The music industry might rely on streaming apps to sell, but until some decades ago, vinyl record sales were essential to defining the success of a single or a musician. Not quite obsolete, many people are still passionate about vinyl records, leading to some seriously expensive records. It is hard to believe, but some records are more expensive than a house.
But what makes a vinyl copy expensive? It is not only about the quality of the music, but how rare it is. Usually, records that have a limited number can be worth some thousands and the value can increase depending on how unique it is. Details like a rare cover, a handwritten note, or even a serial number, have a strong influence on the final price.
Here is a list of the most expensive vinyl records ever sold.
10 Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) – over $30 thousand
The American producer and singer Frank Miller only released 250 copies of the single Do I Love You (Indeed I Do). That would be enough to make any copy of this record valuable. However, Berry Gordy, who was a director at Motown, destroyed most of them. Just five copies survived, and it became one of the rarest albums and a precious item for collectors around the world.
Rumors say that Berry Gordy didn’t like the idea of Frank Miller trying to become a singer, and that is why he destroyed it. In 2009 one of the copies was sold for over $30 thousand.
9 Alcohol and Jake Blues – $37,100
Tommy Johnson released his Alcohol and Jake Blues in 1930. He probably could never imagine it would become one of the most expensive vinyl records ever sold.
The 78rpm record was sold on eBay for $37,100 in 2013. There are just two copies in the world, which makes it extremely valuable. Johson released five albums with the Paramount label and all are considered collector items. So if you have a copy at home, it may be worth some thousands of dollars.
Collectors are also willing to pay enormous amounts for Willie Brown or J.D. Short rare records.
8 Caustic Window – $46,300
In 1994 Aphex Twin tried to release the album Caustic Window. The project failed and there are just five copies on the album – and that is precisely what makes it so valuable.
In 2006, Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, founder of Minecraft, bought the album in an auction for $46,300. This is the most recent record on this list, as all the other items are vintage.
Aphex believes that he didn’t release the album because “there were so many releases happening at the same time too, under different guises,” he said in an interview. “It could also be that classic loss of confidence any successful artist feels releasing something into the market after such acclaim!”
7 ‘Till There Was You – $90 thousand
Someone once found a copy of The Beatles’ ‘Till There Was You in an attic. It was sold at an auction in 2016. People expected it to be worth around $12 thousand, but someone paid £77,500 ( nearly $90 thousand) for it.
The copy is described as the “holy grail” among the fans because it brings some unique features. There is the handwriting of Brian Epstein, the Fab Four’s manager.
Although $90 thousand is an unbelievable price for a vinyl record, there’s another Beatles album that ranks even higher.
6 Yesterday & Today – $125,000
In 1966 The Beatles released the album Yesterday & Today, that was commercialized just in the U.S. Later the records were released in Japan and also the United Kingdom. The first albums of this copy are rare and valuable.
But what makes it so unique? When the album was released, the cover was a picture of the musicians dressed as butches, with pieces of mead and dolls without arms, legs and heads. Probably someone found it creepy and they changed the official cover for something more traditional.
In 2013 someone bought a copy with the original cover for $125 thousand.
5 Double Fantasy – $150,000
In 1980, John Lennon and Yoko Ono released Double Fantasy, their 5th album together. The album is far from Lennon’s best work, but in an auction in 1990, someone paid $150 thousand for a copy. The identity of the person who bought it is still unknown.
But why bother paying so much if it is not a masterpiece? Well, because the album sold was signed by John Lennon just a few hours before he was shot and is probably the last autograph of the musician. So it makes sense it is so valuable.
4 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band -$290 thousand
In case you have any Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that was released in 1967, you have a small fortune on your hands. The most valuable is the mono edition with a black Parlophone on it.
During an auction in 2013, someone bought a copy of the album for $290 thousand. It took everyone by surprise since the estimated price was $30 thousand. The identity of the buyer was not revealed and the only thing we know is that he lives in America’s midwest.
3 My happiness – $ 300 thousand
Elvis Presley is one of those artists who is still very valuable even after his death. According to Forbes, he made $40 million just in 2018. So it is not really a surprise he is on this list.
In 1953, Presley recorded his first album, My Happiness, which was sold in 2015 at an auction. The musician Jack White paid $300 thousand for it. White is a vintage collector and has other rare vinyl albums. However, My Happiness is the most expensive item in his collection.
2 The White Album – $790 thousand
The Beatles ninth album is known as the White Album because the cover is entirely blank, except for a serial number printed on it.
Ringo Star has the album No. 0000001, one of the most desirable items among fans. In 2015 it was sold for $790 thousand. It is the highest amount paid on a commercial record.
Other serial numbers are still valuable, and if you have this album, there’s a chance you can still sell it for some thousands.
1 Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin – $2 million
In 2015 Martin Shkreli bought the only copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. He paid the astronomical price of $2 million, the highest price ever spent on a vinyl record.
In 2017, Shkreli put the single LP back on eBay. The bids started at $1 and the final price was over $1 million – technically half price but still quite a considerable amount! Shkreli explained on a post why he did not want the LP anymore.
“This is the one and only Wu-Tang album. I decided to purchase this album as a gift to the Wu-Tang Clan for their tremendous musical output. Instead, I received scorn from at least one of their (least-intelligent) members, and the world at large failed to see my purpose of putting a serious value behind music.”