed. Cassette tapes and CDs might have been mostly replaced by subscription services such as Spotify and iTunes. But vinyl looks like it’s here to stay.

Vinyl record sales in 2021 were the highest they’ve been in 30 years, with over 5 million LPs bought last year according to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). And a new study has found that Gen Z now buy more vinyl records than millennials.

Alongside the nostalgia that comes with vinyl records, taking the time to browse through record stores or online to build your collection is a hobby that we love the sound of.

5 reasons to invest in a second-hand vinyl collection

  1. It’s tangible – vinyl records are items you can collect.
  2. It’s pretty cool – first made in 1948 predominantly for film, 71 years later and we can find our favourite artists in our local record store.
  3. It can become a hobby – browsing through your local Oxfam music store to find your favourite artists or a new gem is a thrill that’s hard to achieve through an MP3 download.
  4. The listening experience – a nice set of speakers with a quality turntable is all part of the experience of relaxing and enjoying the music.
  5. It has great sound quality when you have the right set up.

OK, this sounds great! But where do I start? Our music shops around the country have given us their top tips when it comes to second-hand vinyl shopping.

Ed Nix/Oxfam

Opening of the new Oxfam Superstore in Cowley, Oxford.

6 top tips to follow when buying vinyl

I want to start building a vinyl collection – where do I begin?

Begin with what you like, begin with what you know and try things that are cheap but in a good condition.

Debbie – Oxfam Books and Music, Bedford

What are your top tips for second-hand vinyl shopping?

  1. Take the record out of the sleeve and look at it carefully and check the condition.
  2. Watch out for counterfeits. Is the price for the condition too good to be true?
  3. Look (dig) right at the back of the display.
  4. A well organised shop is often well organised when it comes to assessing condition, pricing and cleaning records. Avoid shops that seem like they don’t care.

Rowland - Oxfam Books and Music, Olney

What kind of vinyl player should I get/things I should consider?

If you know you’re into it for the long term read around, especially for classic old turntables that may be cheaper on the second-hand market. Get a decent cartridge and stylus (the cartridge holds the stylus). Different stylus shapes sound better on records. If you can, try a difficult record to play in your collection to see if it sounds OK. I’ve got a record that plays well on my turntable that jumped a lot on a deck worth thousands of pounds. Make sure the arm has adjustable anti skate and don’t buy a deck with a plastic arm.

Mike – Oxfam, Southampton

What should I know about needles and cartridges?

Firstly, a cartridge contains a needle (stylus) but it is possible to replace a stylus in a cartridge. The better and more expensive the cartridge the better the sound you will get from it, if it’s on a good turntable.

Brands such as Pro-ject and Rega, even on their budget turntables, come with very good cartridges such as those made by the highly regarded Ortofon. Over time you can upgrade the cartridge for a better one.

However, you do need to make sure a cartridge is compatible with your turntable and that it is of the correct type (either Moving Magnet or Moving Coil – MM or MC).

A stylus will only last for about 1,000 to 1,500 hours of playing. Replacing the stylus in a cartridge is the cheapest way of ensuring your cartridge is still effective and to prevent damage to your records.

Rowland - Oxfam Books and Music, Olney

How do I store my vinyl collection?

Upright. Some people prefer crates with the record sleeve face out, others prefer shelving with records spine out, but that can increase wear on the sleeve. Personally, I tend to use Ikea Kallax shelves, and the floor.

Mike – Oxfam, Southampton

Store in standard room temperature, DO NOT put it in a loft. Temperature and humidity variations can ruin the records, warping them and turning them mouldy.

Alan – Oxfam Books and Music, Lymington

How do I clean my vinyl records?

Use fairy and lukewarm water. Make sure you carefully rinse them and dry with a soft cloth or tissue.

Paul – Oxfam, Inverness

Now that you have the top tips in how to start shopping for your collection, it’s time for the fun bit! Finding your favourite artists, albums you’ve always wanted to hear and beginning your journey of a new hobby of vinyl collecting.