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Event Fri Apr 10 2015

Finding Vinyl Diamonds in the Rough: A Newbie's Guide to Crate Digging

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A browser digging for gold. Image courtesy of CHIRP

For the inexperienced, hunting for records can make you feel like Indiana Jones trapped in a pit of too-cool snakes. With the CHIRP Record Fair coming up this weekend, we asked their resident vinyl expert Chris Meister for some tips to help you best the traps (hint:kneel) and choose wisely.

So the website says there will be "tons" of records on sale at the record fair. Where does it all come from?

CHIRP's CDs are usually doubles or things we pass over and we sometimes get extras of vinyl titles so we turn those brand new unopened ones out for much lower costs. In years past, it has come from home collections, which are usually beat to hell.

This year has been really exciting for crateheads. Our biggest donation came from a guy who is co-owner of a local record store who had an extensive collection dating back to the early 60s/late 50s. Lots of albums and 45s. The condition is usually good, he would buy unused radio station collections, one of which, ironically, had our upcoming frequency 107.1FM.

So a lot of those records , barring the 45s, were never played - 40 year old discs that have never been out of their slips. Also many were promos and marked as such which increases their value.

Also, we just had two private donations from a retired A&R guy who just left an incredible, almost-like-new DEEP jazz collection. The other donation was from one of the first House DJs here in Chicago who had so many rare, first printings of Chicago-born house it was astounding. Some we are not even putting in the fair because we have to vet them. Some were test printings of Dance Mania cuts (one of the earliest house and techno labels in the country) and some that even belonged to (and were marked by) house legend Felix Da Housecat.

In all, there's about 4K in vinyl and 1k in CDs and that's just the CHIRP table! Multiply that by over 100 tables and whoa. We even have free 8-tracks!


Wow, that's a lot of records. I don't even know how to start, or where I should start looking...

Just jump in and ask me, I know all the stories! I'll be there all day.


Do people even know what they're looking for as they flip through all those records? Is it better to have an artist in mind or just kind of browse?

Yeah, we have some savvy customers and other dealers who are looking for gems, they'll especially find them in jazz this year. For the casual digger, we are so well-priced - most albums are $1-$3 bucks - you can just relive memories or buy something because of the redonk cover art. Also,we have a lot of the "also ran" titles from artists that fill out a completists list.

We don't categorize at our table by artist; it's too much time investment. You have to dig. We only have one guy pricing this year - moi - so I eschewed narrowing the cates. We usually sort them by genre and decade.

The dealers, though, this being their lifeblood, are pretty thorough. We get dealers from all over the country and diggers from all over the world! there is a huge vinyl convention happening around the same time as ours in NYC, so people jump over here from there.


Will there be some diamonds hidden in the bins? Any valuable, limited-edition stuff hiding in there?

Yep, diamonds. Guilty pleasures, things we missed. You can try your hand at mystery bags for $5 which are filled to the brim with stuff. We even stuff a few $30 and $40 value records in them. Also, bartering is allowed. I do with vendors and we are open to deals.


What was your biggest score ever from digging?

My biggest score is what I end up loving. Italian horror soundtracks, Thai rock covers of the Mamas and The Papas, rappers like Kosha Dillz.

70s albums of all genres are absolutely meant to be listened to on vinyl from guitar rock to funk. They were recorded for the speaker balance.


What if I want to grab one with a cool cover that will impress my friends. Any recommendations?

Glam rock never loses. Or a bunch of 7" punk. Anything on SST from the 80s gets points, but this year, with this jazz territory, especially the weird 70s shit, you'll look like a deep cut artist in no time. Just never buy the Eagles. Never.

I mean, either it's cool looking and sounds the same - that's a find - or it might be so atrocious that its merit lies there in laughs for you and your friends. I love milktoast, patronizing albums from the 60s and 70s. They were trying too to be courteous, but they all fail so wonderfully. People were honest in how square they were on record.


Sometimes I feel like I'm basically grabbing stuff at random. Would any section in particular be the best for taking a chance on an artist I've never heard of?

In our tables, any section is a grab. At the dealers, if they sort alphabetically, grab by your or your significant other's initials, at least you'll have a game out of it. Psych rock is always a win-win for me. It's built to go...there, ya know. Or funk. 60s/70s Dub will chill you out instantly - I used it on my daughter when she was a fussy baby.

Like Glengary Glenross, A-B-C: Always Be (taking) Chances. The most fun is digging into something you have never heard of before and making it your own, even if everyone else can't relate. Plus you're buying vinyl and vinyl, even when CDs and their crap quality were king, was still cool. Vinyl outsells CDs now. Plus most of the new vinyl comes with download codes included.

Besides, if you can't waste $2 on what-the-high-hell-is-this vinyl, what CAN you waste it on?


The 13th annual CHIRP Record Fair & Other Delights is this Saturday, April 11, 8am to 6pm at Plumbers Hall, 1340 W Washington Blvd. Early admission (8am-10am) is $25, while General Admission after 10am is just $7.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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