This Seller Turned His Love of Rare Records Into a Business

Nicole Grant Kriege, eBay News Team

Alfred Howard on how he went from musician and record collector to eBay seller with financial freedom and a flexible lifestyle.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared on our Seller Community page

Music has been Alfred’s religion since he first started listening to his mother’s record collection as a child. And just like Sunday service, it has fed his soul and propelled his career as a musician, touring in bands for over 20 years.

A worshiper of all-things vinyl, he’s been building his rare record collection since age 16, working in record stores and scouring swap meets. A devotee of the greats, from famous to lesser known artists, his collection spans from the iconic to “never heard before.”

When the pandemic hit, Alfred pivoted from performing full-time to selling on eBay from his deep vinyl archives. Since then, he’s not only grown his collection but found financial freedom and a flexible schedule, allowing him to spend time with his young daughter.

Get to know Alfred in his own words, and visit his shop Al’s Black Gold:


Seller Spotlight Alfred Howard


A passion for playing and performing music

Music has been a part of my life since I was very young. My mom collected music and she’s an amazing watercolor painter, so she would always have music playing while she was creating her artwork.

In my teens music became a religion for me. It offered escape, inspiration and influence, and it was a way to communicate with all kinds of people. Exploring new genres of music – whether country or gangster rap or northern soul or psychedelic – allowed me to talk to people who were different than myself.

As a musician, I toured for two decades playing shows, performing on stage and really moving people. So I've always felt the power of music, whether it was moving me or I was creating something that was moving someone else.

Seller Spotlight Alfred Howard 

Collecting rare and unusual records

I started collecting records when I was in high school. I remember my buddy got his license, and we’d drive all around the neighborhood going to yard sales and buying incredible records for 25 cents a piece. At that time in the early ‘90s, everyone was getting rid of their record collections.

When I turned 20, I moved to California from the East Coast. I got a job at a record store and became friends with a bunch of other collectors. We were always on the hunt and were elated when we uncovered something great, such as a rare pressing of an album.

Searching for vinyl is a lifestyle I’ve been a part of for a long time. There’s a treasure hunting aspect to it that’s really rewarding – getting out in the wild and discovering something that’s a piece of history or maybe no one's heard before.

Seller Spotlight Alfred Howard 


From vinyl collector to successful seller

I’d always dabbled in selling on eBay. When covid emerged, I suddenly had no music gigs to play for a while, and got the surprise that we were going to have a daughter. I had all of these records that I’d been saving up for years, and decided to sell some of them to bring in income. And things just kind of took off from there.

Sales on eBay have been great. A lot of younger people are collecting records these days because they’re affordable and there’s a nostalgia to them. As music has become more digital, people want something they can hold in their hand. They want to feel the grooves and understand how sound is generated by the disc, not by ones and zeros.

There’s a strong music community on eBay. I have a lot of repeat customers from faraway places like the U.K. and Japan and we like to talk music. I had a record listed last week and the two people bidding against each other turned out to be bandmates who hadn't spoken in 40 years. And now they’re reconnected. 

Seller Spotlight Alfred Howard


Digging for records at 5 a.m.

I find my vinyl at swap meets, estate sales, yard sales and Craigslist – really anywhere people are selling records. Swap meets are really big here in San Diego because the climate is nice all year round. So you’ll often find me at 5 a.m. digging through bins and looking for hidden treasures.

Private collections are a good source of vinyl as well. People will reach out to me because they know I’ll be honest and let them know if they have a rare record. I’ll tell them how much I can get for it on eBay, and split the profits with them afterward. So they’ve come to trust me, as opposed to estate sale companies that often want to keep all of the profits.

Seller Spotlight Alfred Howard


Finding a parent-friendly lifestyle through eBay

When I was a musician I’d always made enough money to pay rent, but once I had a daughter I had to look at money in an entirely different way. And eBay gave me that financial freedom. I wouldn’t be able to make the money that I make currently, or raise my daughter in the way that I want to or get the quality time that I get with her if I were still playing music.

Now my wife and I have the flexible lifestyle we want as parents. I can listen to records and take our daughter for a walk while my wife gets some work done, and we tag-team parenthood. It’s great being at home where I can be a participant in my child’s growth and work when the little windows present themselves.

My wife sells vintage clothing on eBay, so we jump in and help each other out with everything from sourcing to shipping. We also run a pop-up shop together here in San Diego. So it’s nice to be able to support each others’ businesses and parent at the same time.

Seller Spotlight Alfred Howard 

His top tips for sellers

I learned almost everything I know about selling on eBay from a buddy of mine who also sells rare 45s. (45s are singles from the ‘50s and ‘60s with only a limited number of pressings.) I studied how he listed them and realized there’s a real art and science to it. He took the time to grade each disc for any damage, package them to avoid seam splits and ship them meticulously. So listing each one with care is important.

If you're new to selling on eBay, know as much as you can about the records you’re selling and be accurate and descriptive with your listings. If they have any flaws, take a close up photo. You have all of those photographs at your disposal, so just go that extra mile to make use of them and take as many as you can.

Also, be sure to have good communication with your customers. If they have a question, try to get back to them as soon as you can. It’ll earn you good feedback and people will learn that you're a reputable source they can trust.

 Seller Spotlight Alfred Howard

Building a music legacy for his children

I feel really fortunate to have found success doing what I love on eBay. Though I’m no longer a performer, I’m still getting music to the people. I get to listen to rare records and stay tethered to the music community. So it never feels like work.

Looking for records is part of the thrill, you never know what you’re going to find. I've found archeological-type vinyl, music that's never been heard before or isn't on the internet. It's a pretty incredible experience. And once you start working for yourself it’s hard to go back.

In the future, my wife and I want to expand our collections and create something that our children can inherit one day. I don’t want them to ever have to work for anyone else, and I can’t wait to teach them all of the insights I’ve learned along the way.

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