In September 2018, hardcore archivist label Ninety Two Retro released a double-12” comprising six tracks and versions from 1992 by Mystery Man and 1st Prodject. It was limited to 300 copies and was sold directly by the label for £20 a pop. Within days of release, sellers were asking for as much as four times the price on Discogs, pricing it at a cool £80. “Takes the piss a bit, doesn’t it?” sighs the label owner Dave Birch, a DJ, artist and passionate hardcore preservationist known as Elusive.
Welcome to the dark art of record ﬂipping. It’s deﬁnitely not new — it’s why you often ﬁnd records limited to one-per customer, and it doesn’t just occur within vinyl collecting. Tickets, trainers, consoles, even bricks (thanks Supreme) have all been ﬂipped for turbo-charged price tags. Anything that’s sold as limited-edition is fair game for ﬂippers. Or let’s call them by their real title: scalpers. But perhaps we should talk about this situation in its real title, too; supply and demand.
Label owners such as DJ Shepdog, the well-known London-based selector and collector behind soundsystem primed label Nice Up! “I collect records, I buy records and every now and again I do just buy certain things to ﬂip,” says Shepdog, real name Jon. “Not often. But I have, in the past, got two copies of an album, sold one and got mine for free. Or I’d trade it for something else. I’ve sold things for way more than I bought them for, so I can’t be too preachy about this. But if you’re buying 10 or 20 copies just to ﬂip when the price peaks?
DJ Fryer, whose label Athens Of The North is known for unearthing rare gems and democratising the price, explains how collecting at this level becomes obsessive. “The value and that need to have it becomes much more important than the music,” he says. “They forget the fun stuff, the social stuff, all the cool things that got them into this. They’re just pandering to their greedy monster side. It becomes a mental health thing. Personally I’d rather have a holiday with the kids than have a £2,000 record sitting there on my shelves.”
“Over the years I’ve become acutely aware that humans obsess over the things they can’t have. This opens up a market to take advantage of”
“I would go as far to say that the original is worthless as a listening experience compared to the re-release,” he says. “Over the years I’ve become acutely aware that humans obsess over the things they can’t have, and quickly become complacent with the things that are readily within their grasp. This opens up a market to take advantage of. The value of this market is ultimately driven by a desire for rare things. It’s no different to selling antiques or artworks.”
Some labels who press limited runs argue that an extra 100 copies will break the bank if not sold. DJ Fryer argues that it wouldn’t, and that it’s the metalworks, mastering and test presses that cost the most in the release process, and that records are only 50p to produce after that initial outlay.