Vinyl Collectors Find Hidden Gems at Greater Orange County Record Show

Lin Holland is thumbing through a cardboard box full of dusty vinyl early on a cool, bright April Sunday morning.
Wyatt Star, 23, poses by the Burger Records table at the Greater Orange County Records Show April 30./ Natalie James / el Don

Lin Holland is thumbing through a cardboard box full of dusty vinyl early on a cool, bright April Sunday morning. He’s surrounded by hundreds of records in long rows that fill the vast Union Hall in Buena Park. Holland, 68, has been obsessed with music since his teens. In all his years of collecting, the magic of crate digging has not left him. He pulls a copy of The Doors’ album, Waiting for the Sun, from the box, carefully slides the record out of its sleeve and tilts the vinyl under the hall’s white lights. Happy to share his knowledge, he explains that he’s looking for a copy of the early mono pressing of the record, which is both rare and valuable. “Sometimes the sleeves don’t match the record, so you have to check every one.”

The Greater Orange County Record Show draws a diverse crowd, unified by their love of music and their obsession with the magic of finding the album they’ve been searching for.

The introduction of cheap, portable CDs in the ‘90s caused a temporary decline in vinyl sales, but people have continued to attend the record show since it was founded in 1986. “Everybody was afraid of CDs [in the ‘90s], but people don’t like the sound of CDs,” said Steve Brunner, one of the record show’s founders. In January, Forbes reported six back-to-back years of double-digit growth in the vinyl record industry, and experts expect 2017 to continue the trend.

The record show is a haven for record collectors, offering classic rock and hip hop albums, as well as obscure records and music memorabilia. But it’s also a social event, where vendors can show off their rarest finds and longtime collectors like Holland can share their expertise with the next generation. For locals, the record show also offers the benefit of being able to see the condition of records before you buy them. “We have the advantage of face-to-face,” said Brunner.

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After almost twenty years, Robbie Pettersen is a veteran record show vendor. To people looking at the photo of Jim Morrison on his table, he comments, “That’s the only known photo of Jim Morrison smoking pot.” As Pettersen continues to unpack, he reveals a box full of unopened 8-track tapes. “This is the rarest stuff I have.”

“The show has really taken off,” says Craig Doucertte, who has been selling records at the show for nearly a decade, “Younger and older people are coming.” The truth in his statement is proven almost immediately, as two younger collectors approach his records and strike up a conversation with him.

Brunner has also noticed the recent influx of young record collectors. “[Young people] want the same things, they’re not experimenting with music,” he comments, “They want Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. There’s other good stuff, but they don’t want to take a chance.” However, Brunner gives twenty-somethings the benefit of doubt. “They’ll get there.”

For youth who are willing to take a chance, the record show is a treasure trove. “It’s tons of fun, there’s tons of crazy stories and different music,” says Wyatt Starr, 23, who represented Fullerton’s Burger Records at the show. To give an example, he picks up a copy of Shake, Wrestle ‘n’ Roll by Exotic Adrian Street and the Pile Drivers, explaining, “He was a wrestler, and he decided to make a glam album.”

Although the record show stays open until 3p.m., Holland leaves after about an hour and a half. He didn’t find his Doors album, but he’ll be back in a few weeks to thumb through more albums in more dusty crates, hunting again for that elusive record. When he finds it, there’ll be something else he’s digging for. It doesn’t get old.

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