Rarest Vinyl Records: Uncovering The Most Expensive Albums Ever
Rarest Vinyl Records: Uncovering The Most Expensive Albums Ever
The hunt for rare vinyl albums is an exhilarating pursuit, akin to deep-sea divers embarking on a quest for hidden treasure. From dusty bargain bins to eBay bidding wars, music fans have long dreamed of discovering elusive and highly sought-after finds that can often command a staggering price from record collectors.
Behind every slam of the gavel and each astonishing price tag lurks a fascinating tale that make these records the ultimate treasures for collectors and music lovers alike. Unveiling the stories behind their scarcity, join us as we enter the fast-paced world of auctioneers and uncover the Top 20 rarest and most expensive albums ever pressed onto vinyl…
20: Depeche Mode - Music for the Masses (1987)
The 1987 album, 'Music for the Masses' by Depeche Mode, holds a rare gem in its original UK pressing: an orange-and-white megaphone on its cover. Despite the band's last-minute decision to change the cover, a few copies managed to circulate, adding to its scarcity. To complicate matters further, a reissue campaign in the 1990s resulted in copies of the original cover art accidentally being shared with record stores, before those plans, too, were cancelled. Consequently, the orange-and-white megaphone cover remains a much-desired rarity, achieving a substantial price among collectors. Former Depeche Mode member Alan Wilder's personal copy fetched a staggering $4,600 in 2011, while similar copies have been sold on platforms like eBay for comparable prices.
Price: £3,695 ($4,600)
19: Tinkerbells Fairydust - Tinkerbells Fairydust (1969)
After struggling to find commercial success, production on the London-based psychedelic pop group Tinkerbells Fairydust’s self-titled debut LP ground to a halt. Plans to release the album in 1969 were ultimately scrapped, but as is the way for rare vinyl record seekers, that wasn’t the end of the story. Specifically, the finished stock versions of the unreleased album featuring unboxed blue/silver Decca labels command a significant price. In fact, in February 2021, Omega Auctions successfully sold a copy for an impressive $8,000. Moreover, test pressings presented in finished sleeves hold their own value too, often reaching around $2,000 among collectors. If you find a copy hiding in your attic, you might just be sitting on a goldmine!
Value: £6,427 ($8,000)
18) Jean-Michel Jarre - Music for Supermarkets (1983)
Jean-Michel Jarre, the French producer renowned for his pioneering breed of electronic music, is arguably the godfather of ambient EDM and synth-pop. With compositions often featuring mesmerising synthesiser melodies and atmospheric soundscapes, Jean-Michel Jarre has been captivating listeners for years with his peerless originality. Among his notable works, the 1983 album ‘Music for Supermarkets’ stands out not only for its musical progressiveness but also for its unparalleled rarity. Astonishingly, only a single copy of the LP was ever produced. In 1983, this unique piece of musical history was auctioned in Paris for charity, fetching a remarkable price of 36,000 francs ($8,300). This scarcity and the significant auction value further accentuate the legendary status of ‘Music for Supermarkets’ as one of the most sought-after vinyl records, leaving collectors and fans alike longing to experience the ethereal compositions contained within its sole surviving copy.
Value: £6,668 ($8,300)
17: Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks (1975)
Widely regarded as one of Bob Dylan’s greatest albums, the 1975 album ‘Blood on the Tracks’ has a revered status among fans of the singer-songwriter’s work, but obtaining a well-preserved copy can prove challenging for collectors. Boasting some of Dylan’s finest songs such as Tangled Up in Blue and You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, a copy of the album surfaced in recent years on eBay, fetching a remarkable sum of $9,000. Notably, this copy had the unique selling point of being signed by Bob Dylan himself, further enhancing its value. Originating from the personal collection of Jeff Rosen, Bob Dylan's manager, this near fine-conditioned gem is a true treasure for vinyl enthusiasts. Keep an eye out for signed copies and your bank account could well thank you for it!
Value: £7,230 ($9,000)
16) Queen - Hot Space (1982)
Arguably the black sheep of Queen’s discography, the band’s tenth album ‘Hot Space’ in 1982 proved to be a rather divisive foray into disco and funk. The LP did, however, contain the diamond-in-the-rough collaboration with David Bowie on ‘Under Pressure’ which means that in spite of the album’s mixed reception there are some brilliant moments worth hearing. Despite being maligned by critics, however, ‘Hot Space’ has gone on to achieve considerable value, with one copy commanding a staggering price of $9,998. Needless to say, this rare gem bore the signatures of Queen's iconic line-up - Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon - so although ‘Hot Space’ may not have hit the mark musically, it is still valuable to collectors and fans alike.
Value: £8,032 ($9,998)
15) Van Halen - Van Halen (1978)
The eponymous debut album of the legendary rock band Van Halen, simply titled ‘Van Halen’, was a major commercial success upon its release in 1978 and went on to sell more than 10 million copies in America. However, there does exist a particular copy that stands out among collectors. Recently, a rare vinyl copy of the LP that was signed by all four band members surfaced on eBay, fetching a lucrative price of $9,999. Notably, these autographs were personally obtained by the original owner. With this in mind, whenever you buy a vinyl record, if you are able to get it signed by the musicians themselves, it could prove to be the most sensible investment you will ever make…
Value: £8,033 ($9,999)
14) Dark - Dark Round the Edges (1972)
Hailing from Northampton, the progressive rock outfit Dark, consisting of guitarists Steve Giles and Martin Weaver, bassist Ron Johnson, and drummer Clive Thorneycroft, unveiled their debut album 'Dark Round the Edges' in 1972. Remarkably, the album was reportedly recorded within a mere five days and had an incredibly limited release, with only 64 copies pressed. These copies were specifically intended for close friends and family, and each featured distinct variants of the cover art - an innovative approach that foreshadowed the marketing strategies employed by many contemporary bands with multiple iterations of their vinyl releases. Despite the band’s relative obscurity, Dark's 'Dark Round the Edges' has emerged as a highly sought-after collector's item. The full-colour gatefold sleeve edition of the album has commanded prices of up to £10,000, while the standard black and white edition has fetched prices of up to £6,000, underscoring the enduring value placed on this exceptional piece of musical history.
Value: £10,000 (£12,446)
13) Röyksopp – Melody AM (2001)
A rare edition of the debut album ‘Melody A.M.’ by Norwegian electronic pioneers Röyksopp is coveted just as much by art lovers as it is by music collectors. Renowned street artist Banksy collaborated with the band to adorn a limited edition pressing of the album, featuring his striking stencil artwork. This extraordinary collaboration resulted in only 100 copies of this unique vinyl, making it a hugely desirable item among collectors. The exclusivity and artistic significance of these special editions have propelled their value to astonishing heights, with recent sales reaching an impressive $10,000. The combination of Röyksopp's mesmerising electronic music and Banksy's captivating visual artistry has created a truly exceptional and sought-after gem in the world of rare vinyl records.
Value: £8,034 ($10,000)
12) Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982)
As one of the biggest-selling records of all time, it may seem like everybody and his wife owns a copy of Michael Jackson’s 1982 LP ’Thriller’, so you wouldn’t necessarily expect it to be worth much money. Well, don’t get complacent, as you may be mistaken: most original pressings of ‘Thriller’, particularly if kept in mint condition, can fetch a few thousand dollars among collectors. However, there also exists a truly exceptional copy that stands out from the rest. This particular vinyl, verified by PSA and awarded a ‘very good’ condition rating, bears the signatures of both Michael Jackson and the legendary basketball player Michael Jordan. In a remarkable transaction, this extraordinary piece of musical memorabilia was sold for an impressive $12,999, reminding us of the long-standing commercial value of this iconic MTV-era classic.
Value: £10,443 ($12,999)
11) Stonewall - Stonewall (1976)
Despite the relative obscurity of the heavy psych-rock group Stonewall, their debut album holds a significant place among the rarest vinyl records. Released under Tiger Lily, a record label in the 1970s notorious for being a ‘tax scam’ label, their modus operandi included cutting and releasing records without promotion or royalty payments to the artists. Surprisingly, despite their dubious business practices, every album produced by the label has acquired a certain level of collectability. In 2014, Stonewall's 1976 hard-rock album garnered headlines when it sold for an impressive $14,000 on eBay. With only a few copies of this rare vinyl record believed to be in circulation, its scarcity and the steep auction price further cement its status as a prized possession for vinyl collectors, illustrating the appeal of obscure musical gems.
Value: £11,248 ($14,000)
10) Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979)
It’s understandable that Pink Floyd's double-LP ‘The Wall’ from 1979 holds a particularly special place in the hearts of fans of progressive-rock. Containing some of the best Pink Floyd songs such as Comfortably Numb and Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, there is however one copy of ’The Wall’ that ranks among the rarest vinyl records in existence. As the last studio album featuring all four core members of the band, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Nick Mason, and Roger Waters, one truly exceptional find contained the signatures of each member in blue felt-tip pen. The rarity and desirability of this remarkable piece were evident when it sold at a Sotheby's auction for a staggering $15,000, solidifying its status as a prized possession for Pink Floyd enthusiasts and collectors seeking a truly extraordinary item to fill a gap in their wall of treasured vinyl records.
Value: £12,051 ($15,000)
9) The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
Whenever the worlds of music and art cross over, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be worth a pretty penny. In 1967, the pop art icon Andy Warhol was responsible for designing The Velvet Underground & Nico’s album cover, featuring an instantly-recognisable banana design. Surprisingly, the album didn’t sell well upon first release, but today it is regarded as one of the most influential releases in rock history, particularly on fans of punk and lo-fi indie-rock. However, what makes certain copies exceptionally rare is the fact that the banana was actually printed as a peelable sticker, accompanied by the intriguing phrase ‘peel slowly and see’ above it. While many fans couldn't resist the temptation to remove the sticker to reveal the banana’s fleshy interior, unpeeled covers have become incredibly scarce. Original pressings of this album, in impeccable condition with an intact banana sticker, have fetched astonishing prices exceeding $20,000. This exorbitant value serves as a reminder of Andy Warhol’s artistic genius and the limited availability of these unpeeled editions makes ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ a holy grail among the rarest vinyl records.
Value: £20,246 ($25,200)
8) Bob Dylan - The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)
Though few expected it at the time, Bob Dylan's second LP, ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’, would eventually find its place as one of the most influential 1960s records, helping to popularise folk music across the world. Released in late May 1963, this album went through last-minute changes with four songs being replaced by newly recorded tracks. Speculation suggests that CBS-owned Columbia Records pulled the original songs due to CBS television's censorship of Dylan performing ‘Talkin' John Birch Blues’ on The Ed Sullivan Show. In the end, tracks like ‘Masters of War’ and ‘Girl from the North Country’ made it onto the album instead. While a few mono copies that slipped through could be found in Southern California in the '60s, it's the stereo copies with the original songs on it that hold greater value. A mint condition stereo copy of this album has been sold for a staggering $35,000, emphasising the premium placed on owning a rare and valuable slice of music history.
Value: £28,120 ($35,000)
7) Prince - The Black Album (1987)
Prince's hard-funk curiosity ‘The Black Album’ takes a prominent position among our list of the rarest vinyl records. Originally scheduled for a 1987 release, Prince had a spiritual revelation, deeming the tracks "too evil," and leading him to order the destruction of all copies. With its plain black artwork, the album stood out due to its lack of title, credits, or even the artist's name, with the sole identifier being the number ‘1-25677’ on its cover. Although officially released in 1994, original copies that managed to evade destruction have become highly sought-after. In a striking testament to its rarity, a remarkably scarce 1987 U.S. first pressing of Prince's ‘The Black Album’ fetched a staggering $42,298, as reported by Boston-based RR Auction. This remarkable sum underscores the tremendous value placed on owning one of the surviving original copies of Prince’s most mysterious and elusive album.
Price: £33,985 ($42,300 )
6) David Bowie - The Next Day (2013)
It’s somewhat surprising to see how David Bowie’s 2013 album ‘The Next Day’ secures its place among the elite, despite how many of the glam rock icon’s early albums also contend for the title of rarest vinyl. As part of the Unicef Blue Vinyl series, ‘The Next Day’ was reissued in 2019 on blue wax to raise money for charity, alongside 15 other records, with a limited run of just 50 copies. As is often the case with limited-runs such as this, several of these copies did indeed make their way to the resale market, commanding staggering prices ranging from £5,000 to a jaw-dropping £35,000. This unexpected entry proves that even David Bowie’s late period offerings such as ‘The Next Day’ have an air of exclusivity to them in the realm of rare vinyl records, wowing collectors and Bowie enthusiasts who surprisingly don’t seem to be put off by its extraordinarily high price tag.
Value: £35,000 ($43,000)
5) Aphex Twin - Caustic Window (1996)
Among the rarest vinyl records, UK-based electronic music pioneer Aphex Twin's album ‘Caustic Window’ still holds a legendary status. Initially slated for release in 1996, only a handful of test pressings were ever made. However, it was a remarkable turn of events in 2014 that truly propelled the album into the spotlight. A copy of ‘Caustic Window’ surfaced for sale on Discogs and caught the eye of vinyl enthusiasts. Recognising its significance, We Are the Music Makers, an electronic music forum, launched a Kickstarter campaign to purchase and digitally distribute the record. The campaign was successful, and the album was eventually sold for a whopping $46,300, easily making ‘Caustic Window’ one of the most valuable vinyl records in existence.
Value: £37,199 ($46,300)
4) The Beatles - Yesterday & Today (1966)
Holding a distinctive place in the realm of rare vinyl records, the US release by The Beatles ‘Yesterday and Today’ is as fascinating as it is controversial. Released in 1966, this album became notorious for its original cover art, earning it the nickname 'The Butcher Album.' The shocking imagery portrayed the Fab Four donning white laboratory coats, surrounded by raw meat and dismembered baby dolls. The ensuing controversy unsettled the label, prompting them to swiftly remove these initial pressings from store shelves and replace them with a safer, more commercially acceptable cover featuring a different photograph of the band. However, the rarity of the original butcher covers is of particular interest to Beatles collectors, with sealed copies commanding eye-watering prices. In 2016, a collector acquired a sealed copy of this album for an impressive $125,000, emphasising the considerable value enthusiasts are willing to pay to possess this extraordinary piece of Beatles history.
Value: £188,004 ($234,000)
3) The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Easily one of the most legendary and valuable vinyl records in existence, ‘Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band’ by The Beatles is not only one of the greatest albums ever made, but it also continues to make waves on the collector's market. A remarkable copy of the album, adorned with the signatures of all four band members - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr - achieved an astounding sale price of $290,500 in Texas, surpassing the previous record by an impressive margin of nearly $150,000. The auction, held at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, saw this extraordinary piece of music history find its new home with an anonymous buyer from the Midwest. Beyond the financial value associated with a vinyl record of such cultural significance, this remarkable transaction underscores the enduring influence of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ particularly for a prized rarity such as this.
Price: £233,398 ($290,500)
2) The Beatles - The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)
Thanks to its unique numbering system upon release in 1968, The Beatles’ self-titled double LP (affectionally dubbed ‘The White Album’ by fans) means it holds a special place among the rarest vinyl records. Each copy was stamped with an individual number, adding an exclusive touch to the album. Most notably, the very first copy, bearing the number 0000001, was owned by Ringo Starr, the band's drummer. In a historic moment, Ringo decided to part ways with his prized possession, leading to a momentous sale at the Julien's Live auction in 2015. The significance of owning such a prestigious piece of music history was not lost on collectors. The album changed hands for a staggering $790,000, further proving why numbered copies of ‘The White Album’ are still considered highly valuable. Aspiring collectors take note: should you stumble upon an original pressing, pay close attention to the number etched on it. The lower the number, the greater its potential value, making it a true gem worth pursuing.
Price: £634,716 ($790,000)
1) John Lennon and Yoko Ono - Double Fantasy (1980)
As one of the rarest vinyl records, the 1980 album 'Double Fantasy' by John Lennon & Yoko Ono holds a tragic and infamous history. This particular copy, now steeped in notoriety, was once owned by Mark Chapman, the man who would go on to end Lennon's life. Chapman approached Lennon outside his Dakota building apartment in New York City and asked him to sign the album, which the ex-Beatle graciously provided, before hopping into a taxi to take part in recording sessions at The Hit Factory. Shockingly, only hours later, Chapman would commit a heinous act that forever changed the music world. When Lennon returned, he discovered Chapman waiting for him, and he was shot four times, tragically passing away while en route to the hospital. In 2020, this haunting piece of music history was auctioned and fetched a staggering $900,000, a testament to the enduring fascination surrounding this chilling artefact.
Price: £723,094 ($900,000)
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