I think most people in the world like to collect things. We collect vinyl for various reasons but no matter what we collect I think we all like to know that our collections have some sort of value. I’m going to highlight a few valuable vinyl record covers in this post.
Being a vinyl record collector is no different as every time we are digging through a crate or flipping through a box at an estate sale we are all hoping to run across a rare pressing or a sought after album. For a little history on Album Artwork and how it all got started, you may want to refer to my previous post “Album Artwork” here.
Here is a short list of some rare but valuable records we all wish we had in our collections.
I’m not sure if this is the rarest cover of all. But it’s pretty dang rare and no matter if we are a fan of the Beatles or not there is not a single one of this who would leave this one sitting if we ever did run across it.
I’m talking about Sgt Pepper’s Hearts Club Band. I know you think I am joking as I’m sure you have seen hundreds or these in your lifetime. You can easily find them in thrift store, seen them at garage sales etc so how can I say this is the most valuable cover ever?
This particular cover was created in December of 1967 to celebrate the huge success or the Beatles landmark album. The art department at Capitol records replaced many of the characters on the original cover with the faces of Capitol Records executives.
It is estimated that only about 100 of these special covers were created as gifts to a few privileged record company employees. As of now only three of these covers have made their ways into the hands of collectors.
One of these copies sold on auction a few years ago for over $50,000. There was a confidentiality clause in the sale so the seller could not disclose who bought the cover but there are rumours floating about that it was none other than Sir Paul McCartney. But no one has verified that so consider it just a rumor.
So how much is this sleeve worth? Hold on to your hats. This sleeve is valued at $115,000.
This is not the only Beatles cover to hold some extraordinary value. Some copies of their White Album can fetch over $10,000. Their “Butcher” cover can command $5,000-$10,000. Out of the top ten most valuable record covers, the Beatles have five spots.
For this post I will only mention Sgt Peppers since I want to give a few others a mention.
There are a couple things with this album that make it significant for several reasons other than the music. It is one of only two records that I am aware of that have the name of the cover designer on the cover rather than the band’s name. The other being a rather obscure Swedish band, little known outside of Sweden. (Omslag:Matrin Kann)
Also, this cover provoked two lawsuits on which I will not dwell as they are rather boring copyright issues. This album was a gatefold cover, which at the time, gatefolds were only used for double albums with the exception of only a few records.
Andy Warhol became the manager of The Velvet Underground in 1966 and when he booked their first recording session he insisted that Nico (Christa Paffgen) sing on the album and she sang three songs. She was not a member of the group hence the “& Nico) in the groups name
Warhol gave his Banana painting to the band for their album cover. The removable banana was difficult to produce and had delayed the album’s release for about a year. On the original the banana was a sticker which when removed showed a peeled banana underneath. There are several variations of this cover that were released over the years. One with the peel-able banana recently sold on eBay for a little over $21,000.
There are different pressings and cover versions of this album and has been the object of many collectors. Not as obsessive as Velvets fan Mark Satof, who collects original pressings of the record. He now owns more than 800 of them!
This gatefold album was manufactured in 1974 and were all ready to be inserted for distribution. In spite of going through rounds of proofs sent to the record label executives they decided right at the last minute that the album cover could not be released in the US with the dog genitals in full view. It is one of the most sought after Bowie collectables.
As you can tell, I only pictured the front half of the gatefold cover.
The head of print production for RCA ordered all copies of the cover destroyed and to have the offending parts to be airbrushed out. The actual vinyl record was manufactured in a different location, so none of the sleeves and records were actually put together in the same location. But , obviously, not all of the covers were destroyed.
A “handful” of finished covers had been sent to RCA print department as samples and as far as can be determined, these samples were the only copies that survived. In the next few years , a few of these copies were given to other record company executives, some of which have made their way into the hands of collectors.
As well as can be determined, all known copies likely were in this original batch and all had passed through one man who happened to be the person in charge of printing at RCA until 1974. This man is now retired and has two copies remaining of this very rare artifact. One of which was listed on eBay auction in 2012 with a starting price of $5,000. The auction garnered one bid and five months later sold for the starting bid of $5,000.
I see there is one “supposed”copy of this currently on sale on eBay for a price of $299. I would need to do some research, but my suspicion would be that it is not an authenticate original.
This last record I’m going to mention is not actually an album cover, but a record label. I’ll highlight one here because of its rarity and value.
Original Stack O’ Lee Blues by Long Cleeve Reed & Little Harvey Hull and the Down Home Boys. Why is this so valuable? Well for two reasons, one being that there is only one known copy of this record in existence. It has an estimated value of an undetermined value but at least $70,000. The one known copy in existence is owned by famed record collector Joe Brussard. Joe was offered $70,000 for the record and he turned down the offer. Joe Brussard is an interesting man who has the most extensive collection of 78 RPM records in the world. It is worth doing a YouTube search on him and watching a few of the videos about him and his love for old records.
Here is a screen capture of an article about how Joe found this record. Like I say Joe has a lot of stories about a variety of records in his collection. If you’re interested in recorded music history it is worth your time to look him up on YouTube.
The other reason for this records value is the face that it is on the “Black Patti” label. This record company was started by Mayo Williams in 1927 and the label was named after black opera singer Matilda Jones known as “The Black Patti” because she resembled the Italian opera singer Adelina Patti. There were 55 records produced on this label that lasted only seven months.
Mayo Williams was a successful producer of race records, meaning he produced records by black musicians to be sold to black customers. If you ever see a Black Patti record in your record searching endeavors, grab it!
Follow this link to give Original Stack O’ Lee Blues a listen. You’ll be glad you did.
Wrapping Things Up
Well there you have a very short list of some of the most valuable vinyl record covers. There are others and I may talk about some of them in a future post. I hope you enjoyed the information presented here and perhaps has stirred you to go crate digging. Let me know in the comment section below what you think.
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