Just about every used record/disc store has a "dollar bin," and the vast majority of slow-moving stock that gets dumped there is worth exactly that.
But now and then an obscure gem slips in amongst the refuse nobody wants. It's the hope of turning up some pricey collectible you've been after for 15 years that's made crate-digging such a popular pastime. Well, that and the advent of eBay, which has made everybody with Internet access and a freakin' Donna Summer single think they're a record dealer.
What separates the serious diggers from the weekend dabblers is the commitment to spending long hours on hands and knees flipping through hundreds of Bert Kaemfert, Phil Collins and James Last rubbish to score that killer jazz-funk record cut by Oklahoma prison inmates in 1980.
Of course, along with the requisite persistence - or obsessive streak, as some might argue - it's important to know what you're looking for and where to look, and often it's not in the obvious places.
Cosmos Records (607 Queen West, 416-603-0254) is known as a high-end shop primarily serving the esoteric vinyl requirements of jet-setting European DJs and travelling celebrity producers with loads of cash from the previous night's club gig to blow on rare Brazilian funk, deep groove modal jazz and indie disco 12-inch singles.
But below the racks of rare groove and soundtrack LPs lie piles of hard-to-find jazz and R&B records from the 70s and 80s, reasonably priced between $5 and $15. I picked up a copy of Steve Turre's Viewpoint And Vibrations (Stash) LP for six bones, and, with Idris Muhammad providing the beats, I'm glad I did.
The prices at Discovery Used & Collectors Records (1140 Queen East, 416-778-6394) are reasonable enough that there's really no need for a dollar bin, but underneath the racks there are boxes stuffed with country, pop and R&B singles from the 70s, many of which appear to be Australian pressings for some strange reason. I got a couple of unplayed George Jones, Billy Joe Shaver and Merle Haggard 7s I was after for $2 a pop, so who's complaining?
Most people know that Kops Records (229 Queen West, 416-593-8523) is the place to go for current left-field club jams, reggae, hiphop and import pop, and R&B and blues reissues, but the shop also has a few floor bins of used vinyl where you're just as likely to turn up an original Jonzun Crew or Stetsasonic EP on Tommy Boy as a discarded copy of the latest K-OS single.
There was so much dance music collecting dust in the basement of Play de Record, they decided to open up a second branch to sell it all off. Since they opened Play de Record Vintage (376 Yonge, 416-971-7529) in May, they've been buying collections to supplement their stock of old-school hiphop, house, trance, R&B, disco and Euro club joints with choice jazz and funk collectibles. But, of course, when you buy someone's entire holdings, there's bound to be a few wacky odds and ends involved, and they're priced to sell. If you're lucky, you may encounter a sealed copy of the Damnation of Adam Blessing album or the soundtrack of an acid-damaged musical recorded back in 1969 by some University of Toronto medical students.
Rotate This (620 Queen West, 416-504-8447) offers a tasty selection of cool indie rock, roots reggae, soul, avant jazz, hiphop and electronic music that the chain stores don't stock. In the corner near the entrance are two crates overflowing with cheap discs they're trying to unload. Most of it's garbage, but you might luck out with a French comp of late-90s club joints or a German lounge jazz label sampler with an unreleased Jazzanova remix for a buck.
Since Second Vinyl (2 McCaul, 416-977-3737) boldly proclaims to specialize in "classical and jazz," most beat junkies give it a pass. That's good news for the rest of us, since a really amazing gospel or weird Japanese anime soundtrack record will sometimes find its way into the dollar bins under the racks.
The entire Sonic Boom (512 Bloor West, 416-532-0334) store is like one big CD dollar bin (this is where people ditch their old Spin Doctors and Eagle Eye Cherry discs), but at the back you'll find a few racks of vinyl that seem to have been bought by the pound. It's mostly stuff even your grandmother wouldn't want, but, hey, I did once find a dope modern zydeco record by the SAM Brothers 5 there.