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Vintage Turntables Have Made a Comeback — Yours Could Be Worth $1,000s

Art historian and antiques expert Lori Verderame, PhD shares how to know if yours is worth the big bucks!

If you were around before the ’90s, you likely have fond memories of listening to records on a trusty record player. For decades, taking the vinyl out of the sleeve, putting it on the turntable, dropping the needle and hearing our favorite songs spring to life was a sacred ritual. The way music would start to play felt almost magical — an ethereal artistic force emanating from a mechanical device that dates back to the 19th century. As tapes and CDs and, eventually, MP3s and streaming began to overtake records as the primary mode of musical engagement, the tactility of record players began to feel like a relic of the distant past. In recent years, however, vinyl started coming back in vogue, and just like high-waisted jeans and clunky shoes, vintage record players have become trendy among young people.

There’s long been a robust market of audiophiles who grew up with records and prized their elaborate stereo systems, and now a new generation with a love of all things retro has joined the mix. Today, you can even buy vinyl and antique record players at hipster-approved stores like Urban Outfitters (along with other oldies, like Polaroid cameras!), and musicians like Taylor Swift have limited-edition vinyl releases.

'70s record player
A classic ’70s record playerNicky J. Sims/Redferns/Getty Images

As record sales have increased long after the format was first declared obsolete, so too has the demand for vintage record players. If you have an old record player sitting in your basement, you just might find that collectors are willing to pay top dollar for it. Here’s what to know.

A teen girl with record player in the '60s
A teen girl in the ’60s enjoys her recordsPhoto Media/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Look for old record player models with Hi-Fi sound

Because record players were the primary mode of playing music for so long, they existed in many different forms, from the cheap but charming suitcase models beloved by teens to the high-end ones that functioned as centerpieces of a room.

“Manufacturers that made turntables with stereo playback Hi-Fi sound sparked the consumer interest in purchasing turntables for the home,” says Lori Verderame, PhD, an art historian who reviews 20,000 antique and vintage objects a year and has appeared on History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island and Pawn Stars Do America, Discovery Channel’s Auction Kings and Netflix’s King of Collectibles.

So what exactly is Hi-Fi sound? Hi-Fi, which is short for high-fidelity, refers to turntables that play music in superior quality, reproducing how the music is truly meant to sound without any tinny or muffled tones. Typically paired with equally high-quality speakers for the ultimate stereo setup, Hi-Fi turntables and other audio equipment are coveted by collectors today.

A high fidelity turntable.
High-fidelity is an indicator of qualityFound Image Holdings/Getty Images

Check to see if your vintage turntable is working

“Record players command the most money if they are in working condition,” says Dr. Lori. However, if your old record player doesn’t work, don’t fret! You may still be able to sell it. “There are some enthusiasts who enjoy restoring vintage record players just as there are collectors who like fixing vintage radios or TV sets,” she notes.

Couple listening to records, 1970s
A stylish ’70s couple and their audio setup Dennis Hallinan/Getty Images

The antique record player brands that bring in big bucks

If you’re trying to sell your vintage record player, it helps to know its brand, model and year of manufacture. Certain brands — especially ones that prioritized both Hi-Fi sound and beautiful design — are considered highly collectible.

  • RCA Victor: Victor was one of the oldest manufacturers of audio equipment, operating from 1901 to 1929. The American company is known for its iconic logo of a dog listening to a phonograph, and in 1930, it was bought by RCA. Dr. Lori reports that their “New Orthophonic” models introduced in the ’50s are admired for their mid-century modern design (think lots of wood tone and boxy yet elegant shapes).
  • Bang & Olufsen: Founded in 1925, this Danish company mixed top sound quality with Euro-chic minimalism. Their design is so influential that a number of their record players are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
  • Dual: This German company, founded in 1907, became the biggest turntable manufacturer in Europe.
  • Garrard: A British manufacturer founded by the jewelers Garrard & Co. in 1915. They later started making high-end turntables.
  • Marantz: An American company that was founded in 1953 and reached the height of their popularity in the ’70s.
Dog with phonograph painting — His Master's Voice by Frances Barraud vintage record players
The painting His Master’s Voice by Frances Barraud would become RCA Victor’s iconic logoBettmann/Getty Images

Collectors often put a premium on vintage turntables manufactured in the US or Europe, as in the case of the brands above. In the ’60s, Japanese audio manufacturers became more popular, thanks to their cheaper products. While not all Japanese record players are valuable today, Stereo Exchange, a shop in New York City that’s specialized in buying and selling high-end audio equipment for decades, lists Japanese manufacturers including Luxman, Nakamichi, Akai and Technics as their “brands of most interest.”

Three Turntables vintage record players
Wood tone record players were ubiquitous in the ’60s and ’70sFound Image Holdings/Getty Images

How much are old record players worth?

There are many brands of vintage turntables out there, and the ones listed represent just a few that are highly regarded. “The 1960s and 1970s is the golden age of record players,” says Dr. Lori, so if you have a record player from this era, you just might be in luck. “Many vintage records players command thousands,” she adds, noting that she’s seen an increase in demand and value since 2015.

1965 stereo setup vintage record players
’60s audio setupThree Lions/Getty Images

If you listen to all your music on streaming services nowadays, it may surprise you to learn your old record player may be able to sell for hundreds or — if it’s a high-end model — even thousands.

On eBay and other auction and vintage sites, you’ll find plenty of vintage record players that have commanded four figures, some topping $3,000. These turntables are like time machines, with distinctive looks and evocative sound qualities that instantly transport us. If you don’t want to dust off your vintage turntable on a musical journey to the past, you’re likely to find an eager collector who will jump at the opportunity.

'70s record player and speakers on white background
Who needs streaming when you have this?Archive Photos/Getty Images

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