Perhaps you’re a music-record hound or the inheritor of a past generation’s music collection. Or maybe you’re the lucky finder of a special flea market treasure. Whoever you are, if you happen to have one of these vinyl records in your possession, we can only hope you had the foresight to hold onto it until now.
1. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin (1969)
Considered by many music aficionados to be one of the most popular rock bands in history, Led Zeppelin released a 1969 self-titled album that reached platinum status. And the only thing better than finding it in your vinyl collection is realizing it’s an original UK version.
The rare, first version of this record is set apart from the rest thanks to the turquoise blue lettering used in the Led Zeppelin font and Atlantic Records logo. If you’re a lucky owner of one of these puppies, you’re looking at an easy $1,000. And if it’s in mint condition, you can apparently sell it for as much as $5,000 to $7,500!
2. The Who: The Who Sell Out (1967)
For insight into The Who’s third studio album, The Who Sell Out, just take a look at its cover. Featuring popular commercial items like pimple cream, a bathtub full of baked beans, and deodorant, the silly cover images mirror the hilarity of the songs inside.
The album is special for a few reasons. Not only was it the band’s first-ever concept album, but the first 1,000 pressings of it contained a poster inside of a multi-colored butterfly. That butterfly is apparently a real money-maker, as it’s addition to the album values the entire thing at a price around $1,100 on eBay.
3. Nirvana: Bleach (1989)
While many Nirvana fans would argue that a number of the rock band’s albums hold sentimental value, there’s arguably none as valuable as their 1989 debut album, Bleach. When it was first released, it was limited to 1,000 copies that were sold to concertgoers at Seattle’s Lamefest.
These copies are said to be worth around a couple hundred dollars but those that are worth even more are the ones that were touched by the experimental creativity of grunge label, Sub Pop. The label iconically used different red and white marbled vinyl on 500 copies, which can apparently sell for an upward of $1,500. Cha ching!
4. Sex Pistols: “God Save the Queen” (1977)
As legend has it, punk rock band, the Sex Pistols were dropped from A&M Records only six days after signing with the label in 1977. This was all thanks to their bad boy behavior, which led them to apparently vandalize the company offices.
By the time their ties were severed, the label had already manufactured 25,000 copies of the band’s debut single, “God Save the Queen.” While they ordered all the records to be destroyed, nine copies have since surfaced and have apparently sold for upward of $17,000. It’s unknown how many other existing copies are unaccounted for, but if you happen to be a lucky owner, you could be sitting atop a goldmine.
5. The Rolling Stones: “Street Fighting Man” (1968)
In the same month that The Rolling Stones released their 1968 single, “Street Fighting Man,” a demonstration riot broke out at the Chicago Democratic National Convention. This gave record company executives cold feet about the release of the single because of the photos displayed on the front and rear covers.
With stills of police brutality, they feared the photos would be considered offensive and requested that all prior copies be destroyed. But this wasn’t before some 18 copies were said to have been released into the world. In 2011, one of the controversial copies sold at a Bonhams auction for a whopping $17,000.
6. The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground & Nico (1966)
Someone striking it rich from a flea market find is something that can happen to just about anyone. In the initial pressings of the Velvet Underground’s 1966 album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, the disk was said to come in a plain brown sleeve, have handwritten labels, and contain early versions of the album’s hit tracks.
When one lucky Canadian collector spotted it at a flea market, he paid only $0.75 for it. Any guesses as to how much he sold it for on eBay? A mind-blowing $25,200! We know, we’re also crying on behalf of the first seller who gave the treasure away for less than $1. And this isn’t the only shocking second-hand find that appears on this list.
7. Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)
Likely unbeknown to many, a number of original The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan studio albums contain a production blunder that could rack in tens of thousands of dollars. Released in 1963, the vinyl record’s first copies mistakenly included four extra tracks.
The tracks included: “Rocks and Gravel,” “Let Me Die in My Footsteps,” “Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand,” and “Talkin’ John Birch Blues.” Although Columbia Records recalled these erroneous versions of the album, it wasn’t before a chunk of them got out. It is thus because of their rarity that they’re considered to be some of the most valuable records in the world, with a copy in mint condition apparently worth up to $30,0000.
8. Tommy Johnson: “Alcohol And Jake Blues”& “Ridin’ Horse” (1930)
Here’s another story of someone whose second-hand market find turned out to be a gold mine. The story goes as follows: in 1930, blues singer, Tommy Johnson released a mega rare record of two tracks: “Alcohol And Jake Blues” and “Ridin’ Horse.”
In 2013, a South Carolina eBay user put the record up for sale, which he acquired from an estate sale years earlier. Truth be told, he had no idea of the record’s immense value until he saw bids skyrocket on his online auction. Longtime blues record collector, John Tefteller then shelled out a winning $37,000 and traveled in person to collect his treasure. Moral of the story: pay close attention to what you buy – and sell – at garage sales. You just might hit – or give away – the jackpot.
9. Prince: The Black Album (1987)
The reason behind the high price tag that’s attached to Prince’s 1987 The Black Album is a rare story in which an artist themself was the one responsible for recalling their own album – not the record company (which is what usually happens).
As legend has it, when Price was – let’s just say – under the influence, he came to the sudden realization that his album was evil and thus demanded that Warner Bros. recall each of the 500,000 copies in circulation. By that point, however, many records had already been sold. And although the music icon officially went on to release the album in 1994, owners of original copies can rack up some serious dough from its sale. In 2018, a copy sold in the US for $42,300.
10. Depeche Mode: Music for the Masses (1987)
If you’re a fan of English electronic music band, Depeche Mode, it’s likely you owned a copy of their sixth studio album, Music for the Masses back in the day. But while all albums come with the well-known tune, “Strangelove,” not all are valued in the same way.
On the original cover, a white and orange megaphone is printed on the front sleeve. And although the band ended up withdrawing the cover at the last minute, it wasn’t before a few were accidentally shipped as samples to different record stores in the ’90s. Former keyboard player, Alan Wilder sold his copy in 2011 for $4,600, and a number of others have since appeared on eBay for a similar price.
11. The Beatles: Please Please Me (1963)
As stated by The Beatles Collecting Guide, which specializes in valuing The Beatles’ EPs and LPs, the band’s 1963 debut album, Please Please Me was initially released in a hurry in Great Britain. This was done as a means to capitalize on two successful singles in the album: “Please Please Me” and “Love Me Do.”
But because there were a few pressings of the album within the first year, the very first is the rarest of them all. Featuring gold lettering on a black label, it is said to be worth anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000. Now that’s a good chunk of change, if we do say so ourselves.
12. Frank Wilson: “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” (1965)
If you happen to own an original copy of Frank Wilson’s 1965 single, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” then you’re looking at what is considered to be the most expensive soul record that has ever been sold. But what is it that makes this track so valuable?
Rumor has it that Motown songwriter, Berry Gordy wasn’t too amped about the idea of his prized producer launching his own singing career, so he demanded that all the demos be destroyed. And as with most recalls, some of the original copies slipped through the cracks and into the hands of the public (though the exact number is not confirmed). One such copy sold at a May 2009 auction for around $37,000. Holy smokes!
13. Elvis Presley: “That’s All Right” & “Blue Moon of Kentucky” (1954)
The king, Elvis Presley recorded the single, “That’s All Right” pretty much on accident. While in the studio working on another song, he took a break to play “That’s All Right, Mama” by Arthur Crudup. Guitarist, Scotty Moore joined in and producer, Sam Phillips recorded the magic that ensued.
The following day, they were said to record “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on the B-side of the album. Many Presley fans argue that as his first commercial single, it earns the title of being music history’s first ever rock n’ roll record. And its mint-condition sale price of $4,000 supports that notion.
14. Quarrymen: “In Spite of All the Danger” & “That’ll Be The Day” (1958)
Before the Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison paired up with drummer, Colin Hanton and pianist, John Lowe to form a band called the Quarrymen. And the group was responsible for producing what some collectors refer to as one of the world’s most valuable records.
Together in a studio in Liverpool, the musicians pressed “In Spite of All the Danger” and “That’ll Be The Day” into a single record. Record Collector magazine ever so conservatively valued the original album at $250,000, which is in the possession of none other than Paul McCartney. In the early ’80s, the music icon made 50 copies of the record to give to friends as Christmas gifts and each are said to be worth somewhere around $10,000 to $13,000. Talk about a generous present!
15. Max Steiner: The Caine Mutiny Soundtrack (1954)
As it turns out, the 1954 film, The Caine Mutiny is remembered for more than the Pulitzer-Prize winning Herman Wouk book it’s based on and for being a classic World War II drama; it’s also praised for its soundtrack, which some industry professionals refer to as the rarest in the world.
In the original album soundtrack, one side features musical excerpts while the other side contains the dialogue from the noteworthy, court-martial scene. Author, Herman Wouk considered the latter to be a violation of his intellectual property and apparently demanded that Columbia Pictures cancel the album. Even though they ended up doing so, an estimated dozen or so albums were given to employees. A copy sold on eBay reportedly went for $6,700 in 2007.
16. The White Stripes: “Lafayette Blues” & “Sugar Never Tasted So Good” (1998)
In 1998, The White Stripes were on the rise to stardom. They scheduled record release shows in Detroit, for which they made 15 copies of a record featuring two songs: on one side was “Lafayette Blues” while on the other side was “Sugar Never Tasted So Good.”
The copies were pressed on white and red vinyl and each had a hand-painted cover sleeve done by the founder of Italy Records, Dave Buick. At the Detroit club shows, each copy was on sale for $6. This figure acts as a stark contrast to the $12,000+ that it’s worth today. For example, in 2012 a copy apparently sold on eBay for $12,700.
17. The Five Sharps: Stormy Weather (1952)
Perhaps you’re a fan of the reality TV show, Pawn Stars and remember a 2016 episode when a collector attempted to sell an uber-unique Stormy Weather record dating back to 1952. Though the seller’s $25,000 asking price proved to be too steep for its slipshod condition, the rarity of this record has helped it sell for a lot.
How much is a lot? According to Christie’s Buying Guide, as much as $20,000 to $30,000. Just let that sink in. And ironically enough, initial sales for the album were apparently so bleak that first tenor, Bobby Ward said he and his band-mates were forced to buy their own copies.
18. The Beatles: The Beatles (1968)
Does The Beatles’ 1968 self-titled studio album (which later became known as The White Album) ring a bell to anyone? Perhaps you remember tracks like “Revolution 1,” “Blackbird,” or “Helter Skelter,” but did you know not all copies of the album were created equal?
At the time of its release, the Fab Four – along with studio executives – were given copies of the album bearing different serial numbers. That belonging to drummer, Ringo Starr was stamped with number 0000001, signifying it was the first The White Album ever made. According to Guiness, the copy sold at Julien’s Auctions in 2015 for a staggering $790,000, making it the most expensive record ever sold.
19. Bruce Springsteen: Last American Hero From Asbury Park N.J. (1978)
As a highly valued collector’s item, Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 LP record, Last American Hero From Asbury Park N.J. is more than just a mouthful of words; it’s a real money-maker. Released exclusively to Japan, it contains 10 tracks meant to promote the release of Springsteen’s fourth album, Darkness on the Edge of Town.
The track is nestled in a custom-designed black and white sleeve and carries with it an insert of Japanese lyric translations. Not only that, but there were reportedly only 100 copies made, which awards each one a pretty hefty price tag. According to Money Music collector, John Marshall, a copy of the album can fetch up to $5,000.
20. Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Xanadu (1980)
While the movie Xanadu is fondly remembered as one of the worst movies ever made, especially by disco historians who relish the insane plot, the promotional picture record is remembered for something else entirely. That’s right, it is one of the most sought after record covers of all time.
It is believed that Olivia Newton-John really didn’t like the picture printed on front of the disc because of how she looked, and therefore instructed the record company to cease all production and releases of the copy. Only around 20-30 records made it out before her request. Those who were lucky enough to get their hands on these copies can fetch up to $9,100!
21. Aphex Twin: Caustic Window (1994)
While most of the vinyl records on this list are vintage relics and get their value – in some part – from their age, this one has a bit of a different story. In the early ’90s, Richard D. James, also known as Aphex Twin (the Grammy Award-winning electronic dance musician), abandoned the work he had already done on the album, Caustic Window.
This meant he let go of a handful of test pressings on vinyl. When one of them surfaced on eBay in 2014, Minecraft inventor, Markus “Notch” Persson shelled out an astonishing $46,300 to become its lucky owner. We suppose you have that type of pocket change when you’re the creator of one of the world’s most popular video games.
22. Madonna: Erotica (1992)
Material girl, Madonna makes it on this list for her 1992 album, Erotica, and the story behind this one is unlike any of the other. On the UK-made picture disc back cover, Madonna is shown sucking on model, Naomi Campbell’s big toe.
At the same time, Sarah the Duchess of York was caught in a scandal where paparazzi caught her financial adviser, John Bryan engaging in similar behavior with her. Those at Warner Bros. Records feared it would look as if they were trying to strike rich on such a controversial issue so they ordered 50,000 copies of the disc to be recalled. It is believed that somewhere around 150 copies exist in the world today and in good condition, they can sell for around $3,000 to $4,000.
23. Hank Mobley: Blue Note 1568 (1957)
Jazz lovers, this one’s for you. There are said to be between 300 and 1,000 very special versions of Hank Mobley’s 1957 record, Blue Note 1568. What sets these copies apart from the other records on the label is a slight variation in their printing.
According to The Vinyl Factory, record label Blue Note ran out of labels while they were doing the first pressing of the album. Though the real address of the label was 47 West 63rd NYC, some of the records were printed with labels reading “47 West 63rd New York 23.” On Jazz Collector, an online platform selling records and other collectibles, the rare album sold for nearly $8,000 in 2018.
24. The Beatles: Yesterday and Today (1966)
The original cover of the Beatles’ ninth album, Yesterday and Today, was controversial to say the least. It featured disturbing imagery of the musicians dressed as butchers holding decapitated dolls and raw meat – and as you can probably expect – it wasn’t exactly well-received by the public.
Because of this, Capitol Records ordered that the albums be recalled just one day after their release. And although most of the covers were replaced with much tamer artwork, some of the original copies still landed in the hands of very lucky individuals. These copies are said to command anywhere between $12,000 to $125,000.
25. Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hull (Down Home Boys): “Original Stack O’ Lee Blues”& “Mama You Don’t Know How” (1927)
Die-hard fans of early blues music are most certainly familiar with Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hull, also known as the Down Home Boys. As the creators of beautiful bluesy harmonies, this duo was responsible for recording an extremely rare single back in 1927.
These days, the single is worth a pretty penny… or two. Actually, renowned record collector, Joe Bussard apparently turned down a staggering $70,000 for his copy, thus showing the immense value that’s attached to a vinyl record of this sort. And even though it’s believed that there’s only one copy circling in the world, this price makes it worth rummaging through grandpa’s vinyl collection.
26. David Bowie and Dana Gillespie: “Bowpromo” (1971)
Back in 1971, David Bowie’s manager came up with a masterful way to land the rock n’ roll icon and fellow musician, Dana Gillespie a record deal with RCA Records: he pressed 500 promo records with seven songs from Bowie on one side and five songs from Gillespie on the other.
The record was intended strictly for industry executives. Add to this the fact that two of its songs (Bowie’s “Bombers” and Gillespie’s “Lavender Hill”) wouldn’t appear on any official album until 20 years later, and you’ve got yourself a pretty valuable vinyl. So valuable that an original, stamped with “BOWPROMO 1A-1/1B-1,” can sell for $5,000 to $6,000.
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