As more listeners embrace the modern vinyl renaissance, fans around the world are increasingly on the hunt for the coolest wax to spin. We’d all love to find that hidden first pressing of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at the local record shop, but the rarest vinyl on Earth isn’t actually for listening. The world’s most sought-after records are often priced at hundreds of thousands of dollar, not because of the way the sound, but because they’re tangible representations of music history.
In celebration of these relics, we compiled a list of some of the most expensive and droolworthy vinyl (and some shellac) records ever pressed. Below is a list of the rarest, strangest, and just-plain-coolest cuts ever pressed. If you’re new to the world of vinyl, don’t get discouraged by the outlandish price tags — building your own collection is far more attainable, and we have plenty of resources to get you there, including tips on how to properly store and care for your record collection, as well as how to build a killer turntable setup of your own using the best record players and phono preamps out there.
Elvis Presley, My Happiness acetate: $300,000
The earliest-known pressing of the King himself, My Happiness was recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, well before Elvis became a worldwide sensation. Famed rock and roller Jack White quietly purchased the one-off pressing for $300,000 in January 2015, but unlike some collectors, he used his purchase for the good of all. White had the record professionally reproduced for Record Store Day that year by his label, Third Man Records. Now, collectors around the world can (sort of) own a piece of history.
Long Cleve Reed & Little Harvey Hill, Original Stack O’Lee Blues 78 rpm in plain sleeve: $50,000
Famed record collector Joe Bussard was reportedly once offered $70,000 for this incredibly rare 78-rpm single by Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hill, a classic blues cut with beautiful vocal harmonies of which there is only one known copy. Albums in the 78-rpm category are often sought after by collectors for their rarity and because they were the first records that showcased electrical recording technology, where sound was recorded via microphone, amplified by vacuum tubes, and then cut to vinyl.
The Sex Pistols, God Save The Queen canceled single: $10,000 to $20,000
Only nine known copies of A&M Records’ 25,000-run pressing of God Save the Queen survived the Sex Pistols’ short-lived tenure on the label, the vast majority having been destroyed by the label itself shortly after their creation. The iconic punk band reportedly only lasted six days on the label before their antics — which apparently included bassist Sid Vicious cutting his foot and getting blood all over the label’s corporate offices — got them axed. The single was later released by Virgin and did well on British charts, but was deemed unplayable by the BBC for its controversial lyrics and album cover. Now that’s rock ‘n’ roll.
Frank Wilson, Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) 45 rpm in plain sleeve: $37,000
There are only two known copies of Do I Love You (Indeed I Do), a rare 45-rpm Northern soul track by Frank Wilson, one of which sold for $37,000 in 2009. Because of its extreme niche status in northern England — and the fact that most artists were signed to American soul outlets like Motown — many Northern soul records are so rare that only a handful of copies of them ever existed in the first place, making them prime targets for serious collectors.
Aphex Twin, Caustic Window test pressing: $46,000
One of five extremely rare test pressings of renowned British electronic musician Richard D. James’ (Aphex Twin) abandoned early-’90s album, Caustic Window was originally purchased on Discogs in 2014 and distributed digitally via a Kickstarter campaign. While the original release was scuttled, the album received a great deal of critical praise upon re-elease, with many fans citing James’ prescient look into the future of dance music. The disc was eventually sold to Minecraft creator and ridiculous high roller Markus Persson.
Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (withdrawn version): $35,000
Any Bob Dylan fan knows the musician’s acclaimed album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, but not many know there was originally a U.S.-only version with four extra songs on it. The original release was retracted and includes rare versions of Rocks and Gravel, Let Me Die in My Footsteps, Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Head, and Talkin’ John Birch Blues alongside the classic tunes we all know and love. The inclusion makes this record much more than just a rarity to hang on the wall.
The Quarrymen, That’ll Be The Day/In Spite of Anger acetate: $250,000
This 78-rpm acetate of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s pre-Beatles band The Quarrymen playing That’ll Be the Day and In Spite of All the Danger is the only one of its kind. Valued by Record Collector magazine in 2012 at around $250,000, the original disc from the early days of one of the greatest songwriting teams in history currently sits in the private collection of McCartney himself. However, McCartney did press 50 copies in the early ’80s, each of which is still worth a hefty (though less astonishing) sum of around $10,000 to $13,000. According to Discogs, McCartney gave them out to friends as a Christmas present — a kingly gift that’s just one more reason we wish Sir Paul would answer our evites.
Jean-Michel Jarre, Music for Supermarkets: $14,000 to $33,500
Only a single copy of famed French electronic musician Jean-Michel Jarre’s Musique Pour Supermarche (Music For Supermarkets in English) was ever pressed, made as part of a supermarket-themed art exhibit in Paris in 1983. The single vinyl disc was sold for $14,000 that year (approximately $33,500 in today’s market). It’s notable in that it was designed to be treated as a work of art, rather than something to be reproduced — the artist purposefully had the master plates destroyed in order to keep it as a one-of-a-kind release, making the title especially ironic.
Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground & Nico acetate in plain sleeve with alternate tracks: $25,000
This 1966 acetate pressing contains early versions of songs that would end up on acclaimed classic The Velvet Underground & Nico, and is the only copy known to exist. Originally purchased at a New York record store for 75 cents in 2002, this is a rare case of finding that vinyl pot of gold among the rubble: The album was later sold on eBay for $25,200. The classic songs were recorded by engineer Norman Dolph, who was traded an original Andy Warhol painting by the man himself (Warhol was the band’s manager at the time) in lieu of cash.
The Beatles, The Beatles (White Album) No. 0000001: $790,000
We’ll finish the list off with a bang, in the form of the most expensive record ever made. Band members and executives associated with The Beatles received special, serial-numbered versions of the band’s acclaimed, self-titled “White” album when it was first released. Though they are each extremely valuable, this particular record — number 0000001 — is the rarest of the bunch. Originally owned and stored by Ringo Starr, the record was sold by the Beatle at auction for $790,000 in 2015, according to Guinness, a sum that remains the most ever paid for a commercial album.
- The best vinyl setups for any budget
- Vinyl listening is getting simpler with The Plus Record Player from Plus Audio
- 2016's Record Store Day to feature new vinyl from Bowie and Dylan, and much more