Let’s face it; record collecting isn’t exactly the cheapest hobby, and we’ve all spent more than we’d like to admit on a single record.
The good news is, unless you’re a multi-millionaire, there’s a good chance even the most expensive vinyl records in your collection will pale into insignificance compared with the eyewatering exchanges on this list.
After checking out these absurdly priced records, you might not feel so bad in justifying that $100 record you’ve had your eye on for years now.
Keep scrolling for a summary of the most expensive vinyl records ever sold, and the story behind them.
10 – Scaramanga Silk – Choose Your Weapon
Incidentally, while being the cheapest record on our list at a mere (haha) $41,095, Choose Your Weapon is also the most expensive record ever to sell on Discogs.
The record is a self-released promo from British DJ Scaramanga Silk is gatefold sleeve made up of two parts. Part one contains the 12″ single and a CD of the same music. Part two comes with an art print and a poem on an acetate.
How the record escalated in value to over $40K is a bit of a mystery, but then it is the only time the release has emerged on the Discogs platform and one can only assume the buyer has a deep personal attachment to this record.
9 – Aphex Twin: Caustic Window
Caustic Window is a previously unreleased LP by Richard James (better known as Aphex Twin). It was originally planned for release in 1996 by never fully surfaced bar a handful of test pressings.
Given the committed Aphex Twin fan base, it’s perhaps no surprise that in 2014 a group from the We Are the Music Makers electronic music form grouped together and raised enough to buy a copy that surfaced on Discogs.
With permission from Rephlex Records, backers of the Kickstarter program each received a digital copy of the record.
After the Kickstarter program, the original test pressing was sold on eBay to Markus Persson (the creator of Minecraft) for $46,300.
8 – The Beatles: Till There Was You
This 10-inch acetate copy of ‘Till There Was You’ by The Beatles sold at auction for £77,500 (over $100,000).
Unsurprisingly, it was dubbed the “holy grail” of Beatles records, particularly as it features handwritten markings by their manager Brian Epstein.
The record was found in the attic of fellow Liverpudlian musician Les Maguire. Legend has it, the copy came into his possession during his time as the keyboardist in Gerry and the Pacemakers.
It was originally valued at £10,000. Eventually, an unnamed buyer purchased the record in 2016 at auction for a whopping £77,500!
7 – The Beatles: Yesterday & Today
There’s nothing like a rare or banned album cover to raise record prices.
Early copies of this Beatles compilation from 1966, which was released in North America and Japan only, feature the infamous “Butcher” album cover.
As you’ll see in the image, it features all members of The Fab Four draped in dismantled dolls and pieces of meat.
Considered quite shocking at the time, the album cover was quickly replaced with a less controversial version, leaving the early release editions to skyrocket in value years later.
In 2013, a mint condition sealed copy sold for an astonishing $125,000.
6 – Frank Wilson: ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)
Until recently, Frank Wilson’s legendary 1965 single, released on the Motown subsidiary label, Soul was the tenth most expensive record ever sold.
That was until UK-based multi-millionaire Lee Jeffries splashed out over £100,000 (over $130,000) for one of only five remaining copies.
Originally there were around 250 copies pressed, but the majority were destroyed. Rumor has it that Motown boss Berry Gordy ordered the records to be destroyed when he caught wind that one of his producers was launching a singing career.
How’s that for a holy grail vinyl purchase!?
5 – John Lennon & Yoko Ono: Double Fantasy
Undoubtedly, a signed record will usually fetch a greater return at auction than an ordinary copy.
However, this record is no ordinary signed copy and could possibly go down as the most outstanding signed album in music history.
This copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy, signed just hours before his death on December 8th, sold in 1999 for an incredible $150,000.
Given the new owner most likely owns the last record ever to be signed by John Lennon, perhaps the price tag is justified. What a spectacular (albeit morbid) piece of music history and one of the top five most expensive vinyl records ever sold.
4 – The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
If the signature of one Beatle wasn’t enough, then a record (a classic one at that) signed by all four members is bound to get the arms raising and the bids flowing.
Those of us who’ve ever tried to pick up original Beatles records (particularly some of the early mono copies) will appreciate just how much they can fetch – even in fairly poor condition, and certainly without signatures.
This particular copy went to an American buyer in 2013 for a stonking $290,500. Not only was it signed by all four Beatles, but it was also the much sought-after mono copy on the black Parlophone label.
3 – Elvis Presley: ‘My Happiness’
As advocates for the vinyl format go, they don’t come much bigger than Jack White.
The former White Stripes frontman and owner of Third Man Records has proclaimed his love for the vinyl format in many previous quotes, so it’s perhaps no surprise to learn he owns one of the most expensive vinyl records ever sold in history.
His record label proudly runs regular direct-to-disc live sessions and their popular Third Man Vault record subscription service gives members early access to Third Man artist releases.
The record in question here is Elvis Presley’s first-ever recording. Jack White bought the test pressing at auction in December 2015 for around $300,000.
Proudly, he used it to release a convincing limited edition copy compete with the authentic-looking plain brown paper bag as a sleeve.
2 – The Beatles: The Beatles (White Album)
For many years Ringo Start was the proud owner of the first White Album ever printed. We know this to be the case, as the record bears a serial number reading ‘0000001’.
In December 2015, Ringo auctioned the record at Julien’s auction in the United States for the princely sum of $790,000.
To date, it’s the most amount of money exchanged for a commercially released record. So, if we discount the novelty of our final record on this list, we could technically call this the most expensive record ever sold.
1 – Wu-Tang Clan: Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
The crown of “most expensive record ever sold” goes to Wu-Tan Clan and their eccentric release of 2015’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
The group recorded the album in secret over six years; the one and only copy sold for $2 million at auction in 2015 with specific contractual terms.
It was sold to former hedge fund and drug company manager Martin Shkrelican with specific contractual terms stating the album cannot be commercially exploited until 2103.
However, since the sale, it’s been reported that Martin Shkrelican was convicted of securities fraud. As part of the shenanigans, the Wu-Tang record was confiscated by the United States Department of Justice and since sold to the crypto group ‘PleasrDAO’ who plan to mint it as an NFT (none fungible token).
PleasrDAO purchased Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for $4 million. Mindblowing!