These days I am purchasing less is more. Once, I thought $90 AUD was a good price for a vinyl album, and you do pay a premium for 45s. Now, I am paying $120 AUD and considering some MOFI One Steps at outrageous (to me) prices.
I look for Decca recordings or Deutsche Grammophon or MOFI. Though my beer budget can not sustain my fine wine tastes.
Even NM/Mint still buyers beware. Once I bought some LPs from a seller in Italy through Discogs with Mint category on both media & cover (and priced decently as “mint”, instead of some suspiciously cheap price), but arrived with shabby cover and the vinyl plates have some deep scratches that make it impossible even to decently listening to some songs. Those LPs ended up in trash bin.
Actually, I also have more good experience with Discogs. I guess what I wrote before is the 3 that you had, and I have like the other 50s good ones from other sellers. The only difference is that my buyer was recalcitrant on it, and I don’t feel like prolonging the pain anyway, just lick my wound and be mindful not ever deal with that seller anymore, and focus on the other good experiences.
I don’t know where you live, but ring a dealer who specialises in LP12s - say, Grahams HiFi in London, Cymbiosis in Leicestershire, or a local branch of Audio T, to ask if they have any ‘pre-loved’ LP12s in stock.
The LP12 is a pretty robust design, and can easily be repaired/upgraded, but you need to be careful with the tonearm, to ensure that the bearings are in good shape.
Most S/H LP12s will be sold without a cartridge, so remember to allow for that additional cost when you’re making a purchase.
Were I to purchase vinyl, my criteria would be as they were when I did, in this order:
Music that I like and want.
Not longer than 25 min on a side, preferably no more than 20
Check disk is free from visible damage/defect (e.g. scuffs, warp, eccentric hole) and is clean.
Sleeve in good condition.
Immediately after purchase play and check for (and return immediately if present) excessive surface noise (eggs and bacon, clicks and pops) or other significant sound quality problem such as distortion.