Unholy Trinity

Used-record stores and their three-tiered displays

There are two types of vinyl record shoppers: listeners and collectors. The listener is marked by concern first and foremost for the music—what comes out of the speakers when the record is played—rather than the object itself. The collector, on the other hand, is less interested in how the record plays and more interested in supply and demand—questions of rarity, condition, and market value apply.

Although buying for listening and collecting are two very different enterprises, the best record stores in New York are arranged according to a three-tiered system to accommodate both types of buyers simultaneously. The top tier is the collector's realm—the wall, where expensive first, limited, and private pressings are on display. Collectors often brag about their splurges, saying, "I bought it off the wall." The second tier is primarily the listener's zone—the stacks, where the bulk of a store's records are alphabetized and organized according to genre. At the bottom, sitting under the stacks on the floor, is the chaotic place where listeners and collectors bump heads. Here you find the bins, into which dealers toss records they think have no value. Buyers of all types play roulette with their free time, betting against the house, shuffling dusty fingers through box after box in search of that lucky strike—a record that doesn't suck, and is a bargain as well.

Stacks o' tracks from Brooklyn's Record Annex
photo: Ofer Wolberger
Stacks o' tracks from Brooklyn's Record Annex

Details

See also:

Deadly Dragon Sound
Dedicated to rare pressings of Jamaican music.
102-B Forsyth Street, 917-312-0679

Eat Records
A small, underpicked Greenpoint store ideal for rock and jazz lovers.
124 Meserole Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-389-8083

Records Wanted
One big record bin with a seemingly whimsical pricing structure.
123 Essex Street, 917-701-7089

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photo: Cary Conover
New to Williamsburg is the RECORD ANNEX[96 N 6th Street, Brooklyn, 718-218-8200], a wonderfully organized store where rare '60s rock discs in mint condition shine down from the wall while hip-hop 12-inches, '80s major-label no-hit wonders, and Judas Priest vinyl fill the bins. The extensive rock and jazz collection is rounded out by respectable genre and ethnic sections including country, gospel, Brazilian, and Jamaican; there's plenty of classical here too. It's not a specialty store that will blow the private-press obsessive's mind, but go in there with $150 in ready cash and you'll be lucky to escape with enough change for a post-digging pint across the street. Whether that means you've walked away with 20 records from the stacks or one off the wall depends on whether it's subject or object that brought you out record shopping in the first place.
 
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