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21st Apr 2018

Cha-Ching! These are the top 10 most valuable records ever made

Will Lavin

And you thought £5 for a CD single was expensive.

Today we celebrate Record Store Day. It’s that one day every year when over 200 independent record stores from across the UK come together to celebrate their unique, yet highly lauded, culture.

And while music is of course good to share any day, month, or year, this is that one day when we’re gifted with special vinyl releases and many shops and cities play host to exciting artist performances and events to mark the occasion.

It’s not just the UK either. Thousands more shops celebrate the day around the globe in what has become one of the biggest annual events in the music calendar.

So, record collectors and connoisseurs rejoice!

I’m sure you’ll be busy parting with your hard earned cash today but how about a list of the most valuable records ever made to keep you busy while you’re stuck in that queue lined up around your favourite record store?

10. Sex Pistols – “God Save the Queen” (Cancelled A&M Records 7″)

Value: £13,000

Before the Sex Pistols released their highly controversial single “God Save the Queen” on Richard Branson’s Virgin imprint they were signed to A&M Records for all but six days. In that time, before the label’s owner Herb Alpert reportedly tore up the band’s contract, 25,000 copies of “God Save the Queen” were pressed up by A&M ready for release. While most of the pressings were destroyed internally once the band were dropped a few had already been sent out to the media. Of those sent out it’s reported that nine survived. One was sold in 2006 for £13,000 by UK collector Marshal Peters complete with its A&M card envelope.

9. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (Withdrawn version)

Value: $35,000

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is one of the acclaimed artist’s most celebrated works. However, there’s more to this album than meets the eye, for some lucky owners at least. Right before it hit stores in May 1963 on Columbia Records four songs were pulled from it and replaced with four others. And while the label sent new masters to the pressing plant, somewhere in the mix a very small batch of the withdrawn version was pressed to vinyl. The songs that were replaced were “Rocks and Gravel”, “Let Me Die in My Footsteps”, “Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Head”, and “Talkin’ John Birch Blues”. According to RecordMecca, only two stereo copies and fewer than 20 mono copies of this extremely rare album have surfaced. A stereo copy reportedly sold for $35,000.

8. Aphex Twin – Caustic Window (Test pressing)

Value: $46,300

Caustic Window is the abandoned early ’90s album by British electronic genius Aphex Twin (Richard D. James to his friends). When we talk about rare we’re not talking about steak here, there were only five test pressings of this album made. Purchased through Discogs in 2014 and then issued as a digital release via a Kickstarter campaign thanks to the proprietors of electronic dance community We Are the Music Makers, an ultra-rare copy of that test pressing was then put up for sale on eBay after the Kickstarter campaign, with half of the proceeds to be donated to charity. The auction closed after 110 bids at $46,300. The winner? Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of Minecraft.

7. Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hill – “Original Stack O’Lee Blues” (78 rpm single)

Value: $70,000

There is only one known copy in the world of classic blues cut “Original Stack O’Lee Blues” by Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hill. Owned by famed record collector Joe Brussard, he was reportedly once offered $70,000 for the record but didn’t want to sell it. So why is a record by a relatively unknown duo worth so much? It’s because records in the 78 rpm category were the first to showcase electrical recording technology, where sound was recorded via microphone, amplified by vacuum tubes, and then cut to vinyl.

6. The Beatles – Yesterday and Today (Butcher sleeve version)

Value: $125,000

Setting a new record for a non-autographed, still sealed, mint condition album, Yesterday and Today by The Beatles sold for $125,000 in 2016. Released in 1966, the album instantly caused uproar because of its cover art depicting the band in butcher coats with doll parts and bloody meat scattered everywhere. Although it was intended as pop art satire, a letter was sent out by Capitol Records to various individuals, including reviewers and Beatles Chapter President, Cynthia Winter, to explain that the album was being recalled and the artwork was being changed.

Rather than throwing the album covers out though, a decision was made to cover-up the original album cover with a less controversial image applied as a sticker over the original cover. These albums are known as “second-state” Butcher covers. Therefore anyone with an original version might just be in the money.

5. The Quarrymen – “That’ll Be the Day”/”In Spite of All the Danger” (78 rpm single)

Value: £200,000

Another one of a kind, John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s pre-Beatles band The Quarrymen recorded a 78 rpm single featuring “That’ll Be the Day” and “In Spite of All the Danger” in 1958. Consisting of McCartney, Lennon, George Harrison, drummer Colin Hanton and pianist John Duff Lowe, The Quarrymen’s super rare acetate is valued at around £200,000 according to Record Collector magazine. So who owns it? Paul McCartney of course. He bought it from his bandmate Lowe and then in the ’80s he pressed up 50 copies, each of which is still worth around £7,500 – £11,000, and apparently gave them out to friends as a Christmas present. Now that’s a gift.

4. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Signed copy)

Value: $290,500

Far exceeding the previous $30,000 price tag originally estimated for it, a signed copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, arguably The Beatles’ best album, sold for $290,500 in 2013. Autographed by Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in 1967 (the year the album was issued), bidding on the album began at $15,000 and rapidly increased as the auction went on.

3. Elvis Presley – “My Happiness” (78 rpm single)

Value: $300,000

“My Happiness” is the first ever recording by Elvis Presley. Recorded in 1953 on a 10″ 78 rpm disc, it was bought for $300,000 in January of 2015. Elvis was 18-years-old at the time of the recording and laid it down at Sam Phillips’ Memphis Recording Service for $4. The one-copy-only pressing was given to Elvis’ friend Ed Leek, whose daughter auctioned it off over 60 years later. The undisclosed buyer ended up being none other than Jack White. But instead of just keeping the recording to himself, he reissued the single on vinyl for Record Store Day in 2015.

Sparing no detail in order to recreate the original 1953 physical recording, from reproducing the typewritten labels to being packaged in a plain, nondescript, of-the-era sleeve, the utmost attention to detail was paid in order to create an object so close to the historic original as to almost be indistinguishable from one other.

2. The Beatles – White Album (Number 0000001)

Value: $790,000

Known to many as the White Album, when it was first released each copy of The Beatles’ self-titled double LP contained a special serial number in the bottom right corner of the plain white cover art. Members of the band were given a copy each but it was Ringo Starr who ended up with number 0000001. While many of the early copies are extremely valuable none of them more so than Ringo’s copy. Selling it at an auction in 2015, he managed to get $790,000 for it – not that he needed anymore money.

1. John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy (Signed copy)

Value: $850,000

Released in 1980, a copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s final album Double Fantasy sold for $850,000 in 2010. Not only is it the most expensive vinyl record ever sold, it’s also the most extraordinary artifact in rock & roll history.

Signed by John Lennon just hours before his death, the person he signed it for was none other that his actual killer, Mark David Chapman. In the chaotic aftermath of the shooting, the album was dropped, and a maintenance man found it in a plant pot at the entrance of Lennon’s New York home, he then handed it over to police as evidence. It was later returned by prosecutors to the maintenance man with a letter of thanks from the district attorney involved in the prosecution of Chapman.

The album cover is in black and white and features Lennon kissing his wife; his signature appears on the neck of Ono. The record also bears Chapman’s forensically enhanced fingerprints and police evidence marker WJ-T2. It was first sold by the maintenance man in 1998 for $150,000 and then sold again by an unspecified seller for $850,000 in 2010. It was listed at $1.5 million in another auction in 2017 but it’s unclear at this point whether or not it actually sold.

Find out which stores near you are participating in Record Store Day here.