When Baby Boomers in the Schenectady area decide to downsize, they bring their old vinyl album collections to The Re-Collector on Jay Street.
“I get a lot of it. They come in a couple of times a month. Sometimes they want to sell it and sometimes they just want to get rid of it,” says shop owner Kurt Hellijas.
For 62-year-old Hellijas, who has always loved vinyl, the fun starts as he flips through these old LPs, usually boxes of 50 to 100 albums, looking for treasures.
While he rarely ever finds an album that’s worth more than $25, he knows what will sell and what won’t.
The best of the bunch join the 4,000 albums, 2,500 CDs, 1,000 cassettes and 150 eight-track tapes that are for sale in the small shop, along with dream catchers and beaded earrings. The rest of the albums he gives to City Mission.
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“Frank Sinatra has always moved, he’s neck and neck with Elvis, and Elvis is a pretty good seller,” Hellijas says.
“I do good with Dean Martin, Broadway albums, Miles Davis.”
When it comes to Broadway, “Cabaret” and “Finian’s Rainbow” are on the top of his list.
“Tony Bennett is so-so.”
“Forget it,” he says. “The only time I can sell his records is when he comes to Proctors.”
A Streisand fan
Hellijas is a big Barbra Streisand fan, and “A Star is Born,” the 1976 movie in which she co-starred with Kris Kristofferson, is one of his favorites, but most shoppers aren’t interested.
“She’s not a big seller. I only sell a lot of her when it’s a Broadway album.”
When it comes to country, Johnny Cash albums rule. “I can’t hold him.”
Merle Haggard and Lynne Anderson are popular, too.
And don’t bother trying to find music by David Bowie, who died Jan. 10, or The Eagles, who lost founding member Glenn Frey on Jan. 18.
“I have neither. I sold out,” he says.
If you’re ready to get rid of your old albums, Hellijas suggests that you first find out their value by looking them up on eBay or at the library.
“If you have Stones and Beatles, they are worth money.”
The condition of the record is more important than the cover, he says.
“It’s always good if they are both in good condition. But you’re not going to buy a record that is full of scratches.”
If the record is no longer playable, you can save the empty sleeve and hang it on the wall.
In his shop, the cool 1960s and 1970s albums hanging on the wall near the ceiling have no records inside.
“They’re album art,” says Hellijas, and he sells other covers in a special bin, three for a dollar.
“The college kids are my biggest buyers for album covers.”
While the used vinyl attracts browsers of all ages, for Baby Boomers the shop is a nostalgic trip through the music of their generation.
“I was a rock ’n’ roller, and I’m really into the blues,” Hellijas says.
In the 1980s, the Schenectady native played bass in the local band Blues Alley. Then he started his own bands, Too Far Gone and The Varmints.
Six years ago, after he broke his hip and then lost his job in a metal-working shop, he decided to follow his heart and open a used record store.
“I love it. I just like meeting people,” he says. “And maybe that special box of records is going to come in.”
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197, [email protected] or on Twitter @bjorngazette.