Going Ivy League – Princeton Record Exchange Review

Alma matters

Since I’m still waiting for the pictures from my trip to Maine, I will wait until I have everything together before I put up the post for my reviews of Strange Maine and Bullmoose Records. In the meantime, I took a trip to the beautiful college town of Princeton, NJ this past weekend and will whet your record collecting appetite with a review of Princeton’s own, Princeton Record Exchange.

The Priceton Record Exchange Storefront

The Princeton Record Exchange Storefront.

When I showed up to the Princeton Record Exchange at 10 am for the store opening, my shoes and my laptop were sopping wet from the past weekend’s relentless rain. The wet shoes I could barely live with, but the wet laptop I could not. After some time in front of the car’s dashboard heater, my Macbook was good to go again, so here we are:

As soon as I walked in, I was happy to see that there was a place for my umbrella right by the door. They were even nice enough to take my wet computer bag for me and hand me a cool, little, laminated ticket so that I could pick it up on the way out. I know from experience that it’s nearly impossible to peruse a record store one-handed, so it was nice to see that they recognize this and have a system in place to free up busy hands.

As I took in my surroundings, I was amazed by the sheer volume of music in this store. The entire left half of the store was dedicated to CD’s and straight ahead was a long aisle of nothing but vinyl records. To the right, past the counter was a wall filled from floor to ceiling with cassette tapes. My first impressions were that the store was very clean and well kept, as well as extraordinarily organized. Total Ivy league. This store had none of the dusty, dinginess that is nearly synonymous with most record stores. And to top it off, Yes was playing in the background, so I immediately felt right at home.

Looking toward the front of the store, the CDs to the right.

Looking toward the front of the store, the CDs to the right.

The long aisle of LPs and the wall of cassettes on the back wall

The long aisle of LPs and the wall of used CDs on the back wall.

I was struck by the meticulous organization of the music at Princeton Record Exchange. The vinyl section, which ran most of the length of the store was broken up into rock, jazz and yes, (headbangers rejoice!) even metal. The vinyl cases were seamlessly alphabetized and prominent bands had their own dividers, as would be expected, but the one thing that struck me was the fact that less-prominent bands frequently had their own little sections. I had never in my lifetime seen an entire section dedicated to lesser-known indie groups such as The Black Keys. In fact, as I looked further, I was amazed by the sheer volume of indie music tucked in amongst the shelves. It was almost akin to the volume of indie music that a store that specializes in indie would have, except that it was nicely balanced out by more popular bands, both old and new.

Speaking of old and new, both new and used vinyl graced their shelves side-by-side. There were older artists on brand new 180-gram vinyl reissues, alongside the original used copies. There was also a plethora of brand new music out on vinyl. My only criticism was that there was no designated “New Releases,” section to make the new music slightly easier to find, but this all added to the fun of digging through the eclectic mix of records on the shelves.

I was surprised to see that there was even a small section designated to audiophile original master recordings, something that I’ve never seen before.

Original Mater Recording section.

Original Mater Recording section.

The overall quality and condition of the records offered was exceptional. There was nothing I could find on the top shelves that was in less than new, mint, or near-mint condition. But you get what you pay for, so these older mint records were a little on the pricey side. There was a mint copy of Pink Floyds A Nice Pair that was being offered for $34 because of its outstanding condition and relative rarity (this one says $13.99, but trust me, there was a $34 one):

A very nice pair (of records).

A very nice pair (of records).

Here were some of my findings at Princeton Record Exchange:

There were also a number of unexpected gems that I came across in this store, such as a beautiful MC5 High Time Picture disk and a limited copy of Thom Yorke‘s Being Pulled Apart By Horses.

Oh, and by the way, there was also a really great $1 special section at floor-level, below the main displays of records. These records were also in surprisingly good shape and were an absolute steal. You’ll have to do a little sifting though, as these records were mostly unorganized.

The employees at Princeton Record exchange were fantastic and there was one instance when an album came on in the store that I absolutely loved. I walked up to the desk to ask what was playing and a cute redhead informed me that I was hearing Electric Warrior by T-Rex. This was an album that I had to have and I was thrilled to discover a great new (1971) band. The employees here definitely capitalized on one of my favorite pastimes of record collecting, which is simply talking music with the store owners. These people were plain friendly and knowledgeable and loved to talk.

Check out T-Rex here. You definitely know this song:

Here was what I wound up buying for a total of $34 (same price as the one Floyd record):

Pink Floyd's "A Nice Pair," T-Rex's "Electric Warrior" and a $1 Maynard Ferguson record.

Pink Floyd's "A Nice Pair," T-Rex's "Electric Warrior" and a $1 Maynard Ferguson record.

A Nice Pair was a must-have, plus the artwork is priceless. Electric Warrior might just be my new favorite album and I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s into straight, good, early 70’s rock with a slight glam undertone. As the man at the checkout counter informed me, this record is his favorite by T-Rex and is quite a departure from their first few albums which were much more acoustic. And I had to get the Maynard Ferguson album because well, he’s a plain and simple terrific jazz musician. Plus it was a dollar.

One happy customer.

One happy customer.

In summary, I was very pleased with Princeton Record exchange and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The store was clean, organized and had an unbelievable offering of music, both new and old. The employees were friendly and knowledgeable and they even let you keep the plastic record sleeves with your purchases (can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen those taken at the counter. Total pet peeve).

Point blank, this is one of the coolest record stores that I’ve come across in recent memory and yeah– it’s totally ivy league.

Argyle is optional– for the record.


20 S Tulane St.
Princeton, NJ 08542
(609) 924-3472

Store hours:

Mon-Sat: 10 am-9 pm, Sun: 11 am-6 pm


One Response

  1. Hey Devon,

    Thanks for the awesome review! We work really hard here to make this a fun place to hang out and shop, and it’s really gratifying to get such positive feedback.

    One quick note: that wall you thought was cassettes is actually our “cheap CDs” section…over 20,000 CDs priced under $5 each (we actually don’t have any cassettes here…out of room). Hopefully you’ll get a chance to visit us again and check ’em out.

    Best Regards,
    Jon Lambert
    General Manager
    Princeton Record Exchange

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