Parnassus Blog

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Keeping Records out of the Landfill

My recent column in Classic Record Collector, "To Chuck or Not to
Chuck," dealt with the subject of record triage. These days, when
dealing with classical records (78s or LPs) that are not outstanding
collectors' items, it has become difficult to dispose of them in ways
that will ensure their preservation.

Here's what we do at Parnassus. First, if possible, I discard any
records in poor condition, as they will only pollute the remainder.
These do go to the landfill and there is absolutely no hope for them.

Until a few years ago, we took LPs that did not sell through our
catalogs to a consignment shop which we maintained in a local
bookstore. That store is now gone, and our replacement in another
location is doing poorly. Nevertheless, I know several dealers who do
something like this with success, often in antique malls (collectives
of a number of dealers under one roof). It is important to date the
records in some way and keep the stock rotating or the customers,
even at very low prices, will stop looking at them.

The records we did not sell were given to the Woodstock Library,
which has--as many libraries do--an ongoing book sale to benefit the
library. Some libraries have even more vigorous operations than
Woodstock, which confines its sales to alternate weekends for the
half of the year when the sale building doesn't require heat, which
it doesn't have. I know libraries in my area which have "permanent"
library sales, open for several days every week year round. But not
all such sales accept records as donations.

There are also many charity thrift shops which sell records. The
nearest Salvation Army, in Kingston New York, has thousands of them
for sale at any given time. I think many local LP collections being
discarded wind up there.

Inevitably, some records donated to these sales will also wind up
being discarded. But at least they have had a chance at life in the
home of someone who still plays LPs.

78s are much more difficult. Most of the outlets described above, at
least in my area, won't accept 78s. Some local antique shops do sell
78s, but they don't carry very large quantities. There is one antique
shop in Kingston, "Lock, Stock and Barrel," operated by a man named
Jack Whistance, who was a record dealer himself many years ago. Jack
recently took a small 78 collection I needed to dispose of, although
he warned me in advance he couldn't pay for the records. Still, some
of them might find a home somewhere.

When attempting to dispose of large collections, the situation is
rather different. I can't give the Woodstock Library 5,000 LPs at a
time (although I would like to) because they don't have space. Most
colleges and libraries are not interested in acquiring 78s or LPs for
their collections. There are a few who are, but diligent research is
needed to find them. I made my contact with Brigham Young University,
described in my previous column, through a letter a customer kindly
placed on a music library list-serve. You can also try offering
collections to the few dealers who still advertise in publications
like Classic Record Collector. But with Parnassus, at least, the
collection must have a fairly high proportion of real collectors'
items or we can't buy it.

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