How well does your CD collection retain its monetary value? If you decided to cash it all in, how much of all that money you spent will come back to you?
One of the interesting things about Amazon product links is looking at the disparity between the price of the new product and the going rate for used copies, both of which are listed below the title.
In some ways, this is a purely economic indicator of the residual popularity of the album; it’s simple supply and demand. Some albums, like a good car, retain their value pretty well; others are worthless within a year.
A simple real world indicator of this principle can be had when you truck your used CD’s over to the local used shop for cash or credit. All those one-hit wonders you got suckered into buying? So did everyone else; the used market is oversaturated and you get a dime for the CD you spent $15 on.
Conversely, a shrewd buyer of cult titles that maintain a solid fanbase but never get overexposed will exit the store, green cash in hand.
Supply and demand. The supply side can be affected by overpressings and underpressings; going out of print altogether ratchets up the price. However, as a rule, it’s not a bad indicator; the good enduring stuff keeps some value, the useless junk doesn’t. The CD model is even more purely reflective of popularity than vinyl record prices, since condition is more of an issue with used vinyl. The prices aren’t static; they represent hundreds of sellers, and are updated hourly at Amazon.
To examine this farther, we’ll start with the Beatles. The White Album, from 1968, is now the Beatles’ biggest selling album ever, and remains popular among fans. The Beatles continue to attract new first-time listeners at a remarkable rate even now, so the market for used Beatle product is brisk. At Amazon, a brand new White Album, a double disc, goes for $27.99. Used starts at $16.99. That’s 61% of its value: a good retention.
On the other hand, Justin Guarini’s (remember him, American Idol?) album is selling for $0.49 used, retaining a paltry 4% of its value since its release a few short years ago, confirming its junk status. Evidently, people can’t trade ‘em in fast enough.
How well does your collection retain its value? Here are ten hypothetical case studies:
1. If you are an alternative rock fan, your collection might include:
Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream New: $13.99 Used: $4.50
Nirvana: In Utero New: $7.97 Used: $2.25
Soundgarden: Superunknown New $12.99 Used $4.24
Beck: Odelay New $12.99 Used: $3.70
Coldplay: Parachutes New $10.96 Used: $7.32
VALUE RETAINED: 37%
2. If you are a classic rock fan, your collection might include:
Neil Young: Harvest New: $8.97 Used: $5.95
The Rolling Stones: Exile On Main Street New: $17.98 Used: $8.99
Boston: Boston New: $18.98 Used: $12.88
Yes: Close To The Edge New: $8.97 Used: $5.98
Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV New: $14.96 Used: $5.95
VALUE RETAINED: 57%
3. If you are a metal head, you might have:
Metallica: Master of Puppets New: $14.96 Used: $7.62
Slayer: Reign In Blood New: $13.99 Used: $11.50
AC/DC: Back In Black New: $9.97 Used: $6.98
Ozzy Osbourne: Blizzard of Ozz New: $7.97 Used: $5.99
Pantera: Vulgar Display of Power New: $12.97 Used: $4.99
VALUE RETAINED: 62%
4. If you are an aging James Taylor fan, you might have:
James Taylor: Sweet Baby James New: $8.97 Used: $2.29
Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark New: $8.97 Used: $5.45
Linda Ronstadt: Heart Like A Wheel New: $10.99 Used: $6.25
Cat Stevens: Tea For The Tillerman New: $13.99 Used: $6.94
Paul Simon: Still Crazy After All These Years New: $12.97 Used: $8.92
VALUE RETAINED: 53%
5. If you are a fan of 80′s college rock, you might have:
R.E.M.: Reckoning New: $10.99 Used: $4.75
The Replacements: Tim New: $10.99 Used: $5.99
The Pixies: Surfer Rosa New: $10.99 Used: $7.99
Los Lobos: How Will The Wolf Survive New: $10.99 Used: $5.99
Violent Femmes: Violent Femmes New: $8.97 Used: $6.99
VALUE RETAINED: 60%
6. If you’re an up-to-date hepcat, you might have:
New Pornographers: Twin Cinema New $13.96 Used: $11.45
Death Cab For Cutie: Plans New: $13.96 Used: $8.31
Doves: Some Cities New: $14.99 Used: $9.75
Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise New $13.96 Used: $9.77
Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better New: $14.96 Used: $9.46
VALUE RETAINED: 69%
7. If you’re a newly grownup teenager, you might have:
Britney Spears: In The Zone New: $9.97 Used: $1.99
Beyonce: Dangerously In Love New $9.97 Used: $4.99
Backstreet Boys: Millennium New: $14.99 Used: $0.01
Avril Levigne: Under My Skin New: $14.96 Used: $5.40
Jessica Simpson: In This Skin New: $13.98 Used: $1.61
VALUE RETAINED: 22%
8. If you’re a Deadhead, you might have:
Grateful Dead: Workingman’s Dead New: $10.99 Used: $6.00
Jefferson Airplane: Surrealistic Pillow New: $13.98 Used: $8.65
Quicksilver Messenger Service: Happy Trails New: $7.97 Used: $7.81
Hot Tuna: Burgers New $10.98 Used $9.14
New Riders Of the Purple Sage: The Adventures of Panama Red New $9.98 Used $5.89
VALUE RETAINED: 70%
9. If you’re an adult alternative fan, you might have:
Natalie Merchant: Ophelia New: $10.99 Used: $1.64
Dave Matthews Band: Crash New: $14.96 Used: $2.99
John Mayer: Room For Squares New: $9.97 Used: $3.99
Sheryl Crow: Sheryl Crow New: $13.98 Used: $0.20
Counting Crows: August and Everything After New: $9.97 Used: $1.77
VALUE RETAINED: 18%
10. If you’re a fan of 80′s MTV groups, you might have:
Culture Club: Colour By Numbers New: $11.98 Used: $5.95
Duran Duran: Rio New: $10.99 Used: $6.50
Tear For Fears: Shout New: $13.98 Used: $9.99
Billy Idol: Rebel Yell New: $10.99 Used: $5.99
Madonna: Madonna New: $13.98 Used: $7.81
VALUE RETAINED: 59%
Conclusions: The average disc by a well-known artist generally averages about 30%-50% value retention. The big surprise is on how those Deadheads keep up the demand for old hippie music; an example of specialization being the value-smart way to listen to music. The big losers, shockingly, are adult alternative listeners, they fared worse even than the stale teenybop record buyers. Sometimes the adults aren’t always so smart.
None of this matters if you are amassing a vast library of CD’s you will never part with. But if you’re the type who might need some cash some day, or likes to exchange stuff for credit, two words: buy used.
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