Buying Someone's Records: An Ethics Question

While doing some work at my house recently, an electrician noticed my audio equipment and vinyl collection. This gentleman mentioned that he has a substantial collection of records sitting in boxes in his attic and asked if I would be interested in making him an offer to buy his collection since he no longer has any use for it. He is in his seventies, and the collection is one he has accumulated over his lifetime -- althoughhe probably hasn't purchased anything in 20 years. He also mentioned that the collection includes a number of very good condition 78s from various blues artists dating back to the 1950s. I am quite sure that he has no idea what the "market" value of his collection might be.

If i offered him something like $5 per on average, he would probably think that was a great price. In truth, many of his records -- particularly the old blues 78s -- have a much greater market value. Of course, I know that but he does not.

Your thoughts on the ethical approach to making an offer for his collection would be appreciated. I don't want to take advantage of him, but if he remains blissfully ignorant of the real value of his collection and is happy with a "low ball" offer, who is hurt?
I sort of agree with Kthomas. Unless you actually inspect the records before you buy them you really don't know what condition they are in. For all you know they could be totally trashed and valueless, even those rare typically highly prized ones. If I were buying them blind, based on the condition I have seen most typical old vinyl in I'd be hard pressed to offer much at all.

What might be something fair to both of you is to actually inspect the records, cherry pick the good ones and offer him a fair 'wholesale' price for them and offer to dispose of the rest for him. (Include in your offer the value of the time you need to inspect the records and dispose of the ones of no value.)

BTW, if he mentioned the old 78's I suspect he already knows that they have some value - most folks wouldn't think old 78's would be worth anything, unless they just loved the music (and they had played the record endlessly right up to its demise).

Hope that helps a bit.
If your going to keep and listen to them then I think $5 is a good price given that you don't even know the condition of the LPs. If you're planning on selling the rare stuff and your conscience is bothering you, cut him in for a percentage of the sale. If you call him up afterward and say, "Hey, I sold some of that vinyl for more than I paid you and wanted you to have some of the proceeds," he'll be amazed and the next time you need electrical work, you'll probably be amazed.

There are no universally accepted ethical standards. Each individual has their own level of conscionable action.

The truth is, unless you have inspected his collection, neither of you really knows its' value. You may find that your example price per would be less than favorable to YOU!

Personally, it would bother me if I didn't forewarn the fellow that he could be sitting on a substantial windfall, provided that is indeed the case. If he decided he would rather just get rid of them all at once than go to the trouble of 'parting out' his collection to the highest bidder, I wouldn't feel badly about offering less. After all, you're taking all the thorns with the roses, so to speak.

Have a close look first and then be honest about your findings. The man can then make an informed decision and you can feel confident that you did the right thing.
If you are going to keep the collection for the listening enjoyment it seems as though you are offering a fair price and not trying to take advantage of anyone. If you are buying for resale, why not offer to split any profit made after expenses you incur. By doing it that way you will never have to worry that you took advantage of someone who may be less knowledgable. The fact that you even asked the question leads me to believe you will do the right thing. Good luck.
An items value is based on perception driven by circumstance. It is incumbent on the buyer and the seller to establish "worth" of an item when in transactions based on their circumstances. Circumstances drive the perception of somethings value.

If a mutual agreement of worth is reached a transaction can be made.

I recently sold 60 classic albums for about $1 each because I do not own a turntable and have no plans of acquiring one. the albums were taking up space I do not have, and I do not have a method of checking each album for condition.

Were they worth more-yes, probably. If the buyer had told me that I would have said "I know- do you want to offer more?" If he said "no" I would have sold them anyway at the original price offered due to my needs at the time.