With Record Store Day around the corner, collectors far and wide will be looking to add to their collection. There are the casual buyers, you know, the ones that enjoy expanding their collection by finding a bargain at their local charity shop or yard sale, and then there are the serious collectors. The vinyl hoarders that are willing to work hard to find the missing pieces to their collection, or buying vinyl because it’s rare. Well, for those of you that are serious about collecting, and have a few dollars in the bank, we give you the most expensive vinyl out there to date. Be prepared to part with some seriously big money though if you want to get your hands on any of these beauties. Here’s the top 10 from lowest to highest.
Frank Wilson: ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) Cost: $33,361.84
There were only 250 demo copies of this single that existed by American soul singer and producer Frank Wilson and what makes this piece of vinyl even more collectible is that only around five are reported to have survived as the rest were destroyed by Motown boss Berry Gordy. The rumor has it that the prospect of one of Berry Gordy’s best producers launching a singing career didn’t go down too well and the Motown mogul ordered the demos to be trashed. Wilson also decided against releasing the single, but, a handful of the copies managed to slip through the net. Now the exact number of surviving copies hasn’t been established but Gordy is said to possess one of them. As for the remaining copies? Another copy sold at auction in May 2009 and the buyer wished to remain anonymous, the buyer may not be known but one thing we do know is that the sale price was confirmed to be $33,361.84.
Tommy Johnson: ‘Alcohol and Jake Blues’ – Cost: $37,100
It was 2013, and the buyer of this piece of historic piece of vinyl, John Tefteller already owned a copy of the very same record, but as he explained at the time, this album was in much better condition than the one he had and was worth every penny since the original master tapes had long since been destroyed. ‘Alcohol and Jake Blues’ was originally released on the Paramount label in 1930, and at $37,100, this 78-rpm blues record by Tommy Johnson came in 9thon our list of most expensive vinyl ever.
Aphex Twin: Caustic Window (test pressing) – Cost: $46,300
It’s not just nostalgia that costs money when it comes to vinyl. In 2014 a rare test pressing of Aphex Twin’s Caustic Window went up for auction and sold for an insane $46,300. Great band, yes, but who on earth would pay so much for something so relatively new on the market? The buyer turned out to be Minecraft inventor Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, being rather flush with cash at the time he apparently decided to invest some of his hard earned cash by buying a rare record by one of his favorite artists. Nice if you can afford it.
The Beatles: ‘Til There Was You’ (10” acetate) – Cost: $100,743.54
Here’s the first of three highly sought after pieces of vinyl by the Beatles, in fact, this particular one has been dubbed the ‘Holy Grail’ for serious Fab Four Collectors. This beauty is also known as ‘the record that launched the Beatles’ because it was the original demo for EMI, the disc even has the handwriting of Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Here’s what 100K will get you, an incredibly rare 10” acetate of an early demo by the band that features the songs ”Til There Was You” and the b-side “Hello Little Girl” (misspelled on the disc as ‘Hullo Little Girl’). This gem was actually found in the attic of former keyboardist for Gerry and The Pacemakers Les Maguire. Realizing its significance Maguire put the vinyl up for auction in March 2016 and the collectible was snapped up by an unnamed buyer for a cool $100,743.54.
The Beatles: Yesterday & Today – Cost: $125,000
This Beatles compilation from 1966 is another wonderfully rare album to add to your collection. Only released only in North America to begin with and then later released in Japan, the album never made it to the UK or Europe. One of the main reasons for it being so rare is the artwork. The early versions featured the now infamous “butcher” cover, that showed John, Paul, George and Ringo draped in dismembered dolls and pieces of meat. Highly controversial at the time, the album, with its artwork, was very quickly taken off the market and replaced with much more palatable artwork. So, as you can imagine, the original version remains a very sought-after piece of vinyl for Beatles collectors. So much so that a mint edition sealed copy went up for auction in February 2013 and at the time became the most expensive copy of the record in at $125,000.
John Lennon & Yoko Ono: Double Fantasy – Cost: $150,000
Albums become rare for a multitude of reasons, most notably, a printing defect or as above, a distasteful album cover etc, but once in a while, a piece of vinyl will hit the market because of circumstances. This the case when it comes to this particular copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy. This piece of vinyl history sold in 1999 for a huge $150,000. The reason for such a high price tag is the fact that it had been signed by Lennon himself only hours before his murder on December 8th, 1980. Seeing as it was probably the last record Lennon ever signed, the album became one of the most expensive records ever sold.
The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (signed by all four Beatles) – Cost: $290,000
You can expect to pay serious money for an original pressing of 1967’s Sgt. Pepper, and if it’s the mono version with the black Parlophone label you can expect to up the price. But, if you were to have that very same album with a signature on it from one of the Fab Four it would raise the price again, right? Well, how about all four signatures? This was the case when this particular item sold at auction in 2013 to a buyer from the US. Before the auction had started the auctioneers had estimated the album at about $30,000, WRONG. The album finally sold for almost 10 times that amount, bringing in a whopping $290,000.
Elvis Presley: ‘My Happiness’ – Cost: $300,000
Anything to do with rare Elvis Presley collectibles will cost you money, and this baby is no exception. What makes this even more interesting is the person that purchased this historic piece of vinyl. Jack White, yes, that Jack White of White Stripes and The Raconteurs. He is a massive vintage gear and vinyl collector. He also owns a label called Third Man that releases music via vinyl and is now the proud owner of one of the three most expensive records ever purchased. White went to auction in December 2015 and bought the test pressing of Elvis Presley’s first ever recording. After buying the album, White released a 10-inch, 78-rpm facsimile of the 1953 recording that was digitally transferred from the original acetate onto new vinyl discs with no cleanup — pops, crackles and even a plain brown paper bag as a sleeve. – White said at the time: “that’s what Elvis would have walked out of Sun Records with.”
The Beatles: The Beatles (White Album) – Cost: $790,000
It was well known in the vinyl collector’s world that Beatles drummer Ringo Starr owned the very first copy of the band’s self-titled double album released in 1968. We knew this because the albums were stamped with serial numbers in sequence and, you guessed it, Ringo’s copy is number ‘0000001’. A true collector’s piece, Ringo put the album went up for auction in December 2015, it was eventually purchased by an unnamed buyer for a staggering $790,000. As a footnote, Ringo’s famous Ludwig drum kit also went on the block at the same time and sold for a massive $2.2 million to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Wu-Tang Clan: Once Upon a Time in Shaolin – Cost: $2 million
Who’d have thought that the most expensive record ever sold would be this 2015 album by Wu-Tang Clan? Firstly, there was only copy ever produced, and the album comes with an ironclad contract that stipulates the buyer cannot sell or make money from the record for 100 years, the caveat being that the owner may release the album for free should they wish to. That has yet to happen, and you’ve only got to look at the buyer to see why. The owner, Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli, is well known as a pariah in America. His company purchased the patent to an anti-HIV drug and automatically hiked the cost by more than 5,000 %. Shkreli paid the asking price of $2 million and then refused to release the album for free pissing Wu-Tang Clan fans off across the globe. He has however released snippets in via Youtube.
If there was one piece of good news though, the Wu-Tang Clan included a parachute clause into the legally binding contract with Shkreli, we have to say, it’s a true piece of contractual genius. See the clause below and here’s hoping we read about the time the the Wu-Tang Clan got their album back: “The buying party also agrees that at any time during the stipulated 88 year period, the seller may legally plan and attempt to execute one (1) heist or caper to steal back Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, which, if successful, would return all ownership rights to the seller. Said heist or caper can only be undertaken by currently active members of the Wu-Tang Clan and/or actor Bill Murray, with no legal repercussions”