Due to the limited nature of vinyl records that ceased releasing, there are many records out there that fetch hundreds if not thousands of pounds. Whether you are a beginner record shopper or an avid vinyl hoarder, you are guaranteed to come across records that are valued highly when crate digging or scrolling through Discogs. Ever wondered what the most valuable records in history are? We did too. That’s why we went through all logged sales available to the public to create this most up to date accurate list of the most expensive records ever sold. Read on, maybe you own one of these?
It is worth mentioning that this list only covers vinyl records. Though generally they amass more money than any form of music storage, there are instances of CDs, tapes and video recording selling for more than some vinyl records we have covered in this list (for example, a studio reference CD of Michael Jackson’s What More Can I Give have sold for $50,000 on eBay in 2015).
Most Expensive Records:
- Wu Tang Clan – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
- The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album)
- Elvis Presley – My Happiness
- The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
- The Quarrymen – “That’ll Be the Day” / “In Spite of All the Danger”
- John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy
- Frank Wilson – Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)
- The Beatles – Yesterday & Today
- The Beatles – ‘Til There Was You’ / ‘Hello Little Girl’
- The Beatles – Love Me Do (1962)
- Aphex Twin – Caustic Window (test pressing)
- Scaramanga Silk – Choose Your Weapon
- Tommy Johnson – Alcohol and Jake Blues
- Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
- Pink Floyd – ‘King Bee’ / ‘Lucy Leave’
- Prince – The Black Album (1987)
- Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico
1. Wu Tang Clan – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
Price: $2 million
The world’s most expensive record ever sold. This one and only copy of the Wu Tang Clan record was recorded as a secret project over a 5 year period, stored in a vault in Morocco and then sold, encased in a high security silver box, via auction in 2015 for a whopping $2 million. Only a single copy of the record has been produced and the contract stipulates that the owner can not distribute copies of the record for commercial use, though they are allowed to create copies and give it away for free. The record was sold.
The release of a single copy and sale of the record via auction stirred some backlash from Wu-Tang’s fans who detested the exclusivity of the Clan’s record. The Clan defended their approach as a statement against the state of the music industry and how swept up by easy-access streaming services that de-coupled the art from the music.
Surprisingly, the record is currently owned by the US Federal government after seizing its possession from the buyer, the controversial Martin Shkrelli. Shkrelli, who had been dubbed ‘The Most Hated Man in America’ for buying the rights to a life-saving HIV drug and then went on to spike the price from $13.50 to $750 overnight, was convicted for securities fraud 3 week only after buying the record . For that reason, and the $2 million price tag, I doubt we will get our hands on the record anytime soon.
What is even more baffling about this record is a term added in by The Clan to the contract when they sold it. The term stipulates that any member of the Clan, as well as Bill Murray, can plan and execute a heist of the record. If they are so successful the right to the records are then fully transferred to them with no legal repercussions.
2. The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album)
price : $790,000
The first copy ever printed of The Beatles’s self-titled album, bearing the serial number ‘0000001’, was always thought to belong to John Lenon, however it turned out the cop belong to drummer Ringo Starr who went on to sell it at Auction in 2015 for $790,000 making it the most expensive record to have been commercially released. He also sold his drum kit at the same auction for a whopping $2.2 million.
3. Elvis Presley – My Happiness
This acetate of Elvis’ first ever recording including My Happiness and That’s When Your Heartache Begins sold (also in 2015) for $300,000 to 12 time Grammy winner artists, Jack White. White then released the album on Third Man Records in late 2015 making it commercially available both on 7” vinyl and, later, digitally.
4. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Having a Beatles’ record signed by one of the band members can result in humongous prices increases in the record value. This original pressing of Sgt. Pepper was signed, not by one, but all four members of the band resulting in a record beating sale value in 2013. Original 1967 pressings of the record will still fetch fairly high prices due to their rarity.
5. The Quarrymen – “That’ll Be the Day” / “In Spite of All the Danger”
The songs were written by Paul McCartney and George Harrison, this was the first amateur recording of the Quarrymen, who later became The Beatles. There was only a single copy of this recording, created on an acetate in plain sleeve in 1958, is still owned by Paul McCartney. It was estimated to be worth $277,000 back in 2012. Due to the resurgence in popularity of vinyl records and the craze in record prices that followed, it is thought that the record is worth many times more this value.
In 1981, McCartney released 50 copies of the record on 10” and 7” vinyl in Parlophone sleeves. Any of these copies are now estimated to be worth around $15,000 each.
6. John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy
Although it wasn’t a test pressing or an acetate version, and multiple standard issues of the record existed at the time of the sale, this record collected a whooping $150,000 in 1999. The record differs from all the rest due to the fact that it was the last record ever signed by John Lennon himself just hours before his infamour murder in 1980.
7. Frank Wilson – Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)
Though many original Northern Soul records fetch sky high prices due to the rarity of Mint condition records and the highligly collectible nature of genre, Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You stands out for the twists and turns of its story. It is believed that 25 copies of this 7” 45rpm were initially pressed but all most went on to be destroyed when Motown Label owner, Berry Gordy persuaded Wilson out of pursuing a career as a lead Motown singer himself and to stay behind the scenes as a producer and writer for Motown’s roster of artists. Wilson agreed and went on to produce and write tracks for the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and Diana Ross to name a few.
It is believed that only 5 of the original 25 copies weren’t destroyed. 1 was bootlegged to the UK and later sold to Goldmine label boss Tim Brown. 3 copies were later destroyed to save space! And the one remaining copy was eventually also sold to Tim Brown. The tim brown copies were later auctioned and resold. Most recently in 2020 the record fetched $138,000, making it the most expensive 7” vinyl ever.
8. The Beatles – Yesterday & Today
Another entry by The Beatles, this time their 1966 release of Yesterday & today. Again this one isn’t an acetate or a test pressings but nevertheless a highly scarce record. The release initially had a cover featuring the band members in white coats surrounded by blood drenched meat and toys, this later became known as the Butcher cover. The record was quickly withdrawn due to the controversy this cover caused and was released with a different cover. Copies for the original cover were then quite rare especially due to the little care people paid to their records back in the 60s and how aggressive some of the record players were at the time. It is no surprise then that a copy of the original release in a sealed Mint condition was sold for a hefty $125,000.
9. The Beatles – ‘Til There Was You’ / ‘Hello Little Girl’
Dubbed as the record that kickstarted The Beatles’ career, this 10” acetate was created as a demo for EMI, one of the Big 4 record labels at the time and now owned by Universal Music Group. This record had Til There Was You and Hello Little Girl, what makes the record more unique is a misspelling of the word Hello as Hullo as well as the Beatles’ manager’s handwriting on the disc itself. The record was sold in 2016 for $77,500
10. The Beatles – Love Me Do (1962)
The first ever single released by The Beatles, and the first to be written by both John Lennon and Paul McCartney. This original acetate version, and the only unedited one with count-in, was valued by Record Collector at anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000.
Additionally, a 7” vinyl produced as a promotional copy and bearing a misspelling of Paul McCartney’s name as Paul McArtney is believed to be the first press for the record and had exchanged hands a few times on Discogs. The highest one being for $15,000.
11. Aphex Twin – Caustic Window (test pressing)
One of the few entries on the list that don’t date back prior to the 1970s. In 2014, a test pressing of Caustic Window was auctioned by British electronic music pioneer Aphex Twin who has been behind some of the most boundary pushing releases in techno and ambient music in the 90s. The record was sold for more than $45,000 to Markush Persson, the creator of the mega-popular video game, Minecraft.
12. Scaramanga Silk – Choose Your Weapon
Another 20th century entry, Choose Your Weapon is a 2008 release by the mysterious British DJ Scaramanga Silk who has very little information available in the public domain. The Breakbeat record only had 20 numbered copies pressed and each came with an art print by Immyart and a poem on an acetate. The 02/20 copy of the record was recently sold on Discogs for 42,000 overtaking the Black Album by Prince as the most expensive record ever sold on the platform.
13. Tommy Johnson – Alcohol and Jake Blues
This 1929 blues record is extremely rare due to the very imited number that has been pressed, all which are believed to now be destroyed or in Poor condition. Surprisingly, the buyer of the record for the $37,100 had already owned the second known copy to exist but decided to shell out the sum needed for this one due to its superior condition.
14. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
This stereo copy of Bob Dylan’s second studio album features four tracks that were later deleted from before the record was meant to be released. However, someone working at a pressing plant didn’t get the memo on time and a small batch of records with the original tracklist were released. It is believed that more records bearing this older tracklist are still out there, perhaps you will find one at your next charity shop crawl?
15. Pink Floyd – ‘King Bee’ / ‘Lucy Leave’
Similar to what the Quarrymen acetate is to The Beatles, this acetate is to Pink Floyd. It is the first amateur recording of the band as they had just turned their name from The Tea Set to Pink Floyd. They used the acetate to enter the Beat Maker contents but failed to make the semi-final.
16. Prince – The Black Album (1987)
The album long stood as the most expensive record to be sold on Discogs before Choose Your Weapon. The black album is a vinyl rarity due to the fact that Prince had decided to call the project off after believing that the album is evil, resulting in all copies being recalled except for 100 copies that were printed for European circulation. It last exchanged hands in 2018 for $27,500.
17. Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico
The acetate for the 1966 self-titled album by Velvet Underground and Nico in plain sleeve had alternate versions for some of tracks from the later official release resulting in the $25,000 hefty price tag.
There you have it, the most expensive records ever sold. Now most of us out there won’t be splashing anywhere near as much to get our hand on one of these but we can occasionally stumble across a diamond in the rough. Check out this guide we have put together on how to value records like a record dealer. Who knows, perhaps you have a gem or two in your collection already.