Do you have one of these gathering dust in your attic? The 10 most valuable records of all time, revealed – and it’s good news if you’re a Beatles collector

If you’ve ever flicked through a charity shop’s bargain box of records, it might be hard to imagine that old vinyl could be worth serious cash. 

But there are still some die-hard collectors willing to splash out for a rare copy of their favourite albums.

For the rarest of the rare, some obsessives have even paid millions to complete their collections.

And, it could be good news if you are a Beatles fan since their albums dominate the list of the most valuable records.

So, as vinyl scales reach their highest levels since the 1990s, it might be time to get those old boxes down from the attic to see if you are sat on any black gold.


Physical media might be considered obsolete by some but to collectors these unique records are worth a fortune

Top 10 most expensive albums of all time

    Wu-Tang Clan: Once Upon a Time in Shaolin – $2 million (£1.58m) and $4 million (£3.17m)
    Bob Dylan: Blowin’ in the Wind –  $1.77 million (£1.48m)


    John Lennon & Yoko Ono: Double Fantasy – $850,000 (£674,000)
    The Beatles: White Album –  $790,000 (£626,000)
    Elvis Presley: My Happiness $300,000 (£237,729)
    The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – $290,500 (£230,000)
    The Quarry Men: That’ll Be The Day/In Spite of All the Danger $250,000 (£200,000)


    The Beatles: Yesterday & Today – $125,000 – (£99,050)
    The Beatles: ‘Til There Was You’ (10” acetate) – $97,800 (£77,500)
    Aphex Twin: Caustic Window (test pressing) – $46,300 (£36,700)

 


1. Wu-Tang Clan: Once upon a time in Shaolin

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, by rap-collective Wu-Tang Clan, is an album so rare that it has almost taken on a mythical status within the world of collectors.

Created in 2015 as a protest against the devaluation of music in the digital world, only one physical copy was ever created.

The album became the most expensive piece of music ever when it was sold to disgraced pharmaceutical speculator Martin Shkreli for $2 million (£1.58m).

In addition to its massive sale price, the album caught international attention for the unusual clauses included in the contract.

The owner of this record may not make any digital copies of the album until 2103 or play it for profit.

Additionally, the contract was rumoured to include a clause that allowed any current member of the Wu-Tang Clan or actor Bill Murray to steal the record back without legal repercussions.

However, the sale was dragged into controversy when Shkreli hiked the price of the anti-infective agent Daraprim by 5,455 per cent.

When Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in jail and $7.4 million (£5.86m) in fines for securities fraud the album was seized by the US Government.

Bizarrely, this actually resulted in Wu-Tang Clan breaking their own record after the US government sold the album to a cryptocurrency collective called PleasrDAO for $4 million (£3.17m) worth of cryptocurrency.

Only one copy of Wu-Tang Clan's Once upon a time in Shaolin was ever produced and was sold to Martin Shkreli for $2 million (£1.58m)

2. Bob Dylan: Blowin’ in the Wind

Once again, in the world of ultra-valuable records, exclusivity is the surest formula for a massive price.

In 2022, Bob Dylan sold a new one-of-a-kind recording of his classic hit ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ for $1.77 million (£1.48 million) at Christie’s auction house.

The re-recording features new vocals from Dylan nearly 60 years on from the single’s original release and the backing of a full band.

Only one of these recordings was ever made and its creators likened its sale to that of a painting or piece of fine art.

Unlike conventional vinyl records which are pressed into vinyl from a master, this recording is recorded directly onto acetate.

Although prized for its sound quality, acetate is normally too delicate to make records from.

However, this record uses a sapphire and quartz gradient coating like that used on the International Space Station to protect it from wear.

In 2022 Bob Dylan recorded a new version of Blowin' in the Wind which was pressed into acrylic and sold as a one-of-a-kind piece for $1.77 million (£1.48 million)

3. John Lennon & Yoko Ono: Double Fantasy

Unfortunately, some collector items have a far more morbid history.

A signed copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1980 album Double Fantasy sold for a staggering $150,000 (£119,000) in 1990.

The record then sold again for $850,000 (£674,000) to a private collector in 2010.

It was even reported that the record was listed for sale in 2017 for between $1.2m and $1.5m (£950,000 and £1.2m) but it is not clear if the sale ever went ahead.

The reason for this record’s incredible value is that it was signed by Lennon for his killer Mark Chapman only hours before he was shot dead.

Lennon and Ono signed the album for Chapman as they left their building in New York on December 8, 1980.

The crazed fan stashed the album behind a plant pot before returning to kill Lennon only hours later.

The album was found by a passerby and passed to the police as it still contained forensic evidence from Chapman.

The police returned it to the member of the public some years later who eventually sold it on.

This copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy, which sold for $850,000 (£674,000), was signed by Lennon for his killer only hours before his death

4. The Beatles: White Album

The Beatles’ self-titled ninth album, better known as the White Album, was an instant classic when it was released in 1968.

Yet it was the unusual album design choice that also secured its position as the record collectors’ album of choice.

Each of the albums was individually stamped with a unique serial number, with the first four numbered editions being given to each of the members of the Beatles.

In 2015 Ringo Starr was the first to sell his own personal copy, auctioning off the record in the US for $790,000 (£620,000).

Ringo Starr sold his own numbered copy of the Beatles' White album (pictured) for $790,000 (£620,000) in  2015

5. Elvis Presley: My Happiness

My Happiness is a true relic of rock and roll history.

Made at Sun Records in 1953, when Elvis was just 18, this was the first record that he ever recorded.

Having paid $4 (£3) for the recording session, the young Elvis took the acetate record to his friend Ed Leek’s house to listen to it on their record player.

The record was left at Ed’s house where it was passed down to his niece who put it up for sale in 2015.

On what would have been Elvis’ 80th birthday a mysterious buyer paid $300,000 (£237,729) for the unique recording.

It only later emerged that the mysterious buyer was none other than Jack White of the White Stripes who issued a faithful reproduction of Elvis’ original recording through Third Man records.

Versions of this reissue are still available and include every pop and scratch that Elvis would have heard over 70 years ago.

My Happiness was the first record Elvis Presley ever recorded. The original acetate recording was sold to Jack White of the White Stripes for $300,000 (£237,729). White used the original to re-issue a faithful reproduction (pictured)

6. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Another classic Beatles album makes the list of the most valuable records.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in 1967, is often considered to be one of the band’s finest works and is an important landmark in the history of progressive music.

With its iconic album cover, original pressings of this classic are highly sought after and regularly fetch hundreds of pounds at auction, while mono copies with the black Parlophone label can easily fetch thousands.

However, as with so many collectables, the addition of signatures can massively increase the value.

The Beatles’ avid fans take this to new heights and, in 2013, an American buyer paid a whopping $290,500 (£230,000) for a copy signed by all four members of the band.

Copies of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band can still fetch a high price, particularly the rare mono recordings. One record signed by all four members of the band even sold for $290,500 (£230,000)

7. The Quarry Men: That’ll Be The Day/In Spite of All the Danger

If you thought that this entry was a break from Beatles then you would be mistaken.

The Quarry Men was founded in 1965 by John Lennon and several of his school friends but soon grew to include Paul McCartney and George Harrison.

When the band turned more towards rock and roll many of the original members left and soon evolved into the Beatles.

While they never had much success beyond the local scene the group did produce one amateur recording.

The band recorded a cover of Buddy Holly’s That’ll Be the Day and an original song, In Spite of All the Danger, written by McCartney and Harrison.

Believed to be Britain’s rarest record, the original acetate has been valued at $250,000 (£200,000).

The record was sold by a former band member in 1981 who produced 20-25 private pressings which have never appeared for sale.

A relatively unknown recording by John Lennon and Paul McCartney when they were playing under the name The Quarrymen is valued at $250,000 (£200,000)

Valuable records you might have at home

1. Rolling Stones: Hot Rocks (alternative take version)

Some versions of the record have an alternative take of Brown Sugar and Wild Horses.

Look for the date 11-18-71 on Side Four.

2. Led Zeplin – Led Zeplin II (Hot Mix)

Early versions of the album have a louder mix which was later re-mastered to be quieter.

Look for the initials RL on the edge of the record.

3. The Beatles – Yesterday and Today (second state)

Early versions had an album cover that was deemed too offensive.

Thousands were recalled and had a new cover pasted over the top.

Look for a ‘Black V’ in the bottom right.

 

8. The Beatles: Yesterday & Today

Another Beatles album makes the list, but this time for a slightly unusual reason.

The album ‘Yesterday and Today’ is not considered one of the band’s best, but it is highly prized by collectors.

The reason is that early pressings of the album featured a bizarre photograph of the band members covered in raw meat and dismembered dolls.

The vision of photographer Robert Whitaker was not appreciated by record executives and the album was soon pulled from the shelves, beof being reissued with a far tamer cover.

However, a few of these ‘Butcher Cover’ versions did slip through the cracks and are now extremely valuable.

In February 2013 a sealed mint condition copy of the album sold for $125,000 (£99,050) at auction.

But, even if you don’t have the butcher cover your record might be worth something.

Many of the records that were pulled simply had the new art pasted over the top to save money.

These hidden butcher covers are recognisable thanks to a ‘dark pyramid’ of Ringo’s hair which can just be made out on some copies.

If you have one of these ‘second state’ albums in good condition this could easily be worth thousands today.

The extremely rare 'Butcher Cover' version of The Beatles' Yesterday and Today sells for outrageous prices. One mint, sealed edition sold for $125,000 (£99,050) at auction

9. The Beatles: ‘Til There Was You (10” acetate)

The final Beatles album to make the cut was once called the ‘Holy Grail’ for Beatles collectors.

This 10-inch acetate recording of ‘Til There Was You may well be the record that launched the Beatles because it was created as a demo for EMI who would release their biggest hits.

The test disk still bears the handwriting of the manager Brian Epstein and one of the track names ‘Hello Little Girl’ is misspelled on the vinyl as ‘Hullo Little Girl’.

The record was actually found in the attic of Les Maguire who said it had somehow come into his possession during his time playing keyboard for Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Mr Maquire sold the record to a private buyer in March 2016 for $97,800 (£77,500).

This may be the record that launched The Beatles. A test pressing of 'Til There Was You was given to EMI as a demo for the band. It was sold in 2016 for $97,800 (£77,500)

10. Aphex Twin: Caustic Window

While most of the records on this list were made before the 1970s, this latest record was only recorded in 1994.

Caustic Window is an album by electronic producer Aphex Twin which was considered to be lost.

However, the album had actually made its way to the test pressing phase, meaning that one copy of the album existed.

This test pressing was snapped up at auction in 2014 by ‘Notch’ the creator of Minecraft for $46,300 (£36,700).

The most recent album on the list, an original test pressing of the long-lost Caustic Window by Aphex Twin was sold to the creator of Minecraft for $46,300 (£36,700) in 2014


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