My second post in a week, I think that makes three this year
It's highly unlikely that collecting is dying, but it is going through a downswing in interest right now. But that's not unusual; I've been involved with several hobbies over the years, and it's not unusual for them to go through cycles of increased interest, then decreased interest.
Re: metal records, 10 years ago you saw a big uptick in collecting due to a combination of factors. My generation (Gen X) was hitting the full time workforce and thus finally had disposable income to spend on collecting records. You also had the rise of the Blogspots and other d/l services that allowed people to finally HEAR old, obscure records so they could decide if they liked the music enough to buy the record or not. You also had the Corroseum become a hub for collector interest, and the years-long auction of Jim Cranford's massive collection captured a lot of people's interest as they saw a lot of records offered for sale for the first time on ebay. That all led to a boom in collecting.
But now it's 10 years later. My generation's disposable income is now tied up in day care and mortgage payments. The d/l phenomena has largely been shut down/marginalized, and (almost) everything is on Youtube. The Corro went through a serious downturn in readership due to an overabundance of trolls. Collectors finished their want lists. And yes, prices got out of hand. The rise of popsike contributed to this, because people still don't understand how to use popsike prices; they're not 'the going rate' for a record, they're just a random sampling of what a few copies sold for, often spread out over years, and the prices are skewed towards high-dollar auctions, such that the cheap copies that are sold rarely get archived.
All that said, things may turn around again at some point. Metal does a good job of crossing generational lines, so as the next generation grows up and gets real jobs, they may want to start spending some of their disposable income on collecting the stuff they downloaded as teenagers but couldn't afford to purchase back then. Some grizzled old collectors will decide it's time to sell, and copies will start to come back on the market at fairer prices (cause they won't sell otherwise). And they all do eventually sell- you get older and it's harder and harder to maintain your possessions. You think you're gonna move all that stuff into the old folks home? Will it to your kids who probably couldn't care less about it? Or keep it til you die and it all gets thrown in the dumpster when they clean out your house? You gotta know when it's time to get out.
Or maybe the next generation won't have the money to collect, or they'll be content to listen to things on Youtube and not have a physical copy. Digital objects are becoming the norm for the younger generation.
To personalize the above observations:
My dad has collected 'golden oldies' records for about 50 years. Has a great collection. He visited last weekend, and for the first time he started discussing the possibility of selling some of his collections off. He still buys a few records- chasing those final want list items- but he's in his 70s, health problems are starting to add up, and he's gotta decide how long he wants to keep messing with his hobbies. If he waits too long to sell, he risks leaving my mom buried in piles of collectibles she knows little about and would need years to sell even if she was familiar with the items.
For my part: my music budget in 2006 was around $50 a month, maybe I could afford to spend $75-100 if something really, really good turned up and I skimped on groceries and beer. I gave $60 for a copy of Salems Wych one month and agonized over whether to buy it- ate up all my 'fun money' for 6 weeks.
In 2008, I was earning 'real money' at a full-time job. I was single and was able to finally afford some of the rarer records I had wanted for decades, having started collecting in the late 80s. So I could spend a few hundred a month on records, and many months I did exactly that! I knew that, if I wanted them, this was my opportunity to get them, because things would change a few years later, and change they did....
In 2017, I'm married and have a three-year old son. While my salary has gone up, I have a lot more expenses: mortgage, day care, groceries, and utilities easily run > $3,000 a month, and that's living in a pretty average neighborhood, driving a very average car, and using one of the more affordable day cares in our area. We don't eat fancy, dress fancy, or go out a lot. haven't taken a vacation in 7 years. I'm in my early 40s now and yeah, you lose some energy along the way; the energy I do have is spent playing with my son and doing house work. I've spent over $3,500 this year out-of-pocket on doctor bills and car repairs. A lot of space in our house is now full of kiddie toys. Thus, I don't have as much disposable income as I used to, I have very little free time, and I don't have unlimited storage space; I actually sold off a couple of hundred CDs last year to clear out room to store other things.
Re: older items, my want list contains only about 50 singles, all of which are hard to find. It also contains only nine LPs, five of which typically sell for over $1,000. I've never paid that much for a record and I won't be doing so any time soon. Am I gonna drop $1,000 for an Iron Cross LP with a $600 car repair bill and 2 surgeries in the past month? Hell, no! There's only 1 CD on my want list.
Re: new releases, it's hard to keep up with everything that comes out. I don't need reissues. Rereleasing old NWOBHM LPs? That's great, but I have the originals I want... why should I spend $$ on another copy made 35 years after-the-fact? There are some newer bands that I'll usually buy releases from, but not many. How many generic-sounding power metal CDs do i need? How many retro-thrash albums are gonna get serious time in my CD player when I could just play the classics of the genre instead? New doom band out? OK let's hear it. Hmmm, sounds like another Candlemass copycat. I've got over 100 doom discs on those two rows of shelves already. Pass.
And yes, digital access influences my decisions too. I stopped at the local record store two days ago for the first time in 6 months. Here's my internal monologue:
"Hey, there's a new Pallbearer album out! Hey, there's a new Danzig album out! Wonder what they sound like? Let's check Youtube on my phone! Eh, Danzig sounds pretty bad- not gonna pay for that. Pallbearer sounds like Pallbearer, not bad not bad... geez, when's the last time I played the other two Pallbearer albums? Hmmm, maybe I'll play it some more on Youtube for a week or two and decide if it's really good enough to demand that I own a CD copy. Oh hey, they've got an old CD pressing of Enslaved's 'Bloodhemm'. That's cool! Geez, haven't heard that in probably a decade. Was it any good? Hmmm, I remember it being OK, but I certainly never followed up on it. Eh, probably wasn't a must-own then. Guess there's no reason to buy this; it'll probably just sit on the CD shelves going unplayed and taking up space."
End result: no record purchases, just save my money instead. Even 5 years ago, I would have immediately bought the Pallbearer and probably the Enslaved. Today, I'd rather have the blank slot on my CD rack than buy the used Bloodhemm disc, and that $6 will buy my son a toy airplane. I'll have more fun watching him play with that than I will re-visiting some 20-year old black/viking metal CD.
My mantra these days is simple, "just enjoy the stuff I already have". I can spend YEARS going back re-listening to the stuff I've accumulated over the past 30 years. In that time frame I've owned approximately 5,000 hard rock/heavy metal releases; that means on average I've acquired a new item about once every other day for THIRTY FREAKING YEARS! Why the heck do I need to buy more? Sure, if someone has one of my last want list items for a reasonable price, I'll look into it. But I just don't need to keep buying anything and everything I come across. I've got most of what I want, and I'm not about to skimp on the things my family needs, so now I'm pretty particular about what I'm gonna spend my money on.
OK, time for this grizzled old collector to get back to work. That car ain't gonna fix itself!