out of print records & used records & collectable records

There is actually some confusion regarding the use of terms for records that are bought and sold among friends and fellow collectors, at record stores and record collectors conventions, and through the mail (using self-published sale lists, ads in magazines such as Goldmine, or ads/auctions placed on the internet. I will address three terms that are often confused with one another and thereby misused:

And just what is an ‘out of print’ record

A record that has ceased to sell in quantities that make its continued availability on the retail shelves of stores throughout the country less than profitable is usually deleted from the record company’s active catalog. Once deleted, the title is ‘out-of-print’ (abbreviated as either ‘OOP’ or ‘oop’). These records are out of print records.

Merriam-Webster Online defines this term as it applies to book publishers, the industry in which the term originated:

  • in-print means that it is “procurable from the publisher”;
  • out of print means the opposite, that it is “not procurable from the publisher.”

An out-of-print record is NOT, by definition, a used record: if the out-of-print record is an album that is still in its original, factory-sealed shrink-wrap, it has never been played and is therefore not ‘used.’

These terms above and below apply equally to compact discs (or CDs), the current media that replaced the LP and gracelessly ended the ‘Vinyl Era’ (approximately 1948-1988).


Once a record has been played, it is by definition ‘used’! In fact, once the shrinkwrap has been split and opened on an LP, the record should be considered used. That does not mean that this used record cannot be graded NM or even Mint; but whatever grade it is assigned, it remains a used record . . .

And just what is a ‘used’ record

This one should be REAL easy: a record that has been played at least once is a ‘used record.’ That is, a brand new record that you pay $19.99 or $24.99 or more for in 2013 (the 180 gram virgin vinyl reissues come to mind) and that you take home, open the shrink-wrap, and play once, is a used record.

Its retail value as a used record plummets from the price that you paid for it: it is usually in the $4.99 – $9.99 range in stores that carry used records.

A used record may be in print or out-of-print; an out-of-print record is NOT, by definition, a used record.

And just what is a ‘collectable’ record

Merriam-Webster Online gives us the pointless definition of collectible (the more contemporary spelling but not the preferred spelling for some of us) as “suitable for being collected.”

So, if I say, “A collectable is anything suitable for being collected,” am I not then constructing a tautology?

Wikipedia does it a little bit better: “A collectable or collectible (aka collector’s item) is any object regarded as being of value or interest to a collector; [it is] not necessarily monetarily valuable or [an] antique. There are numerous types of collectables and [numerous] terms to denote those types.”

It’s Strunkandwhiten It time!

In the venerated Oxford English Dictionary, collectable is the spelling listed first for this word; the OED also recognizes collectible as valid. In contemporary usage, most English-speaking countries use the first spelling, collectable, while the United States contrarily prefers the second, collectible.

As a personal aside, I was always at loggerheads with my publishers and editors at Krause Publications: their standard called for collectible while I argued for collectable to be used with the Neal Umphred titles. Guess who won that argument . . .

Comments, suggestions, additions, and arguments welcome!