Many people consider vinyl to be the purest way to listen to music recordings, and the art form has seen a resurgence among music fans in the past decade. Yet, these new remastered pressings of classic tunes can't measure up to the rare vinyl records that sell for thousands of dollars at auction. So, take the time to thumb through your parents' record stash and see if you can find any of these rare vinyls among them.
The Beatles, Yesterday and Today
Yesterday and Today is a studio album by the Beatles, which was released in 1966. The original cover art of this album featured the Fab Four in white lab coats with raw meat and dismembered baby doll parts scattered all over them. Nicknamed 'The Butcher Album," these limited pressings were quickly pulled from the shelves and a safer, less-interesting photograph of the four was printed on the new copies. However, copies of this album can be quite valuable, and Beatles collectors will pay a pretty penny to have one in their collection, with one sealed copy selling to a collector for $125,000 in 2016.
Wu-Tang Clan, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
Legendary hip hop group, Wu-Tang Clan, recorded the Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album but only printed one vinyl. With this pressing came the stipulation that the owner doesn't release the recordings to the public until 2103. Purchased by Martin Shkreli for $2 million in 2015, it was acquired by the American government in a 2018 forfeiture from Shkreli, and has sold for an undisclosed amount of money.
Prince, The Black Album
Prince's notorious Black Album was originally slated to be released in 1987, but the Minneapolis singer and song-writer determined the tracks were too dark and demanded that all of the copies were destroyed. Yet, the album was officially released a few years later in 1994 for monetary reasons. Original copies that weren't destroyed can be worth quite a bit of money, with one copy selling in 2018 for $27,500.
The Beatles, Til There Was You
An early demo featuring Paul McCartney's Til There Was You and John Lennon's Hello Little Girl on either side was originally given to Gerry and the Pacemaker's drummer, Les Maguire, by the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein. This 1962 early demo sold for a whopping $77,500 in 2016.
Led Zeppelin, Self-Titled Album
British rock band Led Zeppelin completely changed the fabric of late-60s music with their 1969 self-titled album. However, the iconic Hindenburg covered sleeve wasn't originally written in red text; rather, the first UK pressings of the album were printed in turquoise. These copies are pretty rare to find and can sell for a few thousand dollars, with one selling on eBay for almost $2,000.
David Bowie, Diamond Dogs
David Bowie's original cover art for his eighth studio album, Diamond Dogs, featured an interesting artistic metamorphosis of the upper half of Bowie's body being connected to the lower half of a reclining dog's--naughty bits and all. RCA didn't approve of the risque choice, and so released the album with a doctored version of the original artwork, sans the anatomically correct pieces. The few copies of the original design can sell for a few thousand dollars, with one selling on eBay for $3,550 in 2003.
The Beatles, The White Album
Lovingly nicknamed The White Album for its pure white sleeve, this Beatles record is renowned in of itself. While first pressing copies of the album can sell for a nice sum, one of the Fab Four's personal copies could far outstrip any original pressing's price at auction. Rumored to be John Lennon's personal copy, and the vinyl with the first serial number, sold at an auction for just over $900,000.
Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
Music icon Boby Dylan's sophomore album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, was met with rave reviews for its folk influence and thoughtful commentary. Yet, there are some copies of this 1963 record which have four unreleased songs. These songs were replaced by four different songs which were recorded after the album had been finished. However, a mix-up during manufacturing meant some of these albums were released. One such copy recently sold, but for an undisclosed amount of money.
Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen Single
In 2012, a rare copy of the Sex Pistols God Save the Queen single attributed to LTS sold for $20,000. Given the band's penchant for outrageous behavior, they were consistently dropped from record labels, meaning that comparatively little of their work was actually pressed into vinyls. Interestingly, because of this, many of the band's albums were re-released by various recording companies, so other pressings of this seminal track can sell for similar prices.
Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland
Electric Ladyland was a highly anticipated 1968 album by Jimi Hendrix, and the album's original cover art was just as controversial as Hendrix's many other artistic exploits. The original cover featured Hendrix, surrounded by a bunch of naked women. Of course, thanks to the puritanical American culture coupled with the record label's need to make a profit, the cover was rejected and reshot. However, copies of this original vinyl still sell for a couple of hundred bucks, and you can buy one too.
Elvis, My Happiness/That's When Your Heartaches Begin Single
A rare vinyl demo of the King of Rock 'n Roll's first ever recording sold for $300,000 in 2015. Recorded at Sun Records in 1953, this 78rpm showcases Elvis' raw talent, and while you can buy modern vinyls of the song, nothing can compare to the real thing.
Dark, Dark Round the Edges
Dark was a prog rock band which not many people remember today; their unique album, Dark Round the Edges, was released with three different album covers, and original vinyl pressings don't often come up at auction. Those that do can sell for a few thousand dollars, such as one copy, which sold in 2016 for what amounts to a little over $16,000 in 2021.
The Quarry Men, That'll Be the Day/In Spite of All the Danger Single
Long before the Beatles took over the world with their mop tops and musical prowess, they were a couple of friends performing at whatever gigs they could find. This early band, The Quarry Men recorded a couple of singles, and released one of these, That'll Be the Day/In Spite of All the Danger, in 1958. After the band switched their line-up and changed their name, the early works fell into obscurity, though the acetates were passed down. It landed in John Duff Lowe's lap, who eventually sold it to Paul McCartney in 1981 for an undisclosed amount of money.
Ever the sexually expressive boundary breaker, Madonna's 1992 album Erotica featured an image filled with innuendo, implying that she was performing oral sex. In spite of her other controversies, this one proved too much for the record label and they decided to pull the album from shelves. Copies of this album can bring in a thousand or two thousand dollars at auction.
Elvis, That's All Right/Blue Moon of Kentucky Single
The song that launched Elvis's career, That's All Right, was a cover of an Arthur Crudup tune. As one would expect, a rare original acetate of the single sold at an auction in 2013 for a little over $85,000.
The Beatles, Ask Me Why/Anna Single
A deep cut vinyl record of the Beatles' early work is the promo single Ask Me Why/Anna. Only five copies of this single were ever pressed, and none of them were commercially released, making the copies incredibly rare. In 2012, a copy of this Vee Jay studio album sold for $35,000 at auction.
The Rolling Stones, Street Fighting Man/No Expectations Single
Constantly pit against their cleaner-cut contemporaries, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones were no stranger to controversy. In fact, the picture on the single's sleeve which featured a photograph of police brutality was withdrawn based on its inappropriate subject matter. In both 2011 and 2015, copies of this rare vinyl and sleeve sold for around $17,000.
Robert Johnson, Travelin' Riverside Blues
Robert Johnson is often attributed with being a musical pioneer, with his gifted talents influencing artists long after his early death. Renowned for his legendary guitar skills (which have been rumored to have been awarded from a deal with the devil), original copies of his 1930s recordings are incredibly difficult to find. A test pressing of perhaps his best-known and frequently covered song, Travelin' Riverside Blues, sold on eBay for a little over $1,500.
Nirvana's first album, Bleach, didn't garner as much attention as their following albums, Nevermind and In Utero, but it helped establish them as a formidable musical act. Only 1,000 copies of the album were pressed into white vinyl in the beginning, and these white pressings didn't even feature bar codes. Estimates show that you can sell copies of these albums for a few thousand dollars, and one sold in 2021 for an undisclosed amount.
Elton John, I've Been Loving You
Consummate showman and star, singer-songwriter Elton John didn't immediately make a splash on the music scene. In fact, his very first recording--the single I've Been Loving You--didn't receive much attention. However, his decades of success have made this humble recording rather valuable, if not monetarily, then musically. You can find copies of this being sold for as little as $100 and as much as a few thousand.
Vinyl Pressings That'll Impress Your Friends
Like making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cleaning out your dryer's lint traps, listening to vinyl is here to stay. With greater numbers of people investing in record players and recovering dusty vinyls from antique store shelves, the chances of someone stumbling across one of these treasured pressings grow higher and higher; so, start thumbing through those crates of old vinyls because you never know what might pop out at you.