Once, vinyl records were the only way to listen to music. It goes back to the earliest days of recording with classic albums of the 1930s and ‘40s stars that were usually slow songs and crooners. The coming of rock and roll changed that as they went from the small records to bigger albums and fans loving to boast of their favorites. Cassettes shifted it up a bit but vinyls still were the way to go despite the complaints of how easily they could be broken. The arrival of CDs changed it for good, companies soon phasing vinyl out in favor of a much cheaper and easier to produce disc to contain major artists. However, vinyl is enjoying a comeback, a new generation enjoying a classic way of playing with many claiming it gives a depth lacking in CDs or online music as well.
Some vinyl records have become expensive thanks to the artists involved or the age of the vinyl in question. Obviously, an autograph of a star will make one far more expensive than a regular recording can be. Others can be amazing in their cost due to their rarity or who is involved in it. Some albums also benefit from an error or a strange story around them as well as the sheer rarity that adds to their value. It’s amazing to see how some cheaply made records are now worth more than works of art, especially if they are in good condition. Here are 30 vinyl records worth a fortune today to show how this classic record style can still be a huge hit.
31 Horror Business, $6000
First breaking out in the 1970s, the Misfits are recognized as one of the pioneers of what’s now known as “horror punk,” mixing wild lyrics and music with even wilder on-stage action. So it makes sense they’d have a dramatic cover for their album “Horror Business,” boasting a masked skeleton character inspired by Edgar Allen Poe.
It was meant to be a limited version of only 1000 copies to make it rare. But thanks to a printing error, 16 of those copies turned out colored pink. This made them even more expensive with versions selling up to $6000, easily the most expensive of anything the group has done. It just shows how one minor mistake can turn a regular album into a full-on collector’s item today.
30 Chung King Can Suck It Up $6100
While they haven’t achieved a lot of mainstream success, Judge is one of the more iconic and popular bands of the New York rock scene. They stick to a more “hardcore” style without going what’s called “full metal” like other bands, enjoying their low-key fame and being authentic. They broke up in 1991 but have done some reunions and still maintains a good fanbase. Their most famous album is also their rarest as only 110 copies were produced for people who pre-ordered it on a special deal.
The title refers to the Chung King Studio in New York where Judge had a disastrous recording session that led to a huge beef with the studio owners. Thus, the entire album was a huge shot on the company and the “sellout” artists working there. Thanks to that message and the low number of copies, the LP can fetch over six grand online and maintain Judge’s cult standing.
29 Makin’ Love $6700
Forged in 1964, the Sloths were among the “garbage bands” flooding the California scene at the time. Their period together only lasted a couple of years and they made just one single. However, they had a fantastic influence on other West Coast bands and have been rediscovered as something of a lost legacy by rock buffs.
This naturally pushes up their past work with their major single “Makin’ Love” increasing in value. That’s due to the fact that the band’s long-time low-key presence meant copies could easily have been discarded by folks not realizing what they had. Copies can be worth upwards of $6700 to show how an artist can increase in value long past their prime.
28 Triple Threat $7000
Unlike other jazz musicians, Roland Kirk didn’t play just one instrument. He could use the saxophone, the flute and more, allowing him to produce a great number of songs. Kirk was well liked on stage as he would fill his performances with stand-up comedy and occasional political ranting and the sight of him playing several instruments simultaneously never ceased to amaze.
His death in 1977 has added to his legend with numerous jazz artists citing him as a major influence. Thus, his debut album, Triple Threat (boasting him playing three horns at once) is much in demand among jazz aficionados. As the man wasn’t a star then, only a few copies of the album were pressed. A mint copy can fetch about seven grand from a dedicated jazz fan to showcase a guy who lived up to his album title very well.
27 Beat Bop $8000
To rap fans, this is the Holy Grail of albums. The duo of Rammellzee and K-Rob put out a single that has influenced pretty much every rap star ever since. The Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, De La Soul and others have claimed this song was what got them into rap. The cover was made by Jean-Michel Basquiat whose graffiti-inspired artwork made him a wunderkind of the New York art scene of the ‘80s.
He and Rammellzee actually had a beef going with the rapper accusing Basquiat of being a fraud. They ended up working to produce this album and along the way, found common respect for each other. Thanks to its low print and how influential it’s become, the album is a must-get and copies have sold for eight grand or more. It showcases how uniting two unique artists crafted a work that’s become legendary today.
26 Hank Mobley Blue Note $10,000
Hank Mobley was unique among bop and jazz players of his time. He wasn’t too aggressive or mellow on the horn but the perfect pitch to win fans over and becoming a beloved star. As with any musician who becomes a bigger deal later on, his early work is better appreciated and rarer due to the low number of copies.
He usually worked with Blue Note, the major jazz label who produced and released the majority of his albums. His 1957 album has only five tracks but viewed as a key part of his great legacy. Thanks to the low number printed (and how many of those have errors on the label), a perfect copy can fetch about ten grand and showcase how Mobley’s power is greater today than it was back then.
25 Prettiest Star $12,000
His passing in 2016 has just led to David Bowie becoming more of a music icon than he already was. Most anything he did has increased in value and that includes the LP for his 1970 song. Bowie had just broken out with his wild “Space Oddity” and his “Ziggy Stardust” character that was getting major attention.
Thus, the fact this single sold just 800 copies was a major disappointment to him and his fans. Bowie decided the song just didn’t shine well enough and decided to remake it in a more “glam” version for his 1973 release Aladdin Sane. Thus, the copies of the original have gone up in value majorly, especially following Bowie’s death. A mint copy can be over twelve grand and showcase why Bowie is such an icon.
24 Stonewall $14,000
The Producers is famous for its story: Two Broadway producers put on the worst play ever written, overselling the shares to backers so that when the play flops, they can make a fortune. It turns out quite a few record companies pulled the exact same scam in the 1970s, setting up music acts they knew would fail just so they could use the loss of money to offset taxes.
Stonewall was one of those very acts, the poor band members convinced they were going to be boosted to stardom with a major record deal. Instead, the band broke up almost as soon as they formed in 1969. A few members weren’t even aware of the record being released in the 1970s and furious when they learned they wouldn’t get any profits. It led to the album getting a cult following so a copy can sell for fourteen thousand to showcase one of the odder stories of music history.
23 That’s All Right $15,000
One single changed popular music, and the world, forever. As soon as “That’s All Right” hit, fans around the country went wild for the young crooner by the name of Elvis Presley and his amazing work would make him an American icon. Thanks to how much of a hit it was, copies of this aren’t as rare as other LPs.
However, some copies have a misprint of the “207” being upside down which means, it can push it from just a few thousand to nearly 15 grand or more. Obviously, being connected to Elvis makes this LP a must-get but that printing error pushes some versions to become a major showcase for how a mistake can pay dividends for a lucky record owner.
22 Street Fighting Man $17,000
Written in 1968 at the height of the anti-war rallies around the world, this is probably the most politically charged Rolling Stone song. Its charged lyrics and the cover of the police attacking a man, made it controversial when released and its luster has grown over the years.
It was because of that image that the song was outright banned in the U.K. and has been difficult to play for many stations in the U.S. with the band not using it as much in concerts in favor of more commercial flair. Some cite it as the most valuable disc sleeve of all time which makes a mint copy a major find for Stones fans and how a cover can be as valuable as the song itself.
21 God Save the Queen $20,000
No one could ever accuse the S*x Pistols of being a low-key group. The pioneers of the punk rock wave, their first run was only two years long but inspired hundreds of acts to follow. They would reunite in various tours and albums to showcase how well-regarded they are as punk legends. In 1977, they made a huge deal of signing with A&M Records for a single outside of Buckingham Palace.
Afterward, the Pistols made their way to the company offices and embarked on a series of drunken escapades that have become legendary in the world of rock. Naturally, the contract was canceled and all copies of the single “God Save the Queen” were destroyed. However, a few employees managed to sneak away copies which grew in popularity when the song was later released. One copy sold at auction in 2017 for twenty grand and stands as a great showcase for how crazy the Pistols could get.
20 I Can’t Believe $25,000
Throughout the 1950s, various groups formed who could make one hit song but then fade away fast. The Hornets were such a case, rising up in 1954 with the hit “I Can’t Believe” which seemed ready to push them up. However, lead singer Johnny Moore was offered a slot with the Drifters and took it. Moore would go on to huge fame with that group, leaving the Hornets to drift apart.
Thus, thanks to Moore’s fame, the Hornets’ sole major work is much better regarded today. One copy has a misprint on the cover which adds to its cost and thus a price of $25,000 for a mint condition version isn’t unheard of. It just shows how one star is enough to elevate a low-level work to a collector’s item.
19 Stormy Weather $25,000
One of the classic “torch songs” of the 1930s, “Stormy Weather” got some fame recorded by Lena Horne and a major fixture of the legendary Cotton Club. It’s been covered by numerous stars since like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and more but the most famous version was by the short-lived doo-wop group The Five Sharps in 1952 for Jubilee records.
The group broke up almost as soon as they formed over various issues and the various LPs of the song were lost despite it becoming a success. Today, a version can fetch $25,000, making this one of the most valuable “one-hit wonder” records of all time.
18 Stay Away Joe $25,000
After conquering music in the 1950s, Elvis Presley decided to make Hollywood his home. Throughout the ‘60s, Elvis starred in numerous movies playing everything from a race car driver to an Air Force pilot, all marked by him breaking out into some songs. He especially loved Westerns as (despite that hairdo not fitting the time at all), he took easily to rough and ready characters.
Stay Away Joe was a 1968 comedy with him as (believe or not) a Navajo bronco rider fighting between his job and his family. Seeing Elvis as an Indian makes the movie a cult favorite but it hardly ranked among his biggest hits and its failure might have pushed Elvis into his music comeback. However, it’s still Elvis so an LP of the title song can snatch up to $25,000 at auctions to remind you there’s only one King.
17 Test $30,000
David A. Stewart is best known for his work with Annie Lennox in Eurythmics but had a good career himself as a musician and producer. Lennox would have a much bigger solo career but Stewart did well on his own terms with his work. While he did a lot of pop music, he did work in jazz as well to boost his success up more.
“Test” wasn’t a huge hit but given Stewart’s work, it has been raised up in some attention due to how rare it is as it barely saw a real release. Thus, a 78 LP copy from 1965 was sold for $30,000, a pretty big sum for an artist not quite known as an A-lister. It goes to show that if a guy has a good enough reputation, it can earn him more bucks.
16 The Beatles and Frank Ifield $30,000
As one of the biggest music acts in history it makes sense the Beatles pop up on this list a lot. It helps if some of their work is rarer than others and such a case is this fun album, nicknamed “On Stage.” Ifield was a popular British country singer and the original cover had him with the band with the title “Jolly What” and Ifield in a Beatles wig. Only a few copies of that were printed before the more famous cover of the band on their own.
It was the last album of the Beatles by Vee Jay records before their contract expired and contains hits such as “Please, Please Me.” Its rarity made it a standout for Beatlemaniacs and a copy of it tends to go for $30,000 in mint condition. Sometimes ignored by fans, it ranks as a great addition to the Beatles’ ranks.
15 Music For Supermarkets $33,500
Jean-Michel André Jarre is one of the pioneers of the New Age techno sound, mixing electronic music with other bits to showcase a unique style. He’s far more popular in Europe, having sold over 8 million albums while also known for a rather unique outlook on life. That was shown by this album whose title obviously is a take on the music you’d hear going through any market. It was meant to be for a museum exhibition and Jarre felt it was better it only work there.
Thus, as soon as the exhibition ended, Jarre destroyed every copy of the album except one. That managed to make its way to collectors, auctioned off in Paris in 1983. Today, it’s worth about $35,000 and showcases how a single work by a unique mind can fetch a huge price today.
14 The Freewheeling Bob Dylan $35,000
The album that truly made Bob Dylan an icon, this work is remarkable for how it integrated his writing with his music to craft his famous image. It contains such classics as “Blowing in the Wind” and “Masters of War” and practically provides any “best of Dylan” collection with plenty of material. It put Dylan on the map and gave rise to his fantastic career that makes any of his works a high-priced item.
Original LP copies of it tend to be rather rare thanks to their age and how so much of Dylan’s work is available elsewhere. However, a special version contains four tracks that were deleted off later releases and thus make it a rare copy. One version sold for $35,000 to showcase how valuable this work is for paving the way for a man seen today as part of American music culture.
13 Do I Love You $37,000
Frank Wilson was a fantastic writer and producer and one of the powerhouses behind Motown. He was brilliant guiding the careers of stars and crafting hits for Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, the Temptations and more. However, he only recorded one song himself for the label, “Do I Love You.”
By reports, the song had a lukewarm reception by others in the company and Wilson himself decided he’d much rather stick to writing and producing than being front and center recording. Thus, nearly all the copies were destroyed but a few survived. One was sold in 2009 for $37,000 to showcase a rare singing appearance by the man who helped so many other singers become stars.
12 The Velvet Underground & Nico $40,000
Bursting out of the 1960s with power, the Velvet Underground actually wasn’t that successful in their time. But today, many critics are ready to call them one of the best bands of their period and, if anything, just ahead of their time. As such, their first album was ignored, not helped by lyrics that called out many dark themes of crime, and other issues.
The band split in 1973 with Lou Reed going on to have a good career afterward. But in recent years, their work is far better appreciated with Rolling Stone calling their debut “one of the most prophetic albums ever.” Thus, attention rises for it and a special version with alternate versions of some tracks got even more attention. This was sold online for a cost of about $40,000 and showcases how time can make a band seem even better.
11 Caustic Window $46,000
Richard D. James is best known for his slews of various names in music, the biggest being Aphex Twin. He was a pioneer of techno music and known for taking long breaks in between his works. In 1994, James was still gaining success, but not quite a commercial hit when he began work on Caustic Window. He recorded the album only to suddenly decide he disliked it and would abandon it. Only five copies were produced and each soon became a collector’s item as James rose to fame.
When one surfaced in 2014, a Kickstarter campaign was begun and soon pushing the album to be released widely. However, copies of the LP remain a top grab with one sold online for $46,000. It shows how shelving something might actually end up making it a bigger deal today.
10 Original Stack of Me Blues $50,000
The oldest album on this list, this song was produced by the popular 1920s duo of Long Cleve Reed & Little Harvey Hull. They worked for Black Patti Records, a firm that specialized in only black artists which was quite a rarity in a time when segregation was a key thing.
Black Patti pushed such things as blues, bluegrass, and jazz but sadly, the overtly discriminatory times worked against them and they closed their doors after just a few months in 1927. Thus, an existing copy of one of their few records is a major find for a collector with one LP going for $50,000. Too bad it couldn’t last long as a label but its impact is felt more today.
9 Love Me Do $100,000
It’s the song that launched a rock icon to fame. “Love Me Do” was the very first single made by the Beatles, released in 1962. Amazingly, it only reached as high as 17 on the British charts at the time. However, it did get Paul, John, George, and Ringo the major attention they needed to build their name up. In 1964, it was released in the U.S. and hit number one, the first of a record number of such accolades the Beatles would gain over the years.
Various copies have passed around but the rarest are the original cuts which have sold for a variety of prices. Most agree the top price is $100,000 if it’s an unedited version but that’s very rare. It shows how the first hit by one of the greatest musical acts of all time is more than enough to gain a big payday today.
8 Till There Was You $102,500
Considered something of a lost classic of the Beatles, this was actually one of the songs they performed during their legendary appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. However, it’s not as well regarded as it wasn’t written by them but rather by Meredith Wilson for his hit show The Music Man. However, the band enjoyed the song when Peggy Lee covered it and decided to do their own version. It was included as a special mini-LP with Meet the Beatles!, the record that made them a smash in the U.S.
This 10-inch version was soon passed around among collectors with one version selling in March of 2016 for the equivalent of $102,500. It shows yet again how most anything touched by the Beatles garners a huge price among collectors.
7 Yesterday & Today, $125,000
The ninth album by the Beatles, this showcased them in a different mood, reflecting how age and stardom were taking their toll. It contains hits like the title song and “Drive My Car,” the mix of rock, pop, and even some slower songs makes it one of their more introspective albums. There was controversy as one copy had the band in butcher’s smocks covered in fake blood and pieces of baby dolls. The band loved taking a different direction and today, it may not seem that big a deal.
But in 1966, it caused such an outrage that the album was banned in the U.S. until they had a more “traditional” cover. Some copies have managed to get out with one selling for $125,000 thanks to it still being sealed under that cover. So long before today’s rock acts, the Beatles were using “controversy sells” to their advantage.
6 That’ll Be the Day/In Spite of All the Nature $135,000
Mention John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison and obviously, the Beatles come to mind first. However, before they met Ringo and transformed, the trio worked with the Quarrymen, a small rock band in Liverpool. They recorded a few tracks with one album containing a cover of “That’ll Be the Day,” the song that made Buddy Holly a star.
The other side had “In Spite of all the Nature,” an original track. Only one copy was made which McCartney held onto. The band would evolve into the Beatles, taking off in England before a trip to the U.S. made them international icons. McCartney has released “Nature” in some forms but still holds to that vinyl which is estimated at $135,000. Many a Beatlemaniac would love to get their hands on the first look at the star band that was coming.
5 Double Fantasy $150,000
It’s the story around this album that leads to its massive price. In 1980, John Lennon was rising up more as a solo artist as he and wife Yoko Ono were putting out music pushing the boundaries and Lennon’s peaceful message much needed in the tough times. On December 8, 1980, Lennon autographed a copy of “Double Fantasy” for a young man by the name of Mark David Chapman.
Just five hours later, Chapman took out Lennon on the steps of his house, a death that rocked the entire world. Needless to say, the album became a collector’s item, bouncing through collectors before being sold to a private one in 1999 for $150,000. Its worth may have increased more as it showcases the last autograph of a musical icon taken far too soon.
4 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band $290,000
Arguably the best album by the legendary rock group, “Sgt. Pepper” is home to some of the Beatles’ best-loved songs. A counter-culture smash, it played with classic rock motifs and helped pave the way for a new style of rock in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. That cover has been emulated numerous times and several versions have been showcased such as a “demo” take of alternate versions of the hits like “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” and others.
The biggest of the bunch is a copy signed by all four band members which skyrocketed in value after John Lennon’s death. It passed through various hands before being sold at auction in 2013 for $290,000. Thus, it showcases how the Beatles have a power among music fans few can touch.
3 My Happiness $300,000
This song dates to the 1930s but gained popularity in the ‘40s, soon pushed by various artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Pat Boone, the Andrews Sisters and more. The most unique take is from Elvis Presley as it was one of two songs he recorded at the legendary Sun Studios in 1954.
This was his very first recording ever with producer Sam Phillips instantly seeing the star power Presley possessed. The vinyl seemed to vanish before the studio had it shown as part of their museum. In 2015, it came up at auction with Jack White paying $300,000 for it. Thus, it showcases how anything done by the future “King” carries a hefty price tag to it.
2 The Beatles “White Album” $910,000
Technically, it was just called “The Beatles” after the band. However, everyone else calls it the “White Album” thanks to its bold cover and home to hits like “Back in the USSR” and “Helter Skelter.” As one of the final albums by the band before their famed breakup, it’s gained more appreciation today for showcasing the talents each would use for their own solo careers. It’s now seen as one of the greatest albums ever and has undergone numerous reissues over the years.
The biggest copy was Ringo Starr’s personal version which he put up for auction in 2015. It snatched a price just under a million dollars, the highest amount paid for an album already commercially released and the fact it came from a real Beatle added to the price. It just shows how well the band is appreciated today.
1 Once Upon a Time In Shaolin $2 million
As crazy as it sounds, yes, this record is worth more than half this list combined. The Wu-Tang Clan is long known for being rather…offbeat even by hip-hop standards. But this was something else. Between 2008 and 2013, the band recorded several songs for what seemed to be a “musical” meant for a double-disc set. But controversy arose over an incredibly complicated mess that involved a decision to just make one copy and then hold it back for 88 years.
Method Man himself said it was way too much and led to a feud within the band. There were also complaints this was all a massive publicity stunt and threats to just destroy it. But at the end of the day, businessman Martin Shkreli paid $2 million for the sole copy produced. Technically, he could release songs anytime he wants and has done so for a couple but the rest of the album is still tightly held. It just adds to its status as a legend as the single most valuable vinyl record on the planet.
Sources: Record Collector, Rolling Stone