Can you tell us your background and how Vinyl Tree started? How has it
evolved into what it is today?
Originally I started in about 1991 with a
different company called Zodiac Records. It was slightly different in those days because there were a lot of cassettes and videos and what have you.
A lot of youngsters wouldn’t
know what they were these days.
Absolutely. So I was doing quite a bit of that and a bit of vinyl but at that stage the vinyl wasn’t going crazy and wasn’t doing enough to make the sort of standard of
living I wanted.
When CDs first came in people threw all their old vinyl collections away and replaced them with CDs, or stored them all up in the attic.
That’s right. Vinyl died a death and I ended up managing a furniture shop for seven or eight years but all the time it was
eating at me that I should be getting back into this. Because
I’d been watching the market going on and I could see the new interest in vinyl. I kept saying to my wife “Look, I’m
pretty sure that I can make a good living at this.” And she was obviously worried because I was earning pretty good
money as the manager of a furniture shop.
She’d say “You would say that.” And she’d think you were having a mid-life crisis!
absolutely. So to cut a long story short what I did was I did it in a bigger way and had a company logo made and a van with the company logo on, which is unusual, because most dealers just carry their stuff around in the back of a car. I had my stuff all
'logoed up' and that attracted a lot of attention. I had a logo on my stalls and we did this in a bigger way and, touch wood, we started back just over three years ago and the vinyl’s been going pretty well as well as the CDs and DVDs element as well.
Where does the Tree come in?
Well Vinyl Tree –
obviously a lot of the best names were already taken and we sat down and did a
process of elimination and there were other Vinyl this and that. But I came up with Vinyl Tree and was quite pleased with it – everybody says
“That's a good name Ade.”
It’s a shame your name isn’t Lionel!
(Laughs) Yes. The only down side
to it – about a year after I had started I was messing about on The Internet and I saw some fellow in Brazil has copied me and he’s used the Vinyl Tree but it’s the
Brazilian domain. I was flattered in one sense but very annoyed in another sense
because I’m quite proud of the name. I know it sounds silly but that was
But isn’t it strange? – in 1993 you wouldn’t have
thought it possible that you’d be getting cross with some Brazilian guy in 2010 over your company’s identity.
No. Laughs) So that’s just the way that Vinyl Tree came about.
Why do you think
retro and nostalgia are so popular in so many peoples lives?
I think what it is – well, I’ve always
been nostalgic anyway and you’ve only got to watch these costume
dramas on the telly and see how massive they are. People have always liked old music and the black and white films. People like old cars and people dress up
in old clothes now.
Yes, my girlfriend tells me off about that. (Both laugh)
People look at the old times with rose-tinted glasses, I suppose. And there’s something about old times which bring back memories.
And if you’re
listening to an old record you think of your first girlfriend, or
boyfriend, and you remember what you were doing, what school you
were at. And music brings back memories, doesn’t it?
It’s part of the human
condition, isn’t it?
I think so.
What advice would you give to somebody who is starting to collect vinyl. Or indeed
other memorabilia, because you also offer toys and Corgi and Dinky cars as well, don’t you? Is
that the little boy in you coming out?
and Dinky vehicles have a long history and there are many
hundreds to collect,
from day-to-day vehicles, retail and military to cult
TV and film
Yes. (Laughs) Again it goes back to your last question about the retro. If you go to the toy’s side, a lot of people like collecting things they had
when they were a kid – the James Bond car and the Action Man and what have you. They got trashed when they were young and when they get in their
forties and fifties they realise that a lot of this gear is quite valuable now and they want to get it in mint condition. So my advice really is, if you’re collecting toys or antiques or records or collectables,
then go for the best possible
condition you can. Don’t be tempted to say “Well, I’ll get that. It’s not in the best
condition, but...” Go for the most pristine if you can.
I saw a mint Yellow
Submarine boxed at the weekend. What sort of price should it have gone for?
They usually fetch £200-£250.
It went for about that.
It would do. I remember when I was about
eight years old I was holding hands with my mum and we walked past the newsagents in the village where we lived and in the
window was the Yellow Submarine which had just come out. It must have been about ’68. And I remember it was
two shillings and sixpence. I recall pestering my mum and I didn't even know who The Beatles were but I thought it looked cool. I said “Can I have that for
Christmas, mum?” And she said “We’ll see.” And I never did get one.
you still bear a grudge (Both laugh)
I’ve got all the
reproductions, but I’d still love a mint and boxed one. I have people come up to me all the time and they have a box of records and they’ll say “I’m interested in selling these, what do you think?” And you open the box up with
excitement and there are some very rare records in there but they’re
totally trashed – there's writing on the labels, they’re scratched, there’s no
inner sleeve, they’re all grubby and grotty. And you have to politely but firmly explain to them that their valuable record’s worthless
and wants recycling because there's no value. Of course, a lot of
people still don’t understand that and they say “Well, I’ve seen it on The Internet and it’s worth this.” And you try to explain that, yes it is, if it’s in mint
I wonder why people can’t understand that.
They don’t. I think what it is, it's that greed kicks in and people think
“I've got this so it must be
worth some money.” They come up to you and say “I’ve got some Elvis records.” And I say “Well, without being rude,
most of the country has got some Elvis records.” (Both laugh)
One day a really unassuming person
will come up to you and say “I’ve got some Elvis records.” And you’ll be blasé about them and then you’ll find out they are actually records that belonged to Elvis and there’ll be
proof that he did own them.
I know. I had one person once who had a carrier bag with about a dozen
Elvis LPs in and he said “I want to sell these because we need to double
glaze the front of the house.” (Both laugh) And I was trying not to laugh. I really
don't know what planet they were on. They genuinely believe that if it’s old it’s worth a fortune.
There’s the opposite side of the coin too. Some don’t appreciate the difference between an original Bus Stop or Breakfast At Tiffany’s poster and an original one. They wouldn’t be able to
discern the difference yet you and I and most people who are
real collectors or who are 'in the trade' I think would be able to recognise that the
original posters have a certain age to them and a certain look, feel and even smell.
Yes, I had a fellow called me up once and he said “I’m, sixty-one, I’ve got some Dinky toys that I had when I was fourteen – they’re mint and boxed." I said “That sounds good.” He said “I’ve got some
World War II posters – Hitler and
Churchill.” So I said “Right, I’ll be around straight away.” So I went rushing round his house all
excited and he opened the door and I walked into his lounge and at the back of the room I
could see these little tiny boxes of Corgi cars. These cars were
the ones that you got free with the petrol a few years ago. I didn’t say anything. “Where are
these Dinky cars?” I said. “These are them.” He said. So I said
“Firstly they’re not Dinky, they’re Corgi and secondly they were made in 1992 and given away with petrol so how you could have got them when you were fourteen I don’t know. Where are the
World War II posters?” He pulled out a pile of posters and they’d all got Imperial War Museum printed on them. (Both laugh) I nearly cried honestly. I was tired and had come straight round from work and I thought what a waste of time. And sadly, more often than not, when you get a
phone call then that’s what happens.
I suppose the good thing there Ade is that it means there’s more chance for people like you and me to spot the really good stuff?
Absolutely. But it is frustrating.
I get a lot of emails with attachments of people’s belongings and I tend to refer them on to the experts and clients now if they look
promising. Normally people will say “I’ve got a signed Hendrix album.” And you can tell they think it’s worth thousands
by the language in their email but often there will be no proof of where it was signed or by who. The same with Beatles items I get sent by email. It
all comes down to provenance and being able to prove it really.
What are the best sellers and the best
Obviously it's a bit like the stock market or antiques and can vary from
month-to-month, year-to-year, but the massive sellers at the moment are your
progressive rock groups from the seventies. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and that sort of group. And, to be honest with you, the reason for that is although they sold huge quantities what’s happened now is that the
Polish, the Japanese, the Chinese, the
Spanish, the French and the Russians are all buying them. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason these items are all going out of the country. There’s dealers from
there coming over here and if you sell anything on The Internet it’s going round Russia and those other countries. So
whether they’ve just discovered those acts or what I don’t know. A lot of them are
fetching well above what they’re actually worth. Which is good in some respects if you’re selling but there's
a downside to this. It’s a
bit like in the 1970s and 1980s in the antiques market and you
probably remember we used to send shipping containers to the States and all our
heritage was being lost – it was all leaving the country. Now that’s what’s happening with the vinyl at the moment. A year ago I could have
bought it for 50p or a quid, now you can’t get it because it's all
gone to Poland and Russia. And so it’s nice they’re getting the benefit over there and I’m happy to be making sales but the downside is we’re losing it and it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.
It’s like we’re helping to get rid of our musical
Yes, obviously some of the rarer groups that only sold 100 or 200 copies, they always fetch good money. Some of the rarer early
rock and roll.
Have you ever had a Beatles butcher’s cover?
I had a reproduction one quite recently. But no, I‘ve not
actually seen an original. But I live in hope.
What sort of feedback are you getting from the customers?
my customers – I’d say 75% and these are people that see me at record fairs and on the markets and I’m on first name terms with them. So they’ll come to
me and I know what they want and I get it for them, they’ll take it home and play it and say “Oh, I really enjoyed that Ade, can you get me anything more by them. And can you get me this and that?” So that’s always quite satisfying. And also I do part-exchange
for my customers and that always goes down well with them. So it’s positive I would
Do you get many people asking for the cult bands like The
Action, The Creation?
I don’t think I’ve been asked for those. I’m always being asked for sixties psych and garage and that type of stuff. You get asked for northern
soul a lot.
What about cult groups like the Idle Race?
Yes, sometimes you get asked for them. But most people are looking for the same sort of stuff and with The Internet and with
price guides and telly and what have you, most people are pretty switched on.
Every man and his dog is out there scouring the charity shops and the car boots looking
for the records. Of course, it's causing problems trying to find stock. But they’re all pretty up-to-speed on what’s valuable and what’s not.
China, India and Brazil coming on board soon.
China a little bit already. Brazil, yes they’re quite into their vinyl. Even places like Malta – it’s quite amazing
when I have sold stuff on The Net most of it, maybe 90% of the records you sell, go out of the country. Which is quite sad. I suppose if you live in Malta, where are you going to get original Beatles and Stones records from? You’re going to have to get them off The Net aren’t you?
That’s right. What are the best aspects of what you do Ade?
You’re your own boss. You only get out of it
what you put in. It is hard work. I’m up at six o'clock and you’re standing in a freezing cold market and wet and that can be not fun. But the flipside is that you make lots of friends and meet lots of interesting people. You never know each day how much money you’re going
to take, you never know if somebody's going to turn up with something really
rare and that sometimes happens. They’ll turn up and open an bag and
there'll be something great in there and you think “Well, this is why I do this game.” I like the whole thing of
working for yourself. Most people that work for themselves are happy and have a
better quality of life. I spend more time with my family and my little dog.
Whereas before I was working Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and late nights and whilst
I put in a lot more hours it’s a lot more flexible. And it’s
something I’m interested in.
and Dinky Cars are now highly collectable
What does The Internet mean to Vinyl Tree?
It basically opens you up worldwide. The second thing is that people perceive you to be much bigger than you are when you have a website. Even though you
work from home, they don’t know if you might have a string of twenty shops. The Web comes across as more
professional and if people want to sell their collection they like knowing that you’re on The Internet “He must know what he’s doing." So that’s good from that point of view. Also The Internet is a good form of advertising and people see you and find where you are. I wouldn’t say it’s the be-all-and-end-all as most of my business is done face-to-face or
through the post but it’s certainly a part that is
absolutely essential in the game I’m in.
An addition to your repertoire.
Exactly. The icing on the cake really and you have to be on The
So what are you plans for the future?
We plan to move to north Yorkshire and relocate the business. Whitby and Pickering, that sort of area.
I know, it’s lovely there. Great fish and chips at Whitby!
Yes there are.
Is that the reason you’re going? The best chips I ever had.
We want to go that that part of the world. I’ll still have The Internet and still do markets and
record fairs and what have you over there and hopefully continue to
grow. I would like to increase the amount of business we do with toys and
collectables because I’ve always been interested in that side and it’s a lot lighter carrying a few boxes of toy cars around than a few boxes of LPs. I
actually did myself some harm a couple of months ago carrying some boxes of LPs so I’m trying to reduce the amount of those that I have to carry around. It meant I was off work for ten days and that scared me a bit. I’m now doing more singles and CDs. It also prompted me to sell on eBay a bit more – I am not a
whizz on computers but a friend came round while I was off and he showed me how to sell on eBay.
I think the first week I went on eBay I did about £3,500
worth of business.
My word! Well done you. And you
probably thought this is the way you’re going to do business in the future?
Sadly the problem with that side is
getting the stuff. You could make an absolute fortune if you could get the stuff but you can’t because every
man and his dog’s out for it. So I find now I can put one or two items on a
week whereas in the past you could put 50 or 60 items on a week. The other problem, of course, is that you can find a
rare record or a rare toy, or at least you think it is, and you’ll go on The Internet and there’s another twenty or thirty exactly the
same. So that’s the only downside to The Internet – yes, it’s opened things up but it’s also devalued some items because it means you can get them a lot easier than you could.
Yes, in that sense it’s diluted the value and also the fun of collecting. It’s a great resource –
there's some great material on The Web but also a lot of rubbish, and as you say it has devalued the experience as it were. In the past if you got something rare through the post or found it in a shop your heart was pounding and it was harder to do. But now it’s
relatively easy to find it on The Net.
It is and a lot of people – ordinary working people, have got their records and
toys and they don’t really know a lot about them and they think “Put them on eBay.” They don’t know how to
describe the condition and they put a lot of dross on there and they don’t know the pricing structure so it has sort of
mucked things up a little bit. But you just have to work a lot harder at it now and
I think with the current recession we’re in the next couple of years will be
to say the least. I just keep my prices keen, am prepared to do deals and
I'll keep my head above water until the climate changes.
sounds like the key – you’re flexible and are identifying areas and
methods that are working for you Ade. And that’s all you can do.
It is. I think if I keep on as I am then it will all hopefully come right.
Ade for letting us know about what you're doing.
Thank you David.
vinyl in mint condition can command very good prices