5 things to check off when buying a signed album

Signed records have always been popular collector’s items.

But in recent years values at the top end of the market, like The Beatles and Bob Dylan, have risen significantly.

We’re now seeing this have an effect further down the market – with a gold rush for second tier artists and big names from the 1980s and 1990s.

With this in mind, I’m going to give you a primer on buying a signed album with an eye on investment.

Here are the 5 things you need to check off.

Have all the members signed it?

Records signed by each member of the band are the gold standard.

Beatles Hard Days Night

(Image: Paul Fraser Collectibles)

They also tend to be rarer.

It makes sense when you think about it.

Often records are hastily signed at the back entrances of concert venues or hotels. 

The only place autograph hunters can be guaranteed the complete set is at a dedicated signing.

As a consequence, they’re more valuable.

Was it signed in period?

In period autographs are those signed around the time of the record’s release.

Led Zeppelin live

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

They have greater appeal because they offer a direct link to a moment in time.

If you’re buying a copy of Led Zeppelin's III, for example, you want it signed on its release in 1970.

Most people’s signatures change subtly over time, particularly if they’re regularly signing autographs.

So seasoned autograph lovers can work out roughly when a record was signed.

Do other people like this album?

When it comes to investing in collectibles, the goal is to tread the line between broad appeal and rarity.

Let’s say a record ticks our top two boxes.

It’s signed in-period. 

And every member is represented.

The only problem is – it’s their worst album.

Most bands have at least one.

  • For Dylan it’s Knocked Out Loaded (1986). Signed copies go for less than $1,000
  • The Rolling Stones have Dirty Work, also released in 1986 (what was going on that year?), which changes hands for around $1,000
  • Queen’s Hot Space (1982) is generally regarded as their nadir – it goes for around $900

Now let’s compare these figures with prices paid for albums thought of as the artist's best.

  • Dylan’s The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963) goes for upwards of $10,000
  • The Stones’ self-titled debut (1964) goes for up to $15,000
  • And Queen’s seminal Queen II (1974) realises figures around $9,000

Note that these signed albums are not necessarily any rarer than the previous lot.

Demand is higher due to broader appeal.

These are the albums people connect with and they’re the ones to buy if you want a wide market.

What’s the condition like?

Condition has a big impact on value.

Records are generally played to death – making mint originals extremely rare.

If the record is rare and in-demand, most collectors will overlook a slightly dog-eared cover.

But as always, if you have the option, you should buy the best you can afford.

This will increase your chances of making a profit in the long run.

Is the seller legitimate?

This is my biggest tip of all.

Only buy from respectable dealers or auction houses.

Look for those offering certificates of authenticity.

Otherwise you run the risk of buying a worthless fake.

Happy hunting.

Paul Fraser.

PS. I have an in-period, signed and fully authenticated copy of The Beatles’ A Hard Day's Night for sale.

PPS. Do you have a signed album you’re looking to sell? I may be able to help. Get in touch today at info@paulfrasercollectibles.com.

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