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Vinyl Collectors, Book Lovers Get a New Place to Shop in N. Boulder

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A Hard Day's Night, the soundtrack to the 1964 British comedy film starring the Beatles, is playing on my turntable.

I bought the album today, as well as The Cry of Love by Jimi Hendrix, both in great condition, at the grand opening of Absolute Vinyl and Little Horse Books, two Boulder retailers housed together in about 750 square feet of space at 4474 N. Broadway in north Boulder.

The stores' owners, Doug Gaddy at Absolute Vinyl, and Michael Price at Little Horse, have been doing business together for years, dating back to when Gaddy began selling vinyl at Price's Little Horse Vintage & Modern Furniture at the former collection of small retailers on the corner of 15th and Pearl - now redeveloped into new office and retail space.

The official opening day was busy, as vinyl collectors mingled, browsed through the thousands of records, and, of course, compared notes about release dates, cover artists and their own recent vinyl "discoveries."

One such collector is Patrick Selvage, who said he owns close to 4,000 albums.

He slid an album out of its cover to show how the "matrix number" of each album is etched in the groove area just outside the label. This, as well as other clues, he says, helps collectors figure out the edition or "pressing" of the disc. Serious vinyl collectors, he adds, start to look for different pressings of a particular album they like. And like all collectors, that's just one of the tricks of the trade. Selvage was buying about $70 of vinyl, having found some interesting buys both in the value $3 bin as well as higher quality albums ranging from $10 to $20.

Absolute Vinyl and its bins holding close to 10,000 of the 40,000 albums that Gaddy owns, filed alphabetically and by genre, fill the front of the store, with Little Horse Books taking up two smaller rooms in the back, where Price also is selling some art.

It's a friendly, relaxing atmosphere, and helps fill the gap left by the recent departure of Bart's CD Cellar in downtown Boulder.

"We've been looking for some space for awhile," Gaddy says, noting that downtown rents were too high for their small business.

"I missed the interaction of retail," says Price, who has about 2,000 books listed on Amazon, selling about 800 to 1,000 a month. "I tell everyone it's a full-time job done by two people," with his wife helping, especially with packaging and shipping.

Gaddy and Price are both buyers and sellers, getting leads by word of mouth as well using their years of experience to know where and how to buy.

"I'm always hunting," says Gaddy, who sometimes travels to East Coast cities like Washington and New York. Regional tastes become obvious, he says. For example, Zephyr albums, the late '60s Denver group that gave guitarist Tommy Bolin his start, are pretty common in Colorado but much more desirable in places like New York.

"Doug's vinyl collection is always meticulous," Price says. "I'm going to ride his coattails," he adds, with the goal of improving the quality of his own titles in different categories.

Speaking of pressings, I pressed Gaddy to give up some tips for collecting vinyl. But like all good collectors, he was cautious in letting too many secrets slip out. "I work my ass off to find really clear records," he tells me.

His No. 1 tip for both the advanced audiophile or someone just remembering how buying records used to make them happy (put me in that category) is simple: Come visit his store; he's always willing to help customers to learn about any music. One celebrity customer who did drop in earlier - Boulder native Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys.

Eventually I did glean some advice from both Gaddy and a collector at the store:

• Go slow when first starting to buy. Learn what kind of music you really like. Try online sites like allmusic.com or iTunes, and listen to short clips.
• Go to YouTube, again to listen to many of the songs, some often rare, that other collectors have uploaded.
• EBay also is good to get a feel for prices, as well as details on rarer and collectible releases.
• Discogs is another huge online community-built database of music information.
• When you travel, visit vinyl stores in different cities, gathering information as well as supporting independent retail.

Eventually every collector starts to figure out his own "secret" techniques. Do it enough, and your name gets around. People start to call you.

Both Price and Gaddy say they're happy to come to anyone's house that may have albums or books they'd like to sell. It's often easier than looking over boxes brought into the store, since they're often working with customers.

You can reach Price or Gaddy by calling the store at 303-955-1519 or just stopping in and letting them know what you might have for sale.

Price says he still finds good book titles by browsing thrift stores, but admits, "It's getting very competitive out there." Gaddy personally doesn't recommend thrift stores for vinyl collectors, because typically the quality just isn't found there.

Annie Gaddy, Doug's wife, is helping at the store, as well as his sister-in-law Faith Evans. Price says he'll be at the store several days, splitting time between his online book sale business of selling and another part-time job.