When you need a little money in a hurry (to, uh, buy books, of course), the useless parts of your CD collection are a lot less painful to extract than plasma. You just have to do it right. The first rule is to make sure your discs look presentable. If any cases are broken or scratched up, do your wallet a favor and buy a bundle of empty, clean CD cases at an office-supply store.
There’s also a trick that will dramatically increase your yield if you’ve got a big stack of discs to flog. Pull out the ones you know will sell—current chart hits, stuff by famous bands—and reserve two-thirds of them in a separate bag from everything else. Go to the first CD store and present the rest of them, making sure that there’s a big-name CD on the top, and a few more among the dross. Tell the clerk that you only want to sell the ones you can get at least a couple of dollars for, and that you’ll hold on to the rest. Then schlep the discs they don’t want to the next store, lace them with a few more really good ones, and repeat the process. At the third store, add the rest of the primo stuff, and take whatever they’ll give you. No used-CD buyer wants to bother with another one’s rejects, but a stack of discs with the new Aaliyah on top of it doesn’t look like it’s been picked over.
Still, the price you can get for a half-decent CD varies widely, as does the likelihood of finding something bearable to listen to in the bargain bin. We went trade-in hunting in the Village, armed with a bunch of the new Bob Marley reissues (opened but otherwise pristine). Disc-O-Rama (186 W 4th), our first stop, offered us the worst price of any store for Marley ($3 trade or $1 cash), though they’re the outlet of choice for cheap current hits—new copies of most of the current Billboard Top 200 are $10 or $11. Their $1.87-plus-tax rack included albums by Dusty Trails and the Damnations TX, both of which have at least two bucks’ worth of charms.
New York’s serious used-CD zone, though, is St. Marks Place between Second and Third avenues. Norman’s Sound & Vision (around the corner at 67 Cooper Sq) gave us $3 for Rastaman Vibration; their $2 cheapo bins, down a flight of stairs in the back, had a copy of Led Zeppelin II (badly scratched up) and barely anyone else we recognized other than Heavy D and the Boyz. We hit the jackpot at Mondo Kim’s (6 St. Marks Pl)—a crisp new $5 bill for Babylon by Bus and a 99-cent CD rack with a couple of neat indie obscurities by White Collar Crime and Sammy.
Joe’s CDs (upstairs at 11 St. Marks Pl) offered us $3 cash or $4 credit for Catch a Fire; for that, we could’ve gotten Natas’s WWW.com or the A*Teens’ The ABBA Generation, annoyed the living hell out of our roommates, and still had a dollar of credit to spare. The discount-bin-free 13 CDs (13 St. Marks Pl) upped that offer to $4 cash; we finally broke down and accepted four bucks from Sounds (20 St. Marks Pl), despite their procedural rigmarole and ghastly 88-cent bin. Highlight, in the loosest sense of that term: Baha Men’s I Like What I Like.
A few blocks from the epicenter, the neighborhoody Stooz (122 E 7th) gave us $4 for Live! They only set out the bargain crates on Saturdays, but if you’ve got a little bit more to spend, they’ve got the goods (especially if you like old vinyl). And our final stop was Accidental CDs (131 Ave A), the fabulous Tompkins Square freakhouse that’s been open around the clock for five years and has now been almost entirely crowded onto the sidewalk by its own overstock, even though someone recently hauled away most of their cheap CDs. They offered us $3 cash or $5 credit for Burnin’; we traded it for a Liz Phair tape and walked away humming “Shitloads of Money.”