Saturday, April 18, 2015

Leaving a record collection in your will is like bequeathing a minor stately home

When I made my first will, thirty years ago, I asked an old friend to be an executor. I had a lot of records. He had a lot of records. I figured that if it came to it he'd either take them or know what to do. A lot's changed since then. CD made vinyl seem passé. Then CD turned out to be even more passé. The world turned digital, fewer people had space for lots of stuff and my friend moved to Australia.

The other day my son asked me what I was planning to do with it all and I didn't have an answer.
He's far-sighted enough to know that it's going to be a problem. None of the kids are going to want more than the odd souvenir. They're all moving house at the moment and it's clear they don't have the same attachment to stuff we had at that age. No reason why they should. On the other hand they're sensitive enough to know that several thousand vinyl LPs and as many CDs can't just be chucked on to the council tip.

In the light of all the vinyl fetishism around Record Store Day I asked on Twitter whether anyone had made arrangements for their record collection in their wills. A few said they'd said that friends could have their pick. Some had specified that particular records should be left to particular people. That's probably OK if you don't have a massive quantity. The problem with a large collection is it's simultaneously precious and a pain in the arse. Bequeathing it is like leaving somebody a dog or a minor stately home. Not everyone wants the responsibility.


  1. Indeed. A colleague of mine years ago was actually dismayed when a good friend of his passed away, not just because his friend had died (that's pretty obvious) but because he left his huge record collection in his will to him. An assumption had been made that it was the right place for it in the event of his untimely death.

    He didn't know what to do with it or have the space to store it. He tried to sell bits of it off to me, but these were all highly collectible records I couldn't offer a fair price for. No idea what happened to them all in the end, but the collection was broken up all over the place at great time and effort, I'm sure.

  2. Assuming all this stuff will have any value in 20/30+ years time, find the right person who would recognise the value of a big collection & the opportunities it would suggest.

    A decent haul could set someone up for a year or more, to open a shop or sell to collectors, or simply flog on discogs/ebay etc...

  3. Twenty years ago I told two friends that should I pre-decease them one would be getting the books and the other the records. I had little notion that should we reach our four score years we probably won't be listening to music bought in our twenties or, indeed, still have a turntable between us.

    Thinking about that Indy Landfill site in North London:someone should start a cremetary for the Repose of Vintage Vinyl - 'For the better class of collection don't you know.'

  4. I'm going to write a few words on the back of ten album covers (why I bought it, when I bought it, where I bought it from and what it means to me) and leave those to the Number One Son. Whether he wants them or not.

    As for the rest...

  5. Anonymous1:36 pm

    There was a gent on a BBC2 programme (Collectaholics - still on iPlayer I believe) the other day who had amassed a collection of 75,000 CDs filling, to the brim and beyond ,7 adjacent flats.
    Never listened to the music, was trying to put together a definitive record (excuse the pun - he ONLY collected CDs) of popular music circa 1920 and beyond. Had 4 members of staff cataloging and maintaining.
    He estimated he spent £150 per day building up his library.
    Makes my thoughts of what I do with my "collection" seem insignificant.

  6. A few years ago, I was in a cab with a guy who'd just lost his father who, It turned out, had been a huge Green Bay Packer fan. He had collected team memorabilia since the early 60s and he started subscribing by mail to the local Green Bay newspaper in the mid-60s.
    The cab driver said "He saved everything and it was in perfect condition."
    But now it was left to his son, a comic book collector, to dispose of a whole storage unit full of Green Bay Packer stuff.
    He put ads in the Green Bay paper. Nothing.
    He tried to sell parts on eBay. For example, he had 3 complete sets of team yearbooks dating back to the 60s. He sold one for $18 after it was listed for two weeks. He still had two.
    In the 6 months since his dad's death, he estimated he had sold 5% of it. And he was still paying for the storage unit.
    He was frustrated and exasperated. He couldn't see an end. And he wasn't sure he was doing right by his dad's obsession/life's work.

    As a record collector, this story has haunted me.

  7. Not so much a collector, more a hoarder. Although I’ve come across book “collectors” with shelves full of duplicate copies, different printings and so on. Whatever fries your onions, I suppose, but for me, there’s no point in having the stuff if all you’re going to do is think “Look how many I’ve got.”

    If I had the loot I’d certainly buy a few more books and CDs, but they’d be stuff I want to read or hear, or at least refer to once in a while.

    I’m reminded of Jay Marshall, an American magician and avid book collector, whose standard response to the question “Have you read all these,” was “Well, I’ve read all the titles”. He did read as much as he could, but he knew he’d never catch up.

  8. I know someone who would appreciate them - and he's typing this.
    Still collecting and listening, despite the lack of time (or money)

  9. Anonymous1:41 pm

    On a recent holiday, as talk turned to retirement (still a dishearteningly long way away), the GLW asked me what I'd do with my spare time. I replied that I'd start by reading the books I haven't yet got round to and listening to the other albums by those whose discographies I have only just started to explore. That'll keep me busy.

    She seemed content with the answer, which will help.