The 10 Most Expensive Vinyl Records Ever Sold

Image Credit: Ivan Dorofeev

To Some Vinyl Records Are More Than A Music Platform, They’re Collectables.

Collecting vinyl records has become a passion and a hobby for many people for decades but with the rise of streaming services (such as Spotify and Deezer) vinyl took a slump. That is until recently, in fact 2020 is the highest grossing year for vinyl in three decades. 

The standard price for vinyl today is around £20 a pop, a little extra for limited editions or coloured vinyl. But buying old classics, especially first pressings can cost considerably more. It’s what makes collecting vinyl so fun, so exciting, it breaches just being a music format, it’s a collectable item. 

Out there, in the vinyl wilds, nestled in record store, a shed anywhere could be an extremely valuable collectors item. In some cases they’ve been one off pressings, as is the case with the Wu Tang Clan ‘Once Upon A Time In Shaolin’. After some research we have found the 10 most expensive vinyl records ever sold and put them in a nice list just for you! 

1. Wu-Tang Clan – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin – $2 million 

Not only is this by far the most expensive record ever sold, it may just be the most controversial one – for many reasons. The announcement of this record angered a lot of Wu Tang fans, pricing almost everyone out. Also a lot of people were desperate to hear it but it’s unlikely we ever will as it is exclusive to this one and only pressing. Adding to the controversy is the person who bought it, Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli, who was responsible for the buyout of an anti-HIV drug and its 5000% price hike. Fans were outraged, in fact the whole world was a little peeved that he was the owner. However, Shkreli has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for securities fraud and thus the record has been confiscated by the feds, remaining in their custody to this day. 

In addition to this the record also came with a hilarious clause that is legally binding, it goes as follows: 

“The buying party also agrees that at any time during the stipulated 88 year period, the seller may legally plan and attempt to execute one (1) heist or caper to steal back Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, which, if successful, would return all ownership rights to the seller. Said heist or caper can only be undertaken by currently active members of the Wu-Tang Clan and/or actor Bill Murray, with no legal repercussions”


2. The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album) – $790,000 

It had been known for sometime that Ringo Starr, drummer of The Beatles had the very first copy of the bands self-titled double album from 1968. The serial number reads ‘0000001’, which as a record collector makes me feel giddy. This record was eventually sold at Julien’s auction in the U.S. for $790,000 in December 2015 to an unnamed buyer. Up for auction was Ringo’s famous Ludwig drum kit, which was purchased by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for an impressive $2.2 million. 


3. Elvis Presley – My Happiness – $300,000

The King’s test pressing of ‘My Happiness’ was snapped by White Stripes (among other projects) frontman Jack White, who is known for his obsession with vinyl and all things vintage, back in 2015 at an auction. White then pressed the record via his own label Third Man Records as a limited edition, with a brown paper bag as a sleeve “that’s what Elvis would have walked out of Sun Records with”, explained Jack. 


4. The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (signed by all four Beatles) – $290,000

A first pressing of this record will fetch a decent price at any auction but slap all four of The Beatles signatures on it and it the price will skyrocket (signatures would have to be verified). If it is on the mono version with the black Parlophone label too then you’re really onto a winner. One said copy was sold at an auction in 2013 to a buyer from the midwest in America. The LP was estimated by auctioneers to sell for around $30,000 and as you could imagine were stunned to see it go for nearly ten times that. 


5. John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy – $150,000 

The smallest defining factor can play into a records value, a scuff, a misprint or a limited edition poster. In the case with this record which was sold in 1999 it was because it may well be the last record John Lennon signed before his death on December 8th 1980. The record was sold for a staggering $150,000 to an unknown buyer. 


6. The Beatles – Yesterday & Today – $125,000

Yes, another Beatles record, what did you expect! This rare record in The Beatles collection is a compilation from 1966, released only in North America initially and then later Japan, but not in the UK or EU. The reason for the vinyls scarcity is because it features the controversial “Butcher” cover, where we see all members covered in meat holding dismembered doll heads, actually pretty weird. It was swiftly withdrawn and replaced with a much more work friendly cover. The original is still very sought after for Beatles collectors. A mint edition sealed copy became the most expensive record in history at the time of sale, in an auction in 2013, going for $125,000. 


7. The Beatles – Til There Was You – $77,500 

This is said to be the Holy Grail for Beatles collectors, a 10” of an early demo by the four featuring songs ‘Til There Was You’ and b-side ‘Hello Little Girl’ (misspelled on the disc as ‘Hullo Little Girl’).  It was a demo hat was recorded for EMI and bears the handwriting of Beatles manager Brian Epstein. The record d=somehow found its way onto fellow Liverpudlian Les Maguire’s hands, who was the keyboardist for Gerry and The Pacemakers. It was sold in Warrington to an unnamed buyer in March 2016 for £77.500. 


8. Aphex Twin – Caustic Widow (test pressing) – $46,300 

Probably the newest record to be valued so high, as you’ve seen previous ones mentioned are from a certain time. The electronic artist and producer, who is from Cornwall shot into the top 10 in 2014 and over years has built a strong cult following across the world. Then a rare test pressing was sold at auction for an impressive $46,300, the purchaser was none other than Markus Persson, the inventor of Minecraft


9. Tommy Johnson – Alcohol and Jake Blues – $37,100 

The 78rpm blues record which was released in 1930 was snapped by Oregon-based record collector John Tefteller. Tefteller already had a copy but wanted this one due to it being in much better condition. He explained that the record was worth every penny due to the master tapes being destroyed. 


10. Frank Wilson – Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) – £25,742 

Although this was the least profitable this record is probably the rarest of the bunch. Only 250 demo copies of the single by American soul singer and producer Frank Wilson were ever produced, and reportedly only 5 survived when the rest were destroyed by Motown boss Berry Gordy. The story varies buy apparently Gordy was upset that Frank, one of his best producers was launching a singing career. It is also said Frank himself felt similarly and decided against releasing, but a few managed to slip through the net either way. The exact amount that survived is unknown but word is Gordy has one copy. This particular one was sold through a Leicestershire-based record dealer who organised the sale with an anonymous buyer in 2009, selling for £25,742. 

Music journalist and photojournalist based in Cornwall.

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2 comments

    If you see a record by BLACK PATTI MINE WAS STOLEN FROM ME I HAVE THE NUMBES AND PICTURES ON MY PHONE I TOLD SOMEONE IT WOULD SELL THEY SAID ABOUT 100,000 AND THEY STOLE IT PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU SEE IT.JUD

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