There’s no doubt, vinyl is back. The recent wax renaissance may have it’s ups and downs, but unless you’ve been living under a rock, loading old cassettes into a boombox like a caveman, the resurgence is clear.
Bands are releasing vinyl again in serious numbers, and with the wave has come all the kooky side effects we forgot about. Limited edition pressings, crazy release strategies and even records made from blood. Collectors will always go miles down the road less travelled to get their mitts on something unique, but just how far down does that path go?
There’s one thing crazier than some of the unique vinyls on the market, and that’s the people buying them. We see just how far the collectors will go by running through the most expensive vinyls ever.
We start our search at the world’s favourite vinyl trading website, Discogs. Each month, the site admins post a list of their most expensive items sold. Even when just looking at recent times, the numbers are pretty extreme.
Dynamic Five – Love is the Key
The 1978 LP from Dynamic Five regularly clocks the $5K mark when sold around the world. For it’s rarity yes, but this vinyl is infamous on the DJing and cratedigging circuits. If you drop a track from Love is the Key in your set, it’s pretty much downhill from there.
In May, it sold for $4,250.
Phafner – Overdrive
With only 50 copies printed in 1972, this is another legendary piece of collector history. Phafner recorded Overdrive in a basement studio before pressing the copies with Dragon Records.
An iconic, early showcase of drugged-out, bluesy hard rock, a copy sold in July for $5,500.
Prince – The Black Album
One of the most legendary records of all time, Prince recalled every single copy of The Black Album just before it’s release, leading to a massive bootlegging chain reaction starting from the 100 European promotional copies in circulation.
In April, this one went for a whopping $15,000 on the Discogs marketplace.
Four the next three on our list, we take a look at the more commercial side of vinyl trading. Discrepancy Records is one of Australia’s largest record distributors, selling anything from new Aussie releases to massive Dark Side of the Moon reissues. What we’re interested in is their ‘Holy Grail’ range, a collection of super rare vinyls that are, of course, super expensive.
While around 300 copies are thought to be in existence of this regal vinyl, most of those copies were sent to industry members and friends of U2. Also, it’s purple, which is neato.
This one will set you back $5,000.
Knowledge can be a burden indeed, because unless you have $6,250 handy, it ain’t yours.
When A&M records signed the Sex Pistols, they didn’t quite know what they were getting into. Six days after the signing 25,000 copies of God Save The Queen had been pressed, but the band had caused enough chaos in-house to prompt the label into destroying every copy.
One of the nine known copies on the planet that somehow survived that vinyl genocide, this will cost you $20,000.
This is where things hit the big leagues. Above the levels offered by sites like Discrepancy Records is a world of insider trading and auctions of the rarest or most special vinyls in existence. Several Beatles’ records for example have copped price tags well into six figure territory under the right circumstances.
Let’s skip right to the cream of the crop, though. The following are the two most expensive records ever sold in history:
The Beatles – The Beatles
The 1968 record from The Beatles shouldn’t be too special in it’s own right, being one of the most recognisable and widely available albums ever. However, one pressing is a little more notable than the rest.
In December 2015, the personal copy of Ringo Starr, serial #0000001 was sold for an unbelievable $790,000 US according to Rolling Stone.
The second most expensive Beatles record ever sold was the copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that John Lennon autographed five hours before he died. It was sold in 2013 for $290,500.
Wu-Tang Clan – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
The latest album from Wu-Tang Clan pressed only one copy of their latest record, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, that sole copy went for $2 million, obliterating The Beatles.
Unfortunately, the buyer happens to be a bit of a scumbag. Hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli, best known for hiking the prices on vital pharmaceuticals at the expense of suffering patients, is the owner of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Hope he hated it.