The 10 most expensive vinyl records ever sold
What are the most expensive records as of 2022? Here are the world’s most expensive records – vinyl that collectors have paid millions to own.
Collecting vinyl records has been a passion and a hobby for many people for decades. Some collectors have ended up spending so much they own the most expensive records sold in the world.
The standard price for vinyl today is around $20 a pop, or a little extra for limited editions like coloured vinyl. But buying old classics, especially first pressings, can cost considerably more. That’s what makes collecting vinyl so fun and so exciting. More than just a music format, it’s a collectable item.
With the rise of streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer, vinyl took a slump. That is until recent years – 2020 was the highest grossing year for vinyl in three decades.
Out there in the vinyl wilds; nestled in record store, a shed, anywhere, could be an extremely valuable collectors item. Sometimes they’ve been one off pressings, as is the case with the world’s most expensive vinyl sale: Wu Tang Clan’s 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
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, the person who bought it, Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli, was responsible for the buyout of an anti-HIV drug and its subsequent 5000% price hike. Wu-Tang fans were outraged. In fact the whole world was a little peeved that he was the owner.
However, Shkreli has been jailed for defrauding investors, 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 legally binding clause. It reads 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)
It had been known for sometime that Ringo Starr drummer of The Beatles had the very first copy of the band’s 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
The King’s test pressing of My Happiness was snapped by 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. As White said: “That’s what Elvis would have walked out of Sun Records with.”
4. The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (signed by all four Beatles)
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 such copy was sold at an auction in 2013 to a buyer from the Midwest of America. The LP was estimated by auctioneers to sell for around $30,000 and, as you can imagine, they were stunned to see it go for nearly ten times that.
5. John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy
The smallest defining factor can play into a records value; a scuff, a misprint, or a limited edition poster. In the case of this record, 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
Yes, another Beatles record, what did you expect? This rare record in the 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 vinyl’s 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
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 recorded for EMI and bears the handwriting of Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
The record 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)
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 shot into the top 10 in 2014 and over the 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. Scaramanga Silk – Choose Your Weapon
Scaramanga Silk is a UK DJ who self-released Choose Your Weapon as 20 numbered 12-inch vinyl and CD-Roms, with an art print and a poem. It’s this release that fetched over $40,000 on Discogs, sold to an unknown buyer and becoming the most expensive record ever sold on the collectors’ site.
It was listed as “A mega-rare collectible. Unplayed, Mint Condition. Numbered 02/20. Contains info sheet, signed record, signed art print [plus CD].”
Scaramanga Silk told Discogs: “The individual who made the purchase must have had some kind of special connection to the work too… It means a lot that Choose Your Weapon is so special to somebody.”
10. Tommy Johnson – Alcohol and Jake Blues
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.
What vinyl would you kill to come across in a dusty second hand record shop? Let us know in the comments.