Vinyl records are making a comeback, as many music lovers are realizing the superior sound quality and quaint romanticism of records over digital formats. As people become more interested in collecting vinyl records, they are also becoming interested in acquiring rare and unique albums. In this article, we’ll look at 15 of the rarest vinyl records in the world.
What Affects A Vinyl Record’s Value?
When it comes to vinyl records, some are more valuable than others. But what makes a record valuable? Is it the age? The rarity? The condition? Or is it something else entirely? There are many factors that can make a record valuable, and it’s not always easy to determine which ones will have the biggest impact. But that’s part of the fun of collecting vinyl records. You never know what you might find.
Sometimes records are more valuable because they are in better condition. For example, a mint condition record from a popular artist could be worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. On the other hand, a damaged or less popular record may only be worth a few dollars.
Another reason they are valuable is that they are rare. In fact, some records are so rare that they can fetch a very pretty penny at auction.
Do you have any old vinyl records that you’re holding onto? Well, boot them up and take a look through this list of the rarest vinyl records in the world. From The Beatles to David Bowie, you might just find your personal record worth a small fortune.
15 of the Rarest Vinyl Records in the World
Highly sought after by collectors, these vinyl records are among the rarest in the world. Each one has its own unique value, as well as its own unique story, making each one priceless to music lovers and discerning collectors alike.
Here are top 15 of the rarest vinyl records in the world, what they’re worth today, and what they’ve brought in at auction.
#15: Bob Dylan – “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” ( mono copy)
The number 15 record on our list is one by Bob Dylan, specifically, his second album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” This rock album was released in 1963 and contained such classics as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”
While there are many copies of this album out there, the most valuable ones are the mono versions. These copies surprisingly contain four extra songs that weren’t supposed to release on this album in the first place! The withdrawn songs include Rocks and Gravel, Let Me Die In My Footsteps, Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand, and Talkin’ John Birch Blues.
No one knows for sure why these songs were pulled and replaced with other songs, but it’s possible that CBS–which owned Bob Dylan’s record label Columbia Records–didn’t believe The Ed Sullivan Show would allow Dylan to play the song Talkin’ John Birch Blues, and so they nixed it. But who is really to say what happened?
A few copies of this record slipped through the cracks when Columbia Records tried to recall them. It is estimated that these records consist of two stereo copies and fewer than 20 mono copies!
A mono copy like that is worth around $15,000. However, if you ever just so happen to find a stereo version that is a first pressing at auction, it’s estimated to bring in an impressive $30,000!
Interesting Fact About Bob Dylan:
Bob Dylan was a prolific writer and set a precedent for lyric writers in his time. He actually won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016.
#14: Tommy Johnson – “Alcohol and Jake Blues” (78rpm)
This 78rpm record by Tommy Johnson hits our charts at number 14. Released by the Paramount Records in 1930, this record contained the song “Alcohol and Jake Blues” on the a-side and the song “Riding Horse” on the b-side.
Paramount Records is well-known for putting many blues singers on the map, including Tommy Johnson, Charley Patton, Skip James, and Blind Lemon Jefferson, to name a few.
It’s one of the earliest examples of Delta blues, and it’s thought to be one of the only known copies in existence. The masters were all destroyed around the time of the Great Depression.
In 2013, it sold on eBay. The opening bid was for $499, but after a 7-day bidding war, the final sale was for $37,100. Not too shabby!
Interesting Fact About Tommy Johnson:
Tommy Johnson grew up on a plantation in Mississippi and learned to play guitar from his brother. It was after he ran away from home that he discovered the legends of Delta blues, such as Charley Patton.
#13: Prince – “The Black Album” (aka “The Funk Bible”)
This is another album that was pulled before it was released, this time, by Prince himself. In 1987, Prince recorded what he intended to be his follow-up to the “Sign o’ the Times” album. The working title for this record was “The Black Album.”
However, Prince had a change of heart and decided not to release it, claiming that he had gotten too close to “the darkness” and that it was “evil.”
Around 500,000 promo copies were distributed before he could pay Warner Bros. to recall them, and it’s estimated that many copies were bootlegged over the years. In 1994, the album was finally officially released, but only on CD and cassette.
In 2018, an original Canadian record sold for $27,500, and also, an American copy that was still factory sealed sold for $42,300!
Interesting Fact About Prince:
Coming in at only 5 ft. 2 in., Prince (whose birthname is actually Prince) was a small bundle of huge personality and unique fashion sense.
#12: Aphex Twin – “Caustic Window” (Test Pressing)
Hitting us at number 12, this copy is a test pressing for an album that was never officially released. Fans feel it could have been amazing, but alas, it was not to be.
It certainly is rare, though. Only five copies of this record are thought to exist, making it one of the rarest records in the world.
It was made by Aphex Twin, aka Richard D. James, in the mid-1990s. The album was going to be called “Caustic Window,” but it was never finished or released. Many believe that had the album been completed, it would have been one of the most groundbreaking and innovative albums of all time.
Who knows what could have been had the album seen the light of day, in its own time?
In 2014, fans creating and contributed to a Kickstarter campaign to create digital copies of the album. Then one of the test pressings was put up for sale on eBay. It eventually sold for $46,300 to none other than Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson.
Interesting Fact About Aphex Twin:
He once went five entire weeks without sleeping. He claims it’s in order to work on his music.
#11: Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hull – Down Home Boys, “Original Stack O’ Lee Blues”/”Mama You Don’t Know How”
Coming in at number 11, we have a record by Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hull, two blues musicians from the 1920s. This 10-inch shellac, 78 RPM single was released in 1927 on the Black Patti label and contained the songs “Original Stack O’ Lee Blues” and “Mama You Don’t Know How.”
It’s one of the rarest and most valuable blues records ever made, with only one copy known to exist today. The own of this ultra-rare record is jazz and blues enthusiast, Joe Bussard of Maryland.
While we don’t know how much this piece would actually go for in an auction, there is talk that Joe Bussard has turned down an offer even as high as a whopping $70,000 for this slice of music history.
Interesting Fact About Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hull:
Blues historians believe that Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hull were likely from Mississippi. They played only a short time together, during the “songster era,” which took place through the U.S. Reconstruction era.
#10: Frank Wilson – “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” / “Sweeter as the Days Go By”
Ranking at number 10, we have a record by R&B singer Frank Wilson. This particular single was released in 1965 by Motown Records and contained the soul song, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do).”
It’s one of the rarest Motown records ever made, with only 250 copies known to have been pressed and then only maybe five that still exist today.
The story goes that it was set to release on Motown’s soul imprint, but it was pulled before that happened. Apparently, the Motown founder, Berry Gordy, didn’t like Wilson, his top producer, creating his own album. The rumor is that Gordy had the copies destroyed, yet somehow, a few copies survived.
One of those copies sold for roughly $27,000 in 2009, and then that record was blown out of the water when in 2020, another copy was sold to English collector Lee Jeffries for 100,000 Euros, which translates to about $105,500.
That makes it one of the most expensive R&B records ever sold. And who knows? Maybe someday, another copy will surface and sell for even more.
Interesting Fact About Frank Wilson:
Frank Wilson was known for being a producer and a song artist, but he was also a successful author of Christian-themed books on marriage and masculinity.
#9: The Beatles – “Til There Was You” (10″ acetate)
This is another acetate record by The Beatles, and it’s thought to be the very first recording of the song “Til There Was You” on the a-side and “Hello Little Girl” on the b-side. “Hello” had been misspelled on the record, spelled “Hullo.”
It was recorded in 1957, before the band had even officially formed. At the time, they were still known as The Quarrymen.
The song became an early precursor for the band, helping to launch their career. The Beatles would go on to become one of the most successful and influential bands in history. How’s that for a success story?
It’s an incredible record of their raw talent and energy, and a key part of their early history. A copy of this record sold for 77,500 Euros in 2016, which translates to about $110,000 American dollars.
Interesting Fact About The Beatles:
The Beatles performed an incredible 1,200 times in a span of four years in Hamburg, Germany.
#8: Rammellzee and K-Rob – “Beat Bop”
This hip hop single from Rammellzee and K-Rob is one of the most valuable records ever made, due in part to its rarity. It is a first pressing, done in 1983 and released by the Tartown label. Jean-Michel Basquiat created the record’s cover art.
One copy sold on eBay several years ago for $8,000, which was still pretty amazing, considering it was in pretty rough shape. But then in 2020, another copy–this time sealed and in mint condition–sold for an incredible $126,000! Pretty awesome.
Interesting Fact About Rammellzee:
Rammellzee was not only a hip hop artist, but he was also a skilled graffiti artist and sculptor! Unfortunately, he passed away in 2010 partially due to the exposure to the toxins in his artwork.
#7: John Lennon and Yoko Ono – “Double Fantasy”
Landing at number 5, this record by John Lennon and Yoko Ono is famous for its sentimental value. The album was the last John Lennon ever signed.
In fact, he signed this particular record just hours before he was shot and killed on his way into his apartment at the Dakota in New York City, NY on December 8th, 1980 by a troubled fan.
That’s what makes this copy so valuable today. It’s a deeply personal record for many fans. The impact of his untimely death only added to the legend of the song, and it remains one of the most well-loved tracks in his catalogue.
It was auctioned off in 1999 and sold for an impressive $150,000, making it one of the most expensive pop albums ever sold at that time.
Interesting Fact About John Lennon:
All of The Beatles were full-fledged vegetarians… except sometimes John Lennon. He would sometimes practice vegetarianism, but other times, he would still eat meat.
#6: The Beatles – “Yesterday and Today”
This record was pressed in 1966 and is one of the most controversial Beatles records ever made. The original artwork featured The Beatles dressed in butcher’s smocks, covered in raw meat and decapitated baby dolls.
After receiving massive backlash, the artwork was quickly replaced with a new image. But some copies had already been sent out to stores, which is why this record is so valuable today.
A copy in mint condition sealed copy sold for $125,000 in February 2013. And then in 2019, the copy that John Lennon himself owned, which was signed by Lennon, McCartney, and Ringo Starr, sold at an auction in Liverpool for an astounding $234,000.
Interesting Fact About The Beatles:
As funny as their name sounds when you actually think about it, it was inspired by another source. They got the idea from Buddy Holly and The Crickets.
#5: Quarrymen – “In Spite of All the Danger” / “That’ll Be The Day”
Pressed on a 10-inch acetate disc, this is the first recording by The Quarrymen, the band that would later become The Beatles.
The record was pressed in 1958 by John Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney, and only one copy was made. The masters were erased after it was made.
In the 1980s, an early member of The Quarrymen, pianist John Lowe, tried to sell the record. However, Paul McCartney intervened and bought the disc for an undisclosed amount. He turned around and created copies of the record for friends and family.
According to Record Collector magazine, the reproductions are probably worth around $13,000 each. And if that’s not amazing enough, the original is likely worth $260,000!
Interesting Fact About The Quarrymen:
The Quarrymen was originally started by John Lennon and only lasted about four years.
#4: The Beatles – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
It is thought that only 100 copies of this pressing were made, making it one of the rarest Beatles records in existence.
This record was made in 1967, and this particular copy had also been signed by all four members of The Beatles.
While officials thought the album would sell at auction for around $30,000 in 2013, the copy actually sold for an amazing $290,500!
Interesting Fact About The Beatles:
It took The Beatles a while to actually land a record deal with a major label.
#3: Elvis Presley – “My Happiness” / “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”
This 10-inch, 78 rpm acetate is the very first record Elvis Presley ever recorded. In fact, it’s actually the test pressing.
At age 18, he cut the acetate at Sun Records in 1953, and it was later given to his mother as a gift. And on what would have been the King’s 80th birthday, an auction was held at Graceland, his former home and museum, auctioning off several of his previously-owned items.
One of which was this record–although he had misplaced it the day he’d received it. He’d taken it to his friend’s house, then left it there, and his friend put it in a safe until the friend’s daughter inherited it after his death.
The copy was bought by Jack White, owner of Third Man Records, for $300,000.
Interesting Fact About Elvis:
Elvis Presley was born as an identical twin. Unfortunately, his older twin brother was stillborn, and Elvis grew up as an only child.
#2: The Beatles – White Album
Coming in at an impressive #2, this copy of The Beatles White Album is thought to be the first copy of the album ever pressed. There were only a handful of them made, and they were only given out to the band members and Capitol Records executives.
In 2015, Ringo Starr sold his copy of the White Album in near-perfect mint condition at a grade 9.8! Still factory sealed and with a serial number of 0000001, this album tops all other Beatles records, selling at auction for $790,000. Pretty amazing.
Interesting Fact About The Beatles:
They recorded their first album, the Please Please Me LP, in one day, totaling 13 hours.
#1: Wu-Tang Clan – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
Breaking the all-time high record, the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” is #1 on this list for a pretty good reason!
This double album was pressed in 2014. Only one copy of the record even exists, making it the single rarest vinyl record in the world. The Wu-Tang Clan worked on the album for six years in secret and only pressed one copy as a work of art.
The record was sold at auction to Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli in 2015 for a whopping $2 million.
Interesting Fact About Wu-Tang Clan:
The Wu-Tang Clan has a deep passion for everything related to Kung Fu movies.
Now You Know All About the Top 15 Rarest Vinyl Records in the World
So there you have it, a list of the rarest vinyl records in the world. These are just a few of the hardest-to-find and most-valuable vinyl records in existence. They are highly sought-after by collectors and can fetch a pretty penny at auction.
So, if you ever come across one of these records, be sure to hold on to it tight! Or prepare to make a killing with it at auction. If you’re lucky enough to own one of these rare gems, you could be sitting on a small fortune.
Do you have any rare vinyl records? Let us know in the comments below. Happy hunting!