Unsurprisingly, several of The Beatles' most significant records dominate the list.
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For devout collectors, purchasing vinyl records can be a "near religious experience," says Don Inmon, head of product and brand at Victrola. "The most valuable vinyl records today are the ones that the collector—and you're a collector if you have three or more records—has a music memory tied to," Inmon says. Sentiment aside, some rare vinyls have unspeakable financial value and have sold for astronomical prices at auction. "There are certainly rare or original pressings—[like ones with] special colors and designs that have limited production runs," notes Inmon, adding that the rarest, in his opinion, are pressings that are associated with a memory or certain moment in time (an autograph here, an anecdote there).

And while Inmon likens vinyl valuation to the wine market—"Value fluctuates; certain wines grow or decrease in value over time, [due to] public opinion, taste, and so forth," he says—certain already-sold pressings' price tags speak for themselves. Below, the most valuable records to date as well as some lower-cost iterations that avid collectors should keep their eyes peeled for.

High-Priced Hits

The most valuable records of all time have sold at auction for unbelievable sums of money. According to music expert Frank Daniels—he pens a monthly column on record collecting at Goldmine Magazine—there are several unique reasons why these particular pressings fetched such an astoundingly high price.

The Beatles' White Album

It's no surprise that a copy of The Beatles' White Album went for $790,000 in December 2015 when you learn that it wasn't just any old pressing of the record. "As the cover artist indicated, each copy of the album was numbered sequentially, giving it the ridiculous distinction of being a 'numbered limited edition' of over six hundred thousand copies," shares Daniels. This particular record was numbered No.0000001—the first of its kind. As an added bonus, it also belonged to a Beatle before it was sold. "The buyer now owns something that was in Ringo's possession for 50 years," Daniels affirms.

Elvis Presley's My Happiness

In January 2015, Elvis Presley's My Happiness sold for $300,000; it was the first the King ever recorded. "It was a 'live' demonstration record, which the legend says he recorded for his mother," Daniels shares. "Back then, people could walk into Sun Studio in Memphis and pay to make their own record."

The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles were one of the most iconic bands of all time—so it's unsurprising that they appear so frequently on most-valuable vinyl lists. According to the BBC, an unnamed buyer from the Midwest purchased a pressing of the group's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band for a whopping $290,000; it was signed by not one, not two, not three, but all four Beatles. The selling price far exceeded the beginning bid, which clocked in at $30,000.

John Lennon's Double Fantasy

Some records went for higher-than-average amounts due to their dark past. For example, one copy of John Lennon's Double Fantasy went to auction priced at $900,000 in 2020. The reason? "John Lennon was a gregarious person, often stopping to sign autographs for fans," Daniels explains. "After his latest album, Double Fantasy, came out in 1980, John signed copies for people who waited for him outside his New York home. In particular, he signed a copy for Mark David Chapman—the man who later murdered him." It was this copy that was priced just under $1 million.

Less Expensive Scores

Most of us don't have the kind of cash we'd need to splurge on those types of record-breaking albums (pun intended!), but there are several affordable, collectible vinyls that you can scoop up today—some are certainly worth your while, notes Daniels.

Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin

Fans of Led Zeppelin could spend anywhere between $1,000 to $10,000 for a vinyl copy of their first self-titled release in its original turquoise-cover print. Daniels says the record would need to be in near mint condition to be worth that kind of dough.

The Caine Mutiny

Believe it or not, vinyl copies of the score to the Humphrey Bogart film The Caine Mutiny go for $7,000—original copies of the 1954 release are extremely rare. "The author of the book, Herman Wouk, did not like the fact that RCA Victor was releasing such a 'condensed' version of the movie soundtrack as an album," Daniels explains. "He refused to authorize its release, and the record was withdrawn. Only a few copies exist."

The Crystals' "(Let's Dance) The Screw" (single)

If you have an eye for weeding out faux vinyls, the single "(Let's Dance) The Screw" by the Crystals—by the late Producer Phil Spector—is a good buy. This record signified the end of Spector's partnership with Lester Sill, and Daniels says he marked the occasion by creating a send-off just for him. "He only had a few copies pressed. They sell for $2,500 [and up] today—but beware of fakes."

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
October 16, 2021
It's actually shocking how poorly-researched and incorrect this article is.