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From Charity Shops to Rubbish Tips: I Made a Career Out of Hunting and Reselling Old Vinyl

Vinyl is once again a multi-million pound industry – but what's it like for the independent record dealers at the bottom of the food chain? We spent a working day with one old geezer who knows.

by Oobah Butler
12 January 2017, 6:25pm

All images by the author.

Praise the lord, music fans, for all is going to be fine: your beloved format has been rescued from the jaws of oblivion. After decades of decline, over 3.2 million vinyl records were sold in the UK in 2016, lifting consumption up to a 25 year high and marking an unprecedented turnaround. This year, vinyl is on track to become a billion dollar industry in the States. Who would've thought it?

Yet while 3.2m sales is a sizeable number in our faltering industry, in terms of vinyl on a grander scale, it's still a drop in the ocean. In 1986 alone, 690 million vinyl were sold globally. Just think: how much of that vinyl is out there? Buried; covered by thick layers of dust at the back of your nan's attic; propping up a damp wall in a garage; at the back of a conservatory, warping in the sun. As demand increases, how do we get to them? How do precious vinyl classics find their way back into people's hands? Whose job is it to unearth these lost gems and put them back into circulation? The answer is: independent record dealers, and I've tracked one down called Joseph at his home in the West Midlands, and I'm going to be stalking him for the day.

For the last 43 years (yes, four decades), Joseph has spent most of his days arguing with old people in charity shops, visiting the houses of strangers and the recently-bereaved or divorced, and searching the crevices of Britain for hidden gems to sell both privately and online – and making a decent living off it. Now at 60 years old, he's made a career off vinyl, and understands the way it works like a language. Curious about how his hunter/gatherer lifestyle functions through the good days and bad, I took a Monday off from shovelling hash browns in my mouth and writing about weekend breaks in favour of hunting for content in rural Worcestershire.

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