Before I get into my recent dejunking accomplishments, I'd like to say a couple of things about buying and selling CDs. A lot of this applies to DVDs too.
- Good news: CDs are cheap! I remember the days when CDs were pretty much a luxury item. Those of you who've seen Wayne's World might remember the scene where Wayne puts a disc into his dashboard-mounted discman, and his girlfriend Cassandra excitedly asks, "When did you get the CD player?!?" When the Wayne's World DVD finally came out, Director Penelope Spheris had to explain that scene in the audio commentary. I remember my first discman that not only required four AAA batteries, but would skip if you practically just breathed on the thing. These days you can walk into a drug store and buy not just a discman, but a device that additionally plays CD-Rs filled with mp3s.
CDs themselves are cheap and they've been cheap for a number of years now. We're already WELL past the point where you'd get those AOL CD-ROM discs as junk mail. I've never really bothered buying CD-RW discs instead of CD-R blank discs, because if I screw up when I'm burning something, who cares? I just toss the disc and start with a new one.
Why are discs so cheap these days? First of all, manufacturers have simply gotten better at making discs for less and less of a cost. Second of all, CD burners and mp3 players have been common house-hold inventions for a long time now. Many people have just ripped their CD collection to their hard drive (if not gotten their music illegally in the first place) and are getting rid of their original CDs. With internet speeds always getting faster and hard drives always getting bigger (I've already seen the 2 TERAbyte hard drives in the stores), I imagine movies are going to go the same way.
Personally though I have no plans on selling my original CD collection even after I've ripped the files. There's always the chance I'll want to rip them in a higher format, or want the whole CD for some other reason. Never mind the fact that I'm a collector when it comes to my favorite bands.
If you're looking to buy a CD or DVD, I recommend going to half.com. They're owned by eBay, but they're not an auction site. They're a site that lets you buy or sell directly to individuals, and they only carry CDs, movies, games, and books: the big 4 groups. Since it's not an auction, you don't have to keep on checking in to see if you've been outbid and what not. You can also look at the used stuff sold by individuals through Amazon.com.
- Bad news: CDs are cheap! If you think you're going to get a good amount of money from selling your CDs, think again. Certainly there are going to be those rare CDs which will get you more dollars than you thought, but these are far and few between. Fortunately, it's not impossible to sell used CDs.
So, how can you get rid of unwanted CDs? There are a few options, each with advantages and disadvantages.
- Used CD stores. There are a number of used CD stores out there willing to pay you cash for your used CDs. They'll ask for an ID, just in case they get a call from the police an hour later saying somebody's 500 CD collection was just stole. Seems like a nice deal, but there are a few catches. They won't take just any CD. For example, if it's some promo CD you got at a club without a cover, or some local band's crappy demo CD, they probably won't take it. They might also not take a title that they're overstocked in. (True story: I bought the Led Zeppelin complete studio box set used for about $80, and the clerk said "Oh man, a guy came in here yesterday wanting to trade his in, and I said 'We already have two of them sitting there, and they've been sitting there unsold for over a year. So I don't want to take on a third one.' But you bought it!") And more often than not, unauthorized bootlegs and home-burned CD-Rs are out of the question.
Another down side to selling your CDs to a used CD store is the same down side that comes with selling any sort of used items to a store: they won't give you much for it. Yes, I know it's not fair that you're only getting $10 for a stack of a dozen CDs that you paid well more than $10 EACH for. But that's the way the cookie crumbles.
Yesterday I brought about two dozen CDs to the store. They only took half of them. But they paid me $23 cash. It was more than I expected, actually. If your real main goal is to just get rid of the stuff, then the amount of money you get shouldn't bother you that much. Think of it as a bonus.
- Selling on-line. A nice advantage of this is that you have a better chance at reaching a person who really wants what you have to sell. I'll never forget that moron I once saw posting to alt.music.black-sabbath (that's a newsgroup, for those of you who've never used the internet outside of a web browser before). He said he had the debut solo CD of Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin, and tried selling it to some used CD store, and the clerk laughed at him. So assuming the CD was worthless, the guy just "threw it away". And I rightfully call this guy a "moron", because if he had done even a minimal amount of asking around on-line, he would have found out that the disc was fetching an average of $50 on eBay at that time. Bye-bye, fifty bucks. Schmuck.
So before you assume "Nobody wants a CD from [insert obscure band here]", try doing a little search on eBay or Half.com to see if it's in high demand. It can't hurt.
Unfortunately, this is more of the exception than the rule. Sometimes you'll bring a CD to one of these sites, only to find out that 20 other people are selling the same CD for a mere dollar or two. Sometimes you'll even see "1-cent sales". This is when somebody sells the CD for a penny, but charges a little extra for the shipping and handling, which is where they get the profit. But for some CDs, it's the only way to make a profit, so if all else fails you could try that.
Another disadvantage of course is that unlike going to a store, you have to make the effort to package the item for mailing, mail it out, track feedback left on the site, etc. If you're planning on doing a lot of on-line selling, I recommend buying a little weighing scale to help calculate prices.
Could I have perhaps gotten a little more money from my CDs if I sold them on-line instead of taking them to the store? Maybe, maybe not. But instead of keeping track of a bunch of different auction listings, some of which I might have had to pay money for even if the item didn't sell, I was happy to just make one trip to the store and get it over with.
- Give-it-away, Give-it-away, Give-it-away now! Yes, you can give some of these discs away as gifts. But don't just dump your CDs of unwanted music on some friend who doesn't like it either. That just says "I'm a dink" and "I'm too cheap to buy you an actual birthday gift." Unless maybe you give it to them as clearly a gag gift, in which case I think you should additionally give a serious gift too. Instead, give the stuff to somebody who will actually appreciate it. I had so many versions of Black Sabbath's Paranoid album on CD: the original release (distributed by Castle in Holland), the 1996 remaster, the box set version, the new 3-CD special edition, etc. At some point I was playing with a band who was covering "Hand of Doom", and one of the band members didn't own a recording of it. So I said "Hell, I'll just give you the CD." Likewise, I've run across young music fans who are looking back and just discovering the classics. Why not help them along?
- If all else fails, there's the thrift store. This goes for practically ANY type of item in your home. If you've tried everything else, you can always donate it to a thrift store. You won't get money, but they will take anything, AND you can typically get a tax write-off. They'll give you a slip of paper to fill out where you briefly mention what you gave them and the approximate worth. This amount is usually left up to you to fill in, but be realistic. Don't kid yourself into thinking you can tell the IRS you donated two pairs of jeans and five CDs worth $10,000! Just hold on to your copy of the slip and get ready to dig it out come next April. You'll need to include Schedule A of your 1040 form.