If You Own These Vinyl Records, You Could Make A Fortune
Vinyl sales have skyrocketed since 2015. Collectors old and young have dug up some hidden gems in all genres. Maybe you own an oddly colorful Nirvana album worth a couple thousand bucks. Or perhaps you pay 75 cents for an album worth $25,000, like one man did.
If you know what to look for on your next trip to the music store, you could listen to your favorite retro band and gain a fortune at the same time. These are some of the rarest, most profitable vinyl records of all time. Pull out your dusty box of records and get browsing!
Quarrymen’s 1958 In Spite Of All The Danger/That’ll Be The Day
Before The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison played together as the Quarrymen. They recorded two tracks in this 10-inch record In Spite of All the Danger. Initially, only one original copy existed, until McCartney bought it and released 50 more albums.
McCartney gave these vinyls to family and friends for Christmas. Since 1981, these records have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. One copy can bring in anywhere from $13,000 to $260,000.
Read on for one of the rarest Beatles albums of all time and see what it sold for.
Elvis’ My Happiness Sun Records Copy
In 1953, Elvis Presley recorded his first ever song at just 18-years-old. He sang a cover of the 1948 song “My Happiness,” and printed it onto a vinyl of the same name through Sun Records. The King gave it to his friend, Ed Leek, who cherished it for years before handing it off.
In 2015, collector and artist Jack White bought the copy for $300,000. His own record label, Third Man Records, reproduced the vinyl as a limited edition store release. While it won’t get you as much as the original, it still may sell for a decent amount.
Keep reading to see how exclusive cover art can make the difference between $20 and $25,000.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan Special Tracks From 1963
Just before Bob Dylan released his second album in 1963, he made some changes to the tracks. Originally, Dylan replaced four tracks with newly recorded songs. Later on, the record switched back to the regular version. Only a handful of records with these four misplaced tracks were sold.
One surviving stereo copy sold for $35,000. To tell if your copy is original, look for matrix numbers ending in 1A on both sides. It must play the songs Rocks and Gravel, Let Me Die in My Footsteps, Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand, and Talkin’ John Birch Blues.
Next: labels can make a huge difference in value.
Blue Note 1568, Actually Released In 1957
In 1957, jazz musician Hank Mobley released anywhere between 300 and 1,000 copies of this vinyl. But some records have one small difference that makes them worth tens of thousands of dollars. The Vinyl Factory claims that Blue Note ran out of labels halfway through producing the album.
Most covers for this vinyl state the label 47 West 63rd NYC, but the initial, more valuable label states 47 West 63rd New York 23. Both versions can get you a lot of money–a copy with the regular stamp sold for $10,000 on eBay–but the rarer label is worth more.
The Who Sell Out, 1967 Butterfly Poster
The Who’s third studio album, The Who Sell Out, acts like a 1960s British “pirate radio” broadcast. The record features fake commercials and mock service announcements along with songs. The first 1,000 pressings from the U.K. Track Label included a “psychedelic poster” of a butterfly, which is where the money lies.
If you find this album with the butterfly poster inside, it’ll sell for at least $1,000. The hilarious cover of The Who bathing in beans is just a bonus.
Check out another example of how Andy Warhol art raised a record’s worth.
“The Velvet Underground & Nico” Banana Sticker Cover
In 2002, Canadian record collector Warren Hill paid 75 cents for this vinyl at a flea market. At the time, Hill had no idea what he had found. The record is the debut album of the rock band the Velvet Underground, but this copy is highly regarded for its rare banana peal cover by Andy Warhol.
Hill’s rare version of this vinyl includes early versions of songs that differ from the standard album. It’s so rare that only the band’s drummer, Moe Tucker, owns another copy. Hill auctioned it off on eBay for $25,200.
A tiny detail in the cover art of a David Bowie album could earn you almost four grand.
The Black Album 1987 12-inch
In 1987, Warner Bros. Records released The Black Album, with no title or artist on the front. Prince recorded this album in response to being criticized as “too pop-oriented,” and aimed to regain his black audience. But for some reason, Prince became convinced that the album was cursed, and persuaded Warner Bros. to recall the 500,000 copies.
At that point, though, promo copies sold to several people, who often called it The Funk Bible. Eventually, Prince released the album on CD in 1994, but the original vinyl can sell for anywhere between $27,500 to $42,000.
If you got your hands on vinyl released in Japan, you’re in a world of luck.
Last American Hero From Asbury Park N.J. 1978 Japanese Version
Before Bruce Springsteen released his fourth album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, he created a promo L.P. to advertise it. The record, Last American Hero From Asbury Park N.J., contained ten tracks and only appeared in Japan.
Less than 100 copies were pressed, and each sells for about $4,200. Each track is ordered from A1 through A5, to B1 through B5. Strangely, instead of featuring new songs, the L.P. only plays songs from his first three albums.
As we’ve already seen, some albums sell for much more than this one! Read on for more.
Aphex Twin’s Unreleased Record, Caustic Window, 1994
Before Richard James became the Aphex Twin, he recorded some of his early EDM music under the alias Caustic Window. He created a single self-titled album, which he planned to release in 1994. Eventually, he abandoned the project, leaving only four known copies on vinyl.
Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of the game Minecraft, pounced on a copy of the white vinyl when it popped up on eBay in 2014. He paid $46,300 for the test pressing.
God Save The Queen Single7-Inch, 1977
In March 1977, the Sex Pistols signed with A&M Records, which released many of their albums. They only stayed with that label for six years, until A&M kicked them out due to their outrageous behavior. When they cut ties, the company still had about 25,000 copies of their 7-inch vinyl single, “God Save The Queen.”
Although A&M reportedly destroyed all copies, nine of these records have resurfaced over the past 40 years. Each has sold anywhere upward of $8,600. Check your record shelf to see if you have number ten.
More Warhol artwork coming up…
Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) Demo Copy
In 1965, soul singer Frank Wilson recorded his single, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” as a demo for the Motown subsidiary label Soul. About 250 demos came out, but for some reason, most of them were destroyed.
Explanations vary, including the boss Berry Gordy not liking it, to Wilson moving on to producing. Either way, only five copies of this single have surfaced so far. In May 2009, a copy sold at an auction for $32,500.
Next: the White Album
The Beatles (White Album) Originals From 1968
The Beatles released their self-titled album, later called the White Album, in 1968. But members of the band and studio executives were given copies stamped with serial numbers beginning in A00000, and then a number. For instance, an original copy may show the number A0000018.
In 2013, Clifford Yamasaki of Let It Be Records sold the very first copy of the White Album for $35,000. A year later, copy A0000023 auctioned for $13,750. Very few of these original albums still exist today.
Waltzes By Johann Strauss, Jr. 1956 Andy Warhol Cover
Before Andy Warhol designed album covers for Rolling Stones, he specialized in jazz and classical vinyl covers. One of these includes a 7-inch sleeve for the 1956 release of Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr. by the Century Symphony Orchestra.
According to rumor, only seven copies of this E.P. exist around the world, one of which sits in the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Another copy sold on eBay for $5,500 in 2012.
Like collecting movie soundtracks? If you own one album, you may be able to pay off your next vacation.
1992 Erotica Cover Sucking On A Big Toe
Your copy of Madonna’s Erotica album can be worth a lot more if it includes a U.K.-pressed cover featuring a Material Girl sucking on a big toe. The toe belongs to supermodel Naomi Campbell, but it came out at an awkward time. That year, Sarah, Duchess of York, showed up in multiple tabloids for having her toes sucked on in an affair.
Of course, Warner Bros. Records didn’t want to fall into the foot fetish scandal. They withdrew the single, although at least 100 copies are still floating around somewhere. Depending on the condition, they can sell for $3,000 to $4,000.
The Caine Mutiny Movie Soundtrack, 1954
The Caine Mutiny came out in 1954, starring Robert Francis and Humphrey Bogart. To accompany the movie, a vinyl came out. One side played composer Max Steiner’s score, while the other featured dialogue from the movie’s courtroom scene.
The author of the original book, Herman Wouk, found the vinyl to be an infringement of intellectual property and asked Columbia Pictures to stop producing it. As a result, only a couple dozen copies came out, each of which sells for around $6,700.
Street Fighting Man/No Expectations Original Cover, 1968
In 1968, Rolling Stones released a vinyl with their single, “Street Fighting Man.” The original front cover pictured heavy-handed police tactics from demonstration riots earlier that year. However, that same month, the Chicago Democratic National Convention erupted into violent riots.
The record company hesitated and ordered that all copies of the sleeve be destroyed. Before that happened, though, at least eighteen copies leaked into the world. In 2011, Bonhams auction sold one for $17,000.
Music For The Masses, 1987 Original Sleeve Color
Mut Records released Depeche Mode’s sixth studio album, Music for the Masses, in 1987. The original U.K. cover sleeve sported an orange and white megaphone, although the band withdrew the cover last minute.
By then, fans had already bought at least a dozen copies. A few years later, the studio accidentally shipped more copies to stores. A couple of these rarities have popped up on eBay, and former band member Alan Wilder auctioned his copy off for $4,600.
The First Pressing Of Please Please Me, 1963
In March 1963, Parlophone label released the Beatles’ album Please Please Me in a hurry. Although plenty of these records sold in 1963, collectors hunt down a specific copy. The first pressing includes gold lettering on a black label. This small change could earn you thousands of dollars.
The mono version of Please Please Me in mint can get someone a couple hundred bucks, while the stereo version claims about $4,200. If you find the first pressing, you could gain tens of thousands of dollars from one record.
Next: do you own a red and white copy of Bleach?
Bleach, 1989 Red And White Vinyl
If you have a copy of Nirvana’s 1989 debut album Bleach, double-check the vinyl. Owning a certain color vinyl of this album can earn you up to three thousand bucks. Sub Pop released 500 copies of this album on red-and-white marbled vinyl, which sells for at least $1,100 in cherry condition.
Originally, the company printed the record on white vinyl. This’ll grant you a hefty sum of around $2,500. White versions are easier to find, as 1,000 have been pressed.
Diamond Dogs Exclusive Cover Art, 1974
The first copies of this vinyl featured cover art that portrayed a dog’s genitals. These were never sold, however, because the record label RCA reportedly “got nervous.” They airbrushed the genitals out in the final version, which most collectors own today.
Even so, some employees kept the original cover art. In 2003, a copy sold on eBay for $3,550. Now that David Bowie has passed away, these rare copies will likely sell for more.
Tommy Johnson’s Alcohol And Jake Blues
Blues artist Tommy Johnson was known for his guitar skills and for singing in a strange falsetto voice. Paramount released his album Alcohol and Jake Blues in 1930, and when the label shut down five years later all of its masters were destroyed. This means that the album is extremely rare.
In fact, Alcohol and Jake Blues is such a rare find that a collector shelled out more than $37,000 for it in 2013. The winning bidder already owned a copy of the record but said it wasn’t in as good condition as his new acquisition, so felt that his money was well spent for the upgrade.
Have you seen this bizarre Beatles cover?
The Beatles’ Yesterday And Today With Bloody Doll Cover Art, 1966
Beatles fans weren’t going wild for the original cover art for their 1966 album Yesterday and Today, which featured the band holding bloody doll body parts. The cover was so unpopular that Capitol Records shelled out a quarter of a million dollars to recall the 750,000 albums that had been distributed to stores.
However, a few of the originals had already been purchased and are now worth a pretty penny. Some have sold for more than $15k, and there are sealed copies available online for $30,000 and up.
Coming up is the Beatles demo that launched the band.
Spirit In The Night, 1973
Spirit in the Night was one of Bruce Springsteen’s first singles and was from his 1973 debut album with Columbia Records. This one has a pretty unassuming look with a red and orange label, while the sleeve is a plain grey with a white “Columbia” printed on it.
Better hope you have this one in your collection because the 45 will fetch you at least $5,000 if you have one in mint condition.
Till There Was You Demo, 1963
A 10″ acetate of one of The Beatles’ earliest demos has been called “the record that launched” the band. It featured two songs, “Til There Was You” and the B-side “Hello Little Girl” which was misspelled as “Hullo” on the record.
A former keyboard player for Gerry and the Pacemakers found a copy in his collection and in 2016, sold it to a collector for £77,500 — approximately $98,000 in USD. Wow.
Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, Wu-Tang Clan
This certainly isn’t one you can expect to find in your collection, but it’s worth a mention as it’s the most expensive individual album ever sold, with a really strange backstory. The hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan pressed only ONE copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin in 2014.
The album was auctioned off the following year, and the winning bidder was convicted felon and former pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli. He paid an astonishing $2 million for the rare recording. Before the 2016 presidential elections, he tweeted that he’d release the album for free download if Trump won but would destroy it if Hillary Clinton did. After Trump’s victory Shkreli released just the intro and one song, before reselling the album on eBay for just over a thousand bucks.
Love Me Do Single, Unedited Cut
The Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do,” was recorded on a one-sided acetate record in 1962. The song was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and the Beatles considered its release as the start of their career. There’s one lone unedited copy of it in existence. As you might suspect, it’s worth a whole lot of cash.
The recording, which can be identified by an audible count-in at the beginning, was reportedly sold for more than $100,000.
Original Stack O’Lee Blues, Long Cleve Reed And Little Harvey Hill
The beautiful vocal harmonies and the fact that there’s only one known copy of Original Stack O’Lee Blues 78 rpm in existence make it a pretty valuable find. The single was recorded by Long Cleve Reed & Little Harvey Hill in 1927.
A famed record collector named Joe Brussard was said to have been offered $70,000 for the album. He declined, as he didn’t want to part with it. If you happen to find another copy of it, you’re in great luck!
Music For Supermarkets, 1983
Jean-Michel Jarre is a French musician and record producer, known for his groundbreaking work in the new-age and ambient genres.
Music for Supermarkets (French title: Musique pour Supermarché) was produced for an art exhibition and Jarre later auctioned off just one vinyl copy in 1983. It fetched around $70,000, which Jarre felt was a “silly industrialization of music” and led to him destroying the original recordings. He later salvaged part of the album and used them in other works.
Lafayette Blues, 1988
The 45 of “Lafayette Blues,” which was only the White Stripes’ second single, was released by Italy Records in 1998. Unfortunately, the record covers weren’t completed before the duo’s big release show, so Jack White and the head of the recording company hand-painted some in order to sell them.
At the show, the records sold for $6. Then in 2004, a copy sold for $2,700! Jack White said, “It’s funny stuff – thinking no-one’s gonna buy them for 6 dollars, now they’re going for 2700!” Little did he know then that another copy would sell for a whopping $18,000 in 2010.
The Pink Floyd Lucy Leave And I’m A King Bee
Although the double-sided record says “The Pink Floyd,” its two songs were actually recorded back when the band was called The Tea Set. “I’m a King Bee” was written by the blues musician Slim Harpo. The A-side song, “Lucy Leave,” was written by Syd Barrett.
The band roster is listed on the cover: Barrett, Bob Klose, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason. This limited edition run produced only 100 copies and today is valued around $30,000.
David A. Stewart ‘Test’ 78, 1965
This next recording is unique in that the artist was around 12 years old when he made it. The untitled music was recorded by David A. Stewart in the mid-1960s.
Stewart went on to become half of the British music duo The Eurythmics, along with Annie Lennox. Today, this childhood recording is now thought to be worth around £30,000 (a little more than $38,000 USD), as reported by The Daily Mirror.
Hunky Dory, 1971 With Reissues
David Bowie’s first release through RCA, Hunky Dory was his fourth studio album. It was released in December of 1971. It was a critical success, with Time selecting it for their “100 best albums of all time” list.
According to Record Collector, bidding on an acetate copy of the album reached nearly £20,000 (roughly $25,000 USD) at auction in 2016, but didn’t end up making the reserve price. It’s worth checking your collection if you think you might have one of these!
Wedding Album, 1969
Wedding Album was the third of a series of experimental albums by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1968 and 1969. The recording features the sound of Lennon and Ono’s heartbeats, with their voices saying each other’s names in different volumes and emotions. The LP was released by USA Capitol.
There is thought to be just one acetate copy of the recording. Complete with the couple’s handwritten sleeve notes, it was offered at forevervinyl.com for $25,000.
Stay Away, Joe – 1967
Talk about a desirable item for a record collector — this promotional album was owned by Elvis Presley himself. There’s just one copy of the single-sided record Stay Away, Joe.
The song was first recorded by Presley as part of the soundtrack for his 1968 motion picture Stay Away, Joe. It was later released as the opening song in an album called Let’s Be Friends. Stay Away, Joe is currently valued around $25,000 according to howstuffworks.
The Five Sharps’ Stormy Weather, 1953
A record collector and dealer named David Hall purchased the sole uncracked copy of the Five Sharps’ Stormy Weather in 1977. At the time, the price was record-breaking (pun intended). It was a wise decision, as he was offered $25,000 for the recording. He declined the offer.
The Five Sharps only ever recorded that one album, for Jubilee Records in 1952. It sold so poorly that the band’s members were forced to buy their own copies.
All I Want Is You, On Green Vinyl
According to U2Songs, “a 12-inch Australian pressing of [the song] ‘All I Want is You’ in green vinyl does exist, and it is said that only three copies were made. In 2006 one of these pressings was listed in a list of the Top 60 U2 Collectibles in Record Collector Magazine as the #1 item.”
At least one copy in green does indeed exist, and it sold for £10,000 ($12,700 USD) in 2010. Do you own one of the other two?
Judy Garland Test Records, 1935
In 1935, a twelve-year-old Judy Garland (then still Frances Gumm) and her sisters recorded three test albums for Decca Records under the name The Gumm Sisters.
The acetate recordings were never released. Two copies, Bill and On the Good Ship Lollipop/The Object of My Affection/Dinah, ended up surviving and were kept by Judy for her personal collection until she discarded them. They went to auction in 2006 and someone bid $22,500 for the pair but the reserve price wasn’t met.
Billy Ward And His Dominoes, 10″ LP
Back in the days of doo-wop, most albums were recorded on 45s. A 10″ doo-wop LP was a rarity, which means that they’re coveted by collectors today. Billy Ward and his Dominoes were one of the most popular and successful R&B groups of the 1950s.
The band’s self-titled LP contains many of the group’s earliest hits, including the iconic “Sixty Minute Man.” A mint condition copy sold at auction for $24,200 in 1999.
Ninety Nine Blues/Cold Woman Blues, Blind Joe Reynolds
“Blind Joe” Reynolds was a blues guitarist as well as a singer-songwriter. He lost both of his eyes due to a shotgun blast to the face when he was a young man.
Released by Paramount as two 78s, Reynolds’ Ninety Nine Blues/Cold Woman Blues was thought to be lost until it was rediscovered in 2000. The pair sold at auction for $20,000. The recordings include the songs “Nehi Blues,” “Cold Woman Blues”, “Ninety Nine Blues,” and “Outside Woman Blues.”
Try Me For Your New Love/She Wrote It, I Read It, 1967
A Cincinnati-born soul singer named Junior McCants only recorded four songs during his career. Sadly, he died of cancer in 1967, just before his second two-sided single, Try Me For Your New Love/She Wrote It, I Read It, was released. He was only 24 years old.
The record was withdrawn but a few promotional copies slipped out and are coveted by collectors today. Experts think the value of any surviving copies would bring in anywhere between $7,500 to $15,000.