Just when it looks like it’s all doom and gloom for the music industry, a crucial statistic has arrived to put things in proper perspective: According to the Recording Industry of America (RIAA), the sale of vinyl LPs in the U.S. raked in more money than the recording industry made from advertising on services like YouTube and Spotify last year. Yes, in 2015, sales of vinyl records rose to US$416 million, their highest level since 1988. In honour of that fact and Record Store Day, we bring you the 10 most valuable vinyl records in the world.
The Quarrymen – “That’ll Be the Day / In Spite of All the Danger” (1958)
Before John Lennon found the rest of the soon-to-be Fab Four, he was in a jazzy-influenced rock outfit known as The Quarrymen. In March 1960, they changed their name to the Beatles, put in place some personnel changes and conquered their world. And it’s for what The Quarrymen would become that the original acetate is the most valuable record in existence. Besides this one singular relic, only 50 copies exist in the hands of Paul McCartney’s family and friends.
Damage: US$150,000 to $300,000
The Sex Pistols – “God Save the Queen / No Feelings” (1977)
Punk rock is 40 years old this year. In the time since its noisy birth, it’s transformed from an idiom of protest to yet another functionary of capitalism. The proof is in this 1977 single by a group whose founding ethos was premised on the transgression of capitalistic norms now being an impossibly expensive collector’s wet dream. Only 10 to 15 copies exist.
Damage: US$17,000 to $16,000
Leaf Hound – “Growers of Mushroom” (1971)
These unknown English blues-rockers know their way around a mean groove and very good hooks. But is that enough to make their debut, recorded-in-11-hours album so highly sought after? We say, no. But its rather obscene valuation is yet another indication that there’s no strict science behind which cultural artifacts get the ‘Ultra Rare’ stamp.
Damage: US$7,000 to $10,000
Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1978)
There was nothing modest or self-effacing about Freddie Mercury. It’s almost as if he was put on earth to make art of majestically overblown self-expression. And so, it’s no surprise that this special edition recording of his band’s greatest triumph was as much a statement as it was a jaw-dropping musical stride. Doubling up as an invite to an EMI event, it came with the following items: matches, pen, ticket, menu, outer card sleeve, scarf and EMI goblets in a card box.
Judge – Chung King Can Suck It (1989)
“I don’t know why that record is worth anything to anybody when it’s not worth anything to the people who created it.” Despite vocalist Mike Judge’s disdain for the legendary hardcore record – which is completely understandable, given the tumultuous recording process that included using the shabbiest recording space at Chung King studios due to the others being occupied by Run-DMC, Beastie Boys and LL Cool J, and a coke fiend studio engineer who didn’t show up on the third day of recording – this white whale has attained cult status while eluding many.
David Bowie – “Space Oddity/ Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” (1969)
The Spaceman’s extra-terrestrial excursions have influenced popular culture immensely, and given us even more to puzzle over and wonder about. But in this case, he’s also served up a transmission with an almighty price tag. If you don’t have this in your possession, join the club. If you do, you’re one of three on the entire planet.
The Beatles – “Love Me Do/ PS I Love You” (1962)
Only 250 copies of this 7-inch demo single by The Beatles exist. What adds even more value to its scarcity is the laughable misspelling of Paul McCartney’s name: “McArtney”. “Love Me Do” was also the first song ever recorded by the band.
Damage: US$3000 to $4,750.
Ron Hargrave – “Latch On/Only A Daydream” (1958)
Rockabilly heads consider Ron Hargrave a god. Besides being X-Man-like on the ukulele, he also wrote songs for “rock & roll’s first great wild man”, Jerry Lee Lewis. And the fact that all this doesn’t account for why physical copies of this single are virtually unaccounted for in the US and for why only six exist in the UK, is further proof of the hype-factory’s unpredictably expensive whims.
The Bread And Beer Band – The Bread And Beer Band (1969)
Oddly enough, there’s no mention of this in Sir Elton (middle name: Hercules) John’s Wikipedia page, none at all. It seems as if he’s consciously erased that part of his past when he went by his birth name, Reg Dwight, and recorded sessions for this long-defunct funk band. This LP was never officially released, making it a valuable—and possibly incriminating—piece in the larger tapestry that is Sir Elton John. Illegal copies can be found out there in the world if you look hard enough and if you have the right amount of coin for them.
The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
The best part of fandom is being able to own some hyper-unattainable, one-of-one bit of arcana that belongs in the larger universe of whatever it is you’re obsessing over. The promotional copies of the Stones’ sixth album, of which only two exist, in their silk-sleeved pomp, are a testimony of this.
Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love (2014)
While the special edition of the debut album of this New York punk band doesn’t monetarily match the price commanded by the work of the dinosaurs featured above, what it is in and of itself makes it a (weird) prize. 180 copies of these were pressed on vinyl mixed with lead singer Meredith Graves’ menstrual blood. Each full box set also came with a cassette housing bonus tracks, a band pin and a lyric sheet. It’s sold out, which means you have to know someone who has it and is looking to sell to get your hands on it. Either way, be prepared to pay.