Profile of Josette Kernaghan, Vinyl Record Collector and Reseller
Background: Before MP3's, compact discs, cassette tapes, and 8-tracks, there was yet another music medium—vinyl records. And they're back!
Depending on when you were born you may or may not know that the vinyl record is a type of recording, mostly music, popular from the 1950s to the 1990s. Engraved on both sides with a single spiral groove in which a diamond needle is intended to run, from the outside edge towards the center playing the recording.
Originally sold in either paper or card covers, with a circular cutout allowing the record label to be seen, the Long-Playing records (LPs) usually come in a paper sleeve within a color printed card jacket with a track listing. Earlier copies of 45 rpm singles and LPs were sold with paper covers. These covers were known as album art. Both the records and the covers are highly collectible nowadays.
The Story: My name is Josette Kernaghan and I've always been a "work from home" type, even before it was in vogue or telecommuting was a word. Years ago, from my home office in British Columbia, I sold products for Ann Morris Enterprises, a company that provided low vision devices. Then, when the company went out of business I sold similar items for two other vendors, all no longer in business. Being near retirement age, with having a work from home sales background, instead of going back out into the normal work-a-day world, I started thinking about selling hard-to-find, unique items. I ended up combining my lifetime interest in music, with vintage vinyl records and album art for resell.
Some call it a "hobby job" but it's something I love to do and sometimes make a buck or two doing it. At first I thought I might be able to make enough to call it an income but, when you are fishing and hunting for a particular item that there are only so many of, you find that there are a lot of other hunters and fishers out there all wanting to bag the same trophy. Anyway, because of my continuing love of music dating back to my childhood, I decided on vinyl records as my collectible "search and sell" item.
Every day I get up, get email, answer or return phone calls from folks looking for records and/or covers. As much as I can, I go to shows, look for collectibles, 45s and LPs and sell and trade them. I mostly like dealing with vintage records on Sun Label from the early 50s. I also like the old RCA record label with the dog at the gramophone and the Mercury labels which is purple with silver print. However, these are just a few of the main labels one can deal in and you should know that there are many other smaller labels as well. To make any money or be of any value the records must be in mint condition, hopefully, in unopened packages.
The picture sleeves are also very sought after and can drive the price up in great measure. For example, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash or Roy Orbison can easily go for $1,000 or more depending on the rarity or condition. The Beatles, one of the most legendary groups of all times certainly took full advantage of the allure of album art which has increased the value of even their records.
As mentioned, my love for music as a child helped me develop this interest of collecting and selling vintage vinyl records. From the early 50's through the 70's radio was wonderful. Growing up with the music and listening to radio during this time was particularly engaging and, really, started my pre-occupation and passion for collecting then. I suppose I was a bit of a strange kid because I would always ask for records instead of candy.
Although in one sense I work independently, I still work with other collectors and dealers all over North America. Every time I'm at a convention or show, I go to record stores. The collectors always seem to know where the stores are and I make a point of going to at least one.
By interacting with the professional collectors and dealers, I've learned from them what things are worth and how to determine value. As a blind person I have to trust a lot of sighted people about the condition of the record, especially the covers and sleeves and labels. If marks are on them it devalues the item. Because of marks a record could go from Mint to VG+ (very good) to Poor. Playing them, however, won't devalue them if you don't scratch them. Always clean them as cleaning increases value and longevity. (Rubbing alcohol is best for cleaning them.)
My hobby turned into a "job" as I started going to shows. This is where I mainly became educated and learned from the expertise of other collectors and dealers. Shows and conventions are also where I network and make contacts. If you are a novice, a piece of advice is to make sure you get to know someone and get contact info before doing business with them. Even so, you must be careful as it is easy to get ripped off. No matter how likeable, learn to stay away from individuals you aren't sure you can trust. I am very careful about who I allow into my home to look at my collection. I always get to know them first and get references. As you get to know someone in this collector's field, it pays to weigh and consider their advice when it is given.
There are no special job modifications for doing what I do aside from the common blindness compensatory skills one would learn in school or rehab training. Everything I use is a low tech device such as slate and stylus, a Perkins Brailler, a handheld recorder, and sometimes a sighted reader. I use all of the above to keep a contacts list and write down what they are looking for. A frequent method I use is to have someone read to me on a hand held tape recorder at the shows what items I have, then, I put braille cards inside each jacket with the item description. For mail orders by phone I use audio recordings a lot and an electric typewriter for invoicing. All of this takes a highly organized effort but, if you don't, you will spend all of your time looking for things instead of selling or trading your treasures.
Being a serious music fan, one of the best things about what I do is always the fun I have socializing with others about the music, not just what we are looking for or, buying and selling. People who do this really love the era (50's-70's).
Large groups of vinyl fans have made quite a comeback. Note the turntables and other paraphernalia for sell in stores these days as well as vintage record players on eBay and elsewhere. Also note the increase in shows and conventions. Vinyl collectors love the big shows such as the one in Washington State where only 45's are sold and traded. And another in Austin, Texas is coming up soon. At least 200 attend the smaller shows around the country.
I ran into a few other blind collectors over the years but, I have no idea how many of us there are. If you are interested in becoming a collector or earning a little money doing something like this then I suggest that you get in touch with dealers and other collectors, ask questions, get all the info you can about the hobby and learn as much as possible about the era of records.
The most frustrating thing about this wonderful "hobby job" is not being able to read the stuff that information is on. It is all in print so you are going to need readers. It is such a special interest item that it's hard to get the info you need to find out about rare pieces because it isn't listed in billboard guides, but listed on local surveys from radio stations. I've always thought it would be fun to contact other blind people who are collectors, so if you are one, get in touch!
The Contact: Josette Kernaghan
Relevant Links:Vinyl Album
Rare Vinyl Network
Record Collectors Guild
Austin Record Meet
Vinyl Times (shows & dates)