The Last Hurrah of the Bargain Bin?

At the risk of coming across like a nostalgic luddite (again), I was in Birmingham the other day doing the record store rounds with James and a thought struck me while digging through the used section in Swordfish: give it a few years and that unexpected bargain find might well be a thing of the past. Obviously the decline of independents partly explains this, but the increased homogenisation of the chain shop racks coupled with the virtual levelling of pricing in digital download stores have also played a part. Sure, you can pick up a bargain from eBay or Amazon sellers, but you’ve made a conscious decision to go to that listing on the site. The thrill of the unexpected isn’t there to the same extent, even if the convenience is greater.

I picked up two Jim White albums in Swordfish and Josh Ritter’s last release in HMV (in their ‘special purchase’ section AKA shit we really can’t shift). Total cost: £9. The pleasure isn’t just in the pricing though, it’s partly that treasures such as this are hidden amongst unwanted Shed Seven and M People albums that have been languishing there for years, coated in a fine veneer of dust and that odd record store grease (perhaps a by-product of geek sweat?), making their appearance all the more surprising. Also, they are three great albums that I probably wouldn’t have given a chance in the never ending avalanche of new releases.

What are your all-time favourite bargain bin finds?

Previous (Similar) Music Geek Ramblings: For the Record

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4 Responses to The Last Hurrah of the Bargain Bin?

  1. James says:

    Bargain bins in record shops are definitely on their way out, which is a shame, just like losing indie record shops. However I have found that charity shop bargain bins are the new cool!

    A few months ago I found The Cardigans best and most under-rated album ‘Long Gone Before Daylight’ at Age Concern in Wednesfield for 99p – bargain!

    I suggest everyone heads down to their local Oxfam and sifts through all the Westlife & Boys 2 Men singles, there’s some gems in there somewhere!

  2. danhartland says:

    It would have been a tragedy indeed if you hadn’t got your hands on The Historical Conquests – what could you have been thinking? Glad you’ve got there now.

    Funnily enough, one of my best bargain buys every was Ritter’s own The Golden Age of Radio, for £3.99 or thereabouts. This was from the old Virgin Megastoreon Corporation Street – I’d forgotten this existed until just now. A sure sign of aging?

  3. Harry says:

    I’ve just come back from New Jersey, home of the Princeton Record Exchange. It’s a used CD/LP mega-emporium. It was great; I think my favourite purchase was Magik Marker’s album. I had the option of the regular release, or a promo version with some very attractive, alternative cover art/packaging. Flustered by choice I ended up choosing the retail copy. They also had the promo 12″ for Sonic Youth’s Rather Ripped, again coming with some purpose-designed, alternative cover art from Christopher Wool. Even though I didn’t pick that one up it was still fun stumbling across it, as well as a ton of other great cover art that I’d only seen before as 300×300 pixels.

    Zavvi at the Pavilions actually has a pretty comprehensive music catalogue. Their prices are high, but it’s still sort-of unethically pleasant to discover that they are out-indying some of the independents with what’s on their shelves. VS. the internet, every record store – major corporation or indie shop – is up against it, if they want to continue to actually sell records and not slip into ‘SPECIALISING’ in novelty crap/games/dvds. So, whoever’s stocking the good stuff, I’ll be happy to part with my cash – obv. if it’s Swordfish, and I’m supporting their used section then that’s the dream, but sometimes the big boys (Zavvi/HMV) will have to do.

  4. Matthew says:

    Harry –

    I definitely agree about the chain stores having their place. It may come across that I’m precious about indie stores but generally I’m more concerned about the contents of my wallet than the ‘ethics’ of purchasing. Sometimes it pays to walk across Birmingham from Tempest to HMV or Zavvi. If I could wean myself off the ‘experience’ of shopping for music, I would probably order everything from Amazon.

    Incidentally, one of my best bargain hauls was from a Zavvi sale, where they appeared to be clearing out more esoteric Virgin stock. It included the first Akron/Family album, Magnolia Electric Co.’s Fading Trails and some other rare wonders.

    Princeton Record Exchange sounds amazing… We’re planning on visiting New York for our honeymoon next year, so I might have to take a trip over the river!

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