A Trip To a Record Store

I had the opportunity to be in Princeton, NJ. yesterday. My son was involved as associate director of a production of “Into the Woods” (check out the New York Times review), and I was there to see the play. Naturally, I made it my business to arrive early and pay a visit to the Princeton Record Exchange. Now, I must admit, despite my relatively close geographic proximity to Princeton, I hadn’t been to the Princeton Record Exchange in years. A couple of reasons: I had found that they were a bit high priced when they had major collectibles and, more relevantly, they had always had this nasty habit of placing really sticky, hard-to-remove labels directly on the covers of records. I can often go through the records in my collection and know by the label tears which ones I purchased at the Princeton Record Exchange. At some point, I decided it wasn’t worth buying records and then getting upset because I was ruining the covers because my fingernails weren’t long enough to really get under their stupid labels. We collectors have our own idiosyncrasies, don’t we? Wonder if anyone else has had the same issue with Princeton Record Exchange? In any case, I arrived there yesterday afternoon atabout 4:30 with at least a half hour to peruse the store for the first time in about a decade. I vowed not to buy anything, just to look around and report to the Jazz Collector audience. Well, about 45 minutes later I walked out with a bag full of records, of course.

These are some of my observations. Unfortunately, they are still using the same crappy labels. Geez, you’d think they’d learn after all these years. So far, I’ve peeled the labels off two records successfully, no tears, but I’m pretty sure I will ruin a couple of covers that don’t have coated finishes, such as one of the Ella Sings Gershwin records. Why did I even buy the Ella Sings Gershwin record? No idea. I already have it, but it was cheap, in nice shape and I figured I could bring a copy to my house in the country. Another one in the same category was the reissue of the Duke Jordan Signal LP on Savoy, the original of which is pictured with this post. I have an original pressing, but I had thought mine was in not-so-great condition. Turns out, my original is M-. So now I have an M- Savoy as well. Up to the country for this one as well.

Another observation: The inventory at this store is mighty and impressive, as good as you will find anywhere. If you were just starting out to build a collection of great music — not necessarily collectibles, but great music — you would find enough in this store to have a collection to listen to for the rest of your life. They have so much — reissues, a few originals, later pressings — and their prices are very reasonable, with lots of great, great music in the $1 and $2 bins. Without spending a fortune, you could build quite a library. If I were just starting out, I think I would do just that. Focus on the music and forget about the collectibles. Of course, that would only last for a limited time before I’d get the collectible fever, right?

As for real collectibles, nada. They have a section of rare jazz records, but there was nothing to speak of in there, not even a minor temptation. And if you look through the bins you can find an occasional collectible, but no Blue Notes or Prestiges or anything of that ilk. I asked one of the managers about collectible jazz and he said they put everything out on the floor and, when they do get the heavy-duty items, they fly off the shelves immediately. You have to walk in at the right time. Guess once every 10 years isn’t quite going to do it. But there’s hope. I liked Into the Woods so much, I’m thinking of going back within the next couple of weeks. And, this time, I will make sure to allocate more time for record hunting.



  • Final tally. Eight records, three torn covers. No wonder I didn’t buy any records from them for 10 years. Totally lame.

  • Hey Al, ever try using Goo-Gone on the price tags/labels? I’ve had good luck with it. Dab it on the label with a cotton ball, let it soak for 15-20 mins, then use a razor blade to lift it off the cover. The first time I used Goo-Gone, it appeared to stain the non-laminated cover and I almost had a heart attack, but after a few hours the stain disappears and there’s no indication of any damage on the cover.

  • ^ Yup.

    Princeton stickers are horrid.

  • Having made the train trip to Princton from Manhattan several times i was glad to hear of the bounty of Jazz lp stock.Last year i was lucky to find five records,the year before i had to ship two large boxes back to California.The first time i scored some twenty lps.All in and done a decent haul of fill in items and some oddball imports and a landslide of cheapies.I was thinking the next time i was East i would pass on this place as the last time was so picked over.Good to hear the stock bounced back and it just proves you have to be lucky and hit the store at the right time.I enjoy that train ride but that i pretty a whole day unless you get there at opening.If i have a car and am on vacation in the East i would be sure to hit Integrity N’ Music in Wethersfield near Hartford.Same deal,one trip enormous sucess with great imports at great prices,another three boxes…..Last year it looked like a serious drought had set in.Too bad,nice shop,nice owner who i like to support.Labor of love on his part.
    Providence,R.I. Round Again is worth a look,but don’t make a special trip.The time before last i went well out of my way and the guy was closed early because his computer had gone done and would not let me in the door even though it was before closing.Imagine the insult of a broken computer taken more seriously than a live customer.That one really was hard to believe!Certainly none of these places would yield a record worthy of the scrutiny of this site.

  • Sounds a little strange but I have had great success with Ronsonol lighter fluid. Similar to the Goo-Gone in that it will leave a stain which evaporates/dries after 20-30 min.

    I am amazed how some record stores fail so miserably at pricing and use extra sticky labels. There’s more than a few stores here in Toronto that need to wake up and smell the sticky residue.

  • I have been using Un-du for years on stickers. Never failed me, even with older lps.

  • Used a product called Bestine for years.
    It’s used to thin rubber cement.You can get it at any art supply/drafting supply.
    I use eye dropper to apply,wait then label comes right off.No residue or stain.
    Have used it on over 4000 records,never a problem

  • Bestine? Sounds like one to ck out,thanks Carl! Re;Princeton-they have listed their rare jazz “finds” on Youtube in months past. Worth a look,just for curiosities sake. A phone call might clarify if they still carry on the same practice…

  • For price stickers on the covers of lps, I just remove the vinyl and hold the cover under a light for a mintue or two. The heat loosens the adhesive and the sticker peels right off. Then use any of the above methods to remove the residue.

  • I do a lot of thrift store scrounging, Those places have got to be the worst. One such smaller non national chain here in Ohio, actually puts the price on the cover in black permanent marker, probably a sharpie, They sometimes do it on the label too.

    They also have a policy if a price is not on the item, they won’t/can’t sell it. “I have tested this rule out, they are sticklers” I found An Original Art Farmer Early Art LP once, I went to the back and luckily found a manager,he would not sell it unless he wrote 59 cents on the cover. I pleaded like a baby, he insisted. At least he put it on the back where I asked him too.
    I felt like I was dealing with a Government bureaucrat or something.

  • Hi Guys

    I am based in the UK, but my spouse is from NJ so am fortunate enough to be able to hit Prex regularly.

    In the 20+ years I’ve been going I’ve never left with fewer than 100LPs, and more usually 200+.

    Now, I know you’re all wondering how I got them all home? Well, once upon a time BA would let you take 2 suitcases per person and weren’t that bothered about weight – unfortunately those days have gone so its excess baggage charge time.

    However, even with the baggage charge (which works out at about $1 per LP), these records are still a fraction of the price they’d be in the UK or Europe, even if you could find them.

    When I do go I allocate a whole day – yup, 10am to 8pm. That’s just about enough time to look at everything in the store (I collect all kinds of music as well as jazz)and you MUST look at the $1 bins meaning a graceless crawl on the floor is in order (so don’t wear your best “pants”, as you colonials like to call trousers) and watch out for banging your head on the way back up.

    Great finds there over the years including artist-signed albums everyone else (incl. Prex themselves!) had missed.

    As for the price stickers: yes, a complete pain. I use Zippo lighter fluid. It does take a few applications to get the label thoroughly soaked through to dissolve the glue underneath but plenty of time and patience will leave most LPs clear. However, if the guy pricing has been using a heavy hand with the biro pen there’s still a faint imprint left – grrrrr!

    One final thing I do you might find useful is to take a LED pen torch with me to check condition – worth it as it’s kinda hard returning an LP from 3,000 miles away…

    robin_bryson at hotmail dot com

  • I purchase records at princeton all the time and have found that the use of lighter fluid,plastic, a heavy book and a putty knife will remove the sticker without damage. the process i follow is:
    1) pour some lighter fluid into a small plastic container(i use a left over laundry detergent measurer)
    2)using a q-tip soak cover the label with the lighter fluid
    3) now place a piece of plastic over the label( i use a piece of an old 3 mil album cover, the type you use on the outside of the albums.
    4)place a heavy book over the album/plastic
    5) wait a minute or two and using a putty knife lift one edge of the sticker enough you can grab it comfortably, and carefully lift the sticker off.
    6)if there is any residue left from the sticker use the q-tip/lighter fluid application and using an old piece of cotton (i use a sock wipe the residue away)
    7)this process will also work with the albums that have multiple price stickers where they have been reduced but you must repeat the process for each sticker
    8)WARNING: if the album as an old princeton sticker from the seventies the process will only remove the current stickers. The old stickers will not come off with out ruining the cover

  • just buy a small container of lighter fluid and soak the price sticker and carefully remove. done it thousands of times.

  • I sympathize. I live near Santa Cruz, California, where one long-standing record store, Logos, closed a few weeks ago. They had the annoying practice of putting those pesky price tags not only on the record cover, but also on the actual record label (which tends to be more vulnerable). I hate to see record stores close, but I won’t miss that practice. When I buy records from local private citizens, I still find those tags from Logos, placed on the record years ago and now fused with the underlying label.

    It’s maddening. I just scraped one off an early Coltrane LP, but the label will never look right again. At least with the price tags on the cover, you can try heating them with hair dryer. That usually loosens the glue. But you can’t do that on the label without warping the record.

    BTW, I worked at PRE in the early 1980s, when it first opened (at the Nassau St. location) – a summer job for me as a grad student. I learned a lot and enjoyed it.

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