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Ben’s Collector’s Records is a Shop Like No Other

Published on: 29 Jul, 2012
Updated on: 22 May, 2019

There probably isn’t a record sleeve on the planet that Ben Darnton hasn’t seen at one time or another. From rock to jazz, blues to folk, classical to opera, and from comedy to sound effects recordings, they all seem to pass through his hands, writes David Rose.

Ben Darnton in his shop in Tunsgate, Guildford.

When I visit him at his shop, Ben’s Collector’s Records, in Tunsgate, Guildford, the place is buzzing. Not only has someone just parked his car outside with a boot full of albums he wants to off load, Ben himself is holding conversation with several of his regular customers, answering the phone, making me a cup of tea, while also offering to help the man carry his records into the shop.

If Aladdin was a collector of records, this is surely the cave where he stashed them all! But this is no graveyard for the music releases of yesterday. The stock in this quite amazing shop is always changing.

The ultimate Aladdin’s Cave of second-hand vinyl records, CDs and DVDs.

Ben specialises in the sale of second-hand vinyl records, CDs and DVDs for either the serious collector, the enthusiast, or for the more casual browser. It’s a veritable bargain basement with a mind-blowing host of undiscovered treasurers.

Always in stock at any given time are 13,000 vinyl LPs and CDs, 5,000 singles, and 1,000 DVDs, in all music styles – everything in fact, from Sibelius to the Sex Pistols.

Ben’s Collector’s Records is open seven days a week.

It’s 20 years since Ben, who grew up in Godalming, opened this shop. Previously, for seven years he managed a second-hand record shop in Woodbridge Road, Guildford. He also owned a shop in Farnham for several years alongside the one in Guildford.

A lifelong interest in music, Ben played drums in local blues-rock band the Flying Tigers between 1984 and 1998, and also played in the Rockitmen in the early 1990s, another local group. Who knows what his favourite music is, but he knows an awful lot about contemporary music and artists from the past 50-odd years.

There’s so much stock, it’s sometimes difficult to decide where to start searching for that illusive recording.

The shop is a delight to visit. You soon realise that it’s a bit of a club with a good deal of regular customers who drop in to have a chinwag and share a joke with Ben as they comb the boxes of the latest stock. But they don’t often leave empty handed.

However, don’t think that you are going to walk into some kind of clique or club for a select few. No, everyone, newcomer or friend, is welcome here. If you so wish, you’ll soon be invited to join in with the banter.

“Ben, you’re the only person in Guildford who is always smiling,” one of the regulars pipes up as Ben changes the music on the CD player.

Old record sleeves cover the ceiling!

Between another couple of phone calls, that sound like inquiries about him buying up new stock, or his record fairs (more of later), Ben, who knows that I, like him, have an interest in steam trains, puts a DVD into the player. Up on a big screen for all to see is another vintage railway video.  This time it’s Guildford – An Engineman’s View, by SVS Film, featuring lots of clips from the engine shed at Guildford from its closing years in the 1960s. This really is a shop with a difference.

“Do you take credit cards?” asks a first-time customer. Quick as a flash, Ben replies: “Yes, we do, it just looks like we don’t.”

Vinyl LPs start from £2, CDs and DVDs from £5. He also sells a small selection of new books with a local interest. They include The Ramblings of a Railwayman by Geoff Burch, My Life In Music by composer, arranger and producer John Schroders, and Guildford The Rock ‘n’ Roll Years by Nigel Enever (all highly recommended). The DVD featuring the engine shed is also stocked.

The shop is open from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm, and on Sundays from 11am to 5pm.

Keep Calm, Buy A Record. You can’t argue with that!

If there is a particular album you once owned and would love to have again, give him a call on 01483 301165 – better still pop in and have a browse. You never know what you might find.

His website is www.bensrecords.com. Also, take a look at his Facebook site. You can click on to it from his website. I just love the LP cover of the week he features. Album covers from some memorable artists from yesteryear are regularly selected along with some bizarre and extremely funny (and sometimes a bit rude) sleeve designs for singers and bands whose recordings are now probably best forgotten.

Steam railway DVDs play on a screen and the shop also stocks books with a local interest – especially music and trains.

Ben Darnton also runs the popular Guildford Record & CD Fairs held at the Guildhall in Guildford High Street. The next one is on Saturday, September 22, followed by another on Saturday, November 24. There will be 20 stalls selling all kinds of records. The fairs runs from 10am to 4pm and entry is free.

He is always interested in buying record collections, and finally, you can hear him once a month on BBC Radio Surrey and Sussex, when he gives record valuations on the Joe Talbot Saturday breakfast show.

Pop into the shop – you’ll receive a warm welcome. Ben is always interested in buying up record collections.

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test 3 Responses to Ben’s Collector’s Records is a Shop Like No Other

  1. Karl Hampshire

    July 29, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    I’ve known Ben for many years now, long before he opened his first shop, Collecting and selling records has been a passion of mine. After visiting hundreds of record shops over the years “Ben’s” stands out from the crowd as ‘Friendly and Helpful’.
    Guildford would be a much poorer place without his shop.

  2. Lionel Newman

    July 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Ben deserves a medal for his contribution to the local economy of Guildford. He and his shop bring people to Guildford from a wide area of the south. As a result, these people also spend in the other town centre shops and restaurants.

    Independant shops such as Ben’s Collector’s Record’s are a must for the town. Well done Ben.

  3. Malcolm Wyatt

    August 2, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Splendid coverage of a deserving case, David. Ben has been a ray of sunshine in Guildford for many moons now, and I can’t believe it’s more than 25 years since we first talked about our mutual love of Georgie Fame, Al Green, Otis Redding, Steely Dan and steam trains at his previous site opposite the bus station – joking over whether he had ‘the new Everything But The Old Girl LP’ or the ‘old new New Order album’. A legend among shop-keepers, and a good bloke to be sure.