Beatles – Yesterday and Today mono second state Butcher cover shrink

beatles butcher cover mono shrink wrap

Offered for sale is an exceptionally nice mono copy of a second state Butcher cover pressing of the 1966 LP Yesterday and Today by the Beatles.  The cover is still in the original shrink wrap.

About this copy:  The copy of Yesterday and Today offered for sale is an original 1966 mono second state Butcher cover with the second “trunk” cover pasted over the original “Butcher” cover photo.

This copy is in particularly nice unpeeled condition, and the cover retains all of the original shrink wrap.

This particular copy was pressed at the Los Angeles pressing plant, as noted by the small number 6 in the lower right hand corner of the back cover.

Ringo’s “V” collar is clearly visible under the white portion of the cover to the right of the trunk. (see photo.)

The cover is M- and is nearly perfect, aside from a 1/16″ split on the bottom edge at the mouth of the cover.

The original owner held the shrink wrap in place with cellophane tape, which caused the yellowing that you see in the photos.

This yellowing is not on the cover; it’s only on the shrink wrap.

This cover has:

  • No seam splits
  • Fully legible writing on the spine
  • No ring wear on the back cover
  • No writing on the front or back cover
  • No visible attempts to peel the cover

The mono disc is VG, with a number of small marks, but lots of shine.   The disc is a correct Los Angeles pressing, with a * symbol in the dead wax.  The original orange inner sleeve is included and has no seam splits.

We will include a photocopy of the original “recall” letter from Capitol Records announcing the recall of the album from the market.

A gorgeous example of a mono Second State Butcher cover and the nicest mono pasteover copy we’ve ever had for sale.

Background: There are millions of records that people could possibly collect, but few are as infamous as the original release of Yesterday and Today by the Beatles, which was first released with the cover now known as the “Butcher cover.”

This cover photo depicted the band dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by plastic doll parts and pieces of raw meat.  When the original cover met with hostile responses from reviewers and distributors, Capitol Records made the decision to withdraw the cover and replace it with another one.

While a few copies with the original cover were kept by reviewers, the remaining copies were returned to Capitol Records prior to the album’s scheduled release date.  Capitol then pasted a new cover over the existing one, put new shrinkwrap on the cover, and shipped the records with the “pasteover” cover to record distributors.

Most copies sold around the time of the album’s release date actually had two covers, with a cover showing the band standing around a steamer trunk pasted over the original “Butcher cover” photo.  Over time, many of these copies have had the top cover removed, rendering original copies increasingly scarce as fewer intact examples remain.

Copies of Yesterday and Today with the original cover that have never had the second cover pasted over them are known as “first state” issues.  Copies that have the second cover still pasted on top of the first one are known as “second state” copies.

Second state copies are identifiable by looking at the white area on the cover just below the word “today” in the album title.  If that particular copy is a second state Butcher cover, a black triangular area can be faintly seen; this area is where Ringo’s black shirt collar appears on the cover underneath.

This record is eligible for PayPal Credit financing by PayPal. U.S. customers may choose to pay later at checkout, and may receive up to six months financing with no interest (conditions apply.) Click the banner below for more information. (opens in a popup window)

 

Country of origin: U.S.
Size: 12″
Record Label: Capitol
Catalog Number:
T 2553
Year of Release: 1966
Format: Mono
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Beatles – Yesterday and Today stereo Third State Butcher cover

beatles - yesterday and today stereo butcher cover lp

Offered for sale is an exceptionally nice stereo copy of a third state (peeled) Butcher cover pressing of the 1966 LP Yesterday and Today by the Beatles.

This copy has been professionally peeled and is the nicest stereo example we’ve ever had for sale.

About this copy:  The copy of Yesterday and Today offered for sale is an original 1966 stereo third state Butcher cover.  The trunk cover has been removed, revealing the infamous “Butcher cover” underneath.

Stereo copies are much rarer than their mono counterparts; only about one in ten Butcher covers are stereo, and first state stereo Butcher covers have sold for as much as $75,000.

This particular copy was pressed at the Los Angeles pressing plant, as noted by the small number 5 in the lower right hand corner of the back cover.

This cover has:

  • No seam splits
  • Fully legible writing on the spine
  • No writing on the front or back cover

There is a bit of tape residue on the back cover.  We have no idea why anyone would have put tape on this cover, as there are no tears or splits.  There is faint wear near the mouth of the cover on the back and a faint stain on the back cover to the right of the side two song titles.

The front cover is nearly perfect, with just a couple of very minor imperfections, mostly along the mouth of the cover.

The record is VG-, having had a lot of play.  The original orange inner sleeve is included, though it does have splits on three sides.

This copy will include a certificate of authenticity from Jim Hansen, who peeled the album professionally.

Also included is a photocopy of Capitol’s original recall letter to reviewers asking that the album be returned to them.

This is a particularly nice example of a stereo Butcher cover and the next best thing to a First State issue.

Background: There are millions of records that people could possibly collect, but few are as infamous as the original release of Yesterday and Today by the Beatles, which was first released with the cover now known as the “Butcher cover.”  This cover photo depicted the band dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by plastic doll parts and pieces of raw meat.  When the original cover met with hostile responses from reviewers and distributors, Capitol Records made the decision to withdraw the cover and replace it with another one.

While a few copies with the original cover were kept by reviewers, the remaining copies were returned to Capitol Records prior to the album’s scheduled release date.  Capitol then pasted a new cover over the existing one, put new shrinkwrap on the cover, and shipped the records with the “pasteover” cover to record distributors.

Most copies sold around the time of the album’s release date actually had two covers, with a cover showing the band standing around a steamer trunk pasted over the original “Butcher cover” photo.  Over time, many of these copies have had the top cover removed, rendering original copies increasingly scarce as fewer intact examples remain.

Copies of Yesterday and Today with the original cover that have never had the second cover pasted over them are known as “first state” issues.  Copies that have the second cover still pasted on top of the first one are known as “second state” copies.  Second state copies are identifiable by looking at the white area on the cover just below the word “today” in the album title.  If that particular copy is a second state Butcher cover, a black triangular area can be faintly seen; this area is where Ringo’s black shirt collar appears on the cover underneath.

This record is eligible for PayPal Credit financing by PayPal. U.S. customers may choose to pay later at checkout, and may receive up to six months financing with no interest (conditions apply.) Click the banner below for more information. (opens in a popup window)

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Country of origin: U.S.
Size: 12″
Record Label: Capitol
Catalog Number:
ST 2553
Year of Release: 1966
Format: Stereo
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Beatles – Yesterday and Today mono Third State Butcher cover

beatles mono third state butcher cover LP

Offered for sale is a nice example of an original mono peeled, or “Third State,” Butcher cover pressing of the 1966 LP Yesterday and Today by the Beatles.

About this copy:  The copy of Yesterday and Today offered for sale is an original 1966 mono Third State Butcher cover.  The trunk cover that was pasted over the Butcher cover at the factory has been removed by a previous owner.

This particular copy was pressed at the Scranton, Pennsylvania pressing plant, as noted by the small number 3 in the lower right hand corner of the back cover.

This is a nicer-than-average example of a third state issue; most peeled copies have significant damage to the front cover and one or more split seams.

This cover has:

  • No seam splits
  • Fully legible writing on the spine
  • No ring wear on the back cover

There is a name written in ball point pen on the back cover just to the right of the album title.

While there is a bit of “cracking” on the spine and bottom seam, there are no splits.

The “fuzzy” look to the cover comes from the fact that there are still some tiny bits of the removed cover attached.  The only tear on the front cover is near Ringo’s right knee.  It’s a small tear that measures about 1/2″ wide (see photo.)

The record is a correct Scranton mono pressing, though the disc is in poor condition.  A name is written on the perimeter of the Side 1 label.

The included inner sleeve is plain white.

We will include a photocopy of the original “recall” letter from Capitol Records announcing the recall of the album from the market.

A nice copy of a well-peeled mono Butcher cover.

Background: There are millions of records that people could possibly collect, but few are as infamous as the original release of Yesterday and Today by the Beatles, which was first released with the cover now known as the “Butcher cover.

This cover photo depicted the band dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by plastic doll parts and pieces of raw meat.  When the original cover met with hostile responses from reviewers and distributors, Capitol Records made the decision to withdraw the cover and replace it with another one.

While a few copies with the original cover were kept by reviewers, the remaining copies were returned to Capitol Records prior to the album’s scheduled release date.  Capitol then pasted a new cover over the existing one, put new shrinkwrap on the cover, and shipped the records with the “pasteover” cover to record distributors.

Most copies sold around the time of the album’s release date actually had two covers, with a cover showing the band standing around a steamer trunk pasted over the original “Butcher cover” photo.  Over time, many of these copies have had the top cover removed, rendering original copies increasingly scarce as fewer intact examples remain.

Copies of Yesterday and Today with the original cover that have never had the second cover pasted over them are known as “first state” issues.  Copies that have the second cover still pasted on top of the first one are known as “second state” copies.

Second state copies are identifiable by looking at the white area on the cover just below the word “today” in the album title.  If that particular copy is a second state Butcher cover, a black triangular area can be faintly seen; this area is where Ringo’s black shirt collar appears on the cover underneath.

This record is eligible for PayPal Credit financing by PayPal. U.S. customers may choose to pay later at checkout, and may receive up to six months financing with no interest (conditions apply.) Click the banner below for more information. (opens in a popup window)

 

Country of origin: U.S.
Size: 12″
Record Label: Capitol
Catalog Number:
ST-2553
Year of Release: 1966
Format: Mono
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Beatles – Yesterday and Today stereo second state Butcher cover shrink

beatles - yesterday and today stereo pasteover butcher cover lp

Offered for sale is an exceptionally nice stereo copy of a second state Butcher cover pressing of the 1966 LP Yesterday and Today by the Beatles with the cover retaining most of the original shrink wrap.

About this copy:  The copy of Yesterday and Today offered for sale is an original 1966 stereo second state Butcher cover with the second “trunk” cover pasted over the original “Butcher” cover photo.

Stereo copies are much rarer than their mono counterparts; only about one in ten Butcher covers are stereo.

This particular copy was pressed at the Scranton, Pennsylvania pressing plant, as noted by the small number 2 in the lower right hand corner of the back cover. (see photo)

Ringo’s “V” collar is clearly visible under the white portion of the cover to the right of the trunk. (see photo.)

This cover has:

  • No seam splits
  • Fully legible writing on the spine
  • No ring wear on the back cover
  • No writing on the front or back cover
  • No visible attempts to peel the cover
  • A pure white cover with no yellowing

The cover retains most of the original shrink wrap.  It covers about half of the front cover, and all of the back cover.

The cover has slight wear at the bottom to the right of Paul’s hands, as the shrink wrap is missing there.  There is a 1/4″ split at the bottom of the cover at the mouth.  All the other seams are fully intact.

These are all very minor issues on a cover that is otherwise in exceptional condition.  We rarely see a Butcher cover with solid seams all the way around.

The record is quite clean, which is unusual.  Most Butcher covers we find come with records that are in poor condition.   This disc is VG++, and very close to M-, though there is a small inaudible fingernail mark through the first track on side 1.

The original orange inner sleeve is included.  It does have a split on the bottom edge, as most do.

We will include a photocopy of the original “recall” letter from Capitol Records announcing the recall of the album from the market.

This is perhaps the nicest example of a third-state stereo Butcher cover we’ve ever had for sale.

Background: There are millions of records that people could possibly collect, but few are as infamous as the original release of Yesterday and Today by the Beatles, which was first released with the cover now known as the “Butcher cover.”  This cover photo depicted the band dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by plastic doll parts and pieces of raw meat.  When the original cover met with hostile responses from reviewers and distributors, Capitol Records made the decision to withdraw the cover and replace it with another one.

While a few copies with the original cover were kept by reviewers, the remaining copies were returned to Capitol Records prior to the album’s scheduled release date.  Capitol then pasted a new cover over the existing one, put new shrinkwrap on the cover, and shipped the records with the “pasteover” cover to record distributors.

Most copies sold around the time of the album’s release date actually had two covers, with a cover showing the band standing around a steamer trunk pasted over the original “Butcher cover” photo.  Over time, many of these copies have had the top cover removed, rendering original copies increasingly scarce as fewer intact examples remain.

Copies of Yesterday and Today with the original cover that have never had the second cover pasted over them are known as “first state” issues.  Copies that have the second cover still pasted on top of the first one are known as “second state” copies.  Second state copies are identifiable by looking at the white area on the cover just below the word “today” in the album title.  If that particular copy is a second state Butcher cover, a black triangular area can be faintly seen; this area is where Ringo’s black shirt collar appears on the cover underneath.

This record is eligible for PayPal Credit financing by PayPal. U.S. customers may choose to pay later at checkout, and may receive up to six months financing with no interest (conditions apply.) Click the banner below for more information. (opens in a popup window)

 

Country of origin: U.S.
Size: 12″
Record Label: Capitol
Catalog Number:
ST 2553
Year of Release: 1966
Format: Stereo
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Beatles – Yesterday and Today mono second state Butcher cover

beatles yesterday and today butcher cover mono

Offered for sale is a nice mono copy of a second state Butcher cover pressing of the 1966 LP Yesterday and Today by the Beatles.

About this copy:  The copy of Yesterday and Today offered for sale is an original 1966 mono second state Butcher cover with the second “trunk” cover pasted over the original “Butcher” cover photo.

This particular copy was pressed at the Los Angeles pressing plant, as noted by the small number 6 in the lower right hand corner of the back cover.

Ringo’s “V” collar is clearly visible under the white portion of the cover to the right of the trunk. (see photo.)

This copy is a bit unusual in that the top “trunk” slick was misaligned when being applied at the pressing plant.  The Butcher cover slick underneath is plainly visible across the entire bottom edge of the cover. (see photo)

It can sometimes be difficult to spot a Butcher cover, but the misaligned slick makes this one immediately obvious even at a casual glance.

This cover has:

  • No seam splits
  • Fully legible writing on the spine
  • No ring wear on the back cover
  • No writing on the front or back cover
  • No visible attempts to peel the cover

The cover has little wear across the front slick.  There’s some ring wear and some discoloration on the back, along with a name written in pen in the upper left hand corner of the back cover.

The spine is fully intact and legible.  There’s some wear at the top edge; it’s a little fuzzy, but not split.  Near the mouth there’s a very tiny (1/4″ or so) split.

These are all fairly minor issues on a cover that is otherwise in better than average condition.  We rarely see a Butcher cover with solid seams all the way around.

The record is rough and is likely in good condition, at best.  The disc is a correct Los Angeles pressing.  The original inner sleeve is included, though it does have a 2″ split on the bottom edge.

We will include a photocopy of the original “recall” letter from Capitol Records announcing the recall of the album from the market.

A nice example of a record that’s usually found in poor condition.

Background: There are millions of records that people could possibly collect, but few are as infamous as the original release of Yesterday and Today by the Beatles, which was first released with the cover now known as the “Butcher cover.”

This cover photo depicted the band dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by plastic doll parts and pieces of raw meat.  When the original cover met with hostile responses from reviewers and distributors, Capitol Records made the decision to withdraw the cover and replace it with another one.

While a few copies with the original cover were kept by reviewers, the remaining copies were returned to Capitol Records prior to the album’s scheduled release date.  Capitol then pasted a new cover over the existing one, put new shrinkwrap on the cover, and shipped the records with the “pasteover” cover to record distributors.

Most copies sold around the time of the album’s release date actually had two covers, with a cover showing the band standing around a steamer trunk pasted over the original “Butcher cover” photo.  Over time, many of these copies have had the top cover removed, rendering original copies increasingly scarce as fewer intact examples remain.

Copies of Yesterday and Today with the original cover that have never had the second cover pasted over them are known as “first state” issues.  Copies that have the second cover still pasted on top of the first one are known as “second state” copies.

Second state copies are identifiable by looking at the white area on the cover just below the word “today” in the album title.  If that particular copy is a second state Butcher cover, a black triangular area can be faintly seen; this area is where Ringo’s black shirt collar appears on the cover underneath.

This record is eligible for PayPal Credit financing by PayPal. U.S. customers may choose to pay later at checkout, and may receive up to six months financing with no interest (conditions apply.) Click the banner below for more information. (opens in a popup window)

 

Country of origin: U.S.
Size: 12″
Record Label: Capitol
Catalog Number:
T 2553
Year of Release: 1966
Format: Mono
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Beatles – Yesterday and Today stereo second state Butcher cover

beatles - butcher cover pasteover stereo

Offered for sale is an exceptionally nice stereo copy of a second state Butcher cover pressing of the 1966 LP Yesterday and Today by the Beatles.

About this copy:  The copy of Yesterday and Today offered for sale is an original 1966 stereo second state Butcher cover with the second “trunk” cover pasted over the original “Butcher” cover photo.

Stereo copies are much rarer than their mono counterparts; only about one in ten Butcher covers are stereo.

This particular copy was pressed at the Los Angeles pressing plant, as noted by the small number 5 in the lower right hand corner of the back cover.

Ringo’s “V” collar is clearly visible under the white portion of the cover to the right of the trunk. (see photo.)

This copy is a bit unusual in that the top “trunk” slick was misaligned when being applied at the pressing plant.  The Butcher cover slick underneath is plainly visible at the top left of the cover.  It can sometimes be difficult to spot a Butcher cover, but the misaligned slick makes this one immediately obvious even at a casual glance.

This cover has:

  • No seam splits
  • Fully legible writing on the spine
  • No ring wear on the back cover
  • No writing on the front or back cover
  • No visible attempts to peel the cover

The cover has slight wear in the white areas; we’ll call it VG+, just to be safe.  There is a stain on the back cover over the title “Yesterday,” and a scraped spot next to the title of “Doctor Robert.”

These are all very minor issues on a cover that is otherwise in exceptional condition.  We rarely see a Butcher cover with solid seams all the way around.

The record is rough and is likely in good condition, at best.  The disc is a correct Los Angeles pressing.  The original inner sleeve is included, though it does have splits on all three sides.

We will include a photocopy of the original “recall” letter from Capitol Records announcing the recall of the album from the market.

This is about as nice a copy as you’ll ever see of a Second State Butcher cover, aside from finding one in the shrink wrap.

Background: There are millions of records that people could possibly collect, but few are as infamous as the original release of Yesterday and Today by the Beatles, which was first released with the cover now known as the “Butcher cover.”  This cover photo depicted the band dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by plastic doll parts and pieces of raw meat.  When the original cover met with hostile responses from reviewers and distributors, Capitol Records made the decision to withdraw the cover and replace it with another one.

While a few copies with the original cover were kept by reviewers, the remaining copies were returned to Capitol Records prior to the album’s scheduled release date.  Capitol then pasted a new cover over the existing one, put new shrinkwrap on the cover, and shipped the records with the “pasteover” cover to record distributors.

Most copies sold around the time of the album’s release date actually had two covers, with a cover showing the band standing around a steamer trunk pasted over the original “Butcher cover” photo.  Over time, many of these copies have had the top cover removed, rendering original copies increasingly scarce as fewer intact examples remain.

Copies of Yesterday and Today with the original cover that have never had the second cover pasted over them are known as “first state” issues.  Copies that have the second cover still pasted on top of the first one are known as “second state” copies.  Second state copies are identifiable by looking at the white area on the cover just below the word “today” in the album title.  If that particular copy is a second state Butcher cover, a black triangular area can be faintly seen; this area is where Ringo’s black shirt collar appears on the cover underneath.

This record is eligible for PayPal Credit financing by PayPal. U.S. customers may choose to pay later at checkout, and may receive up to six months financing with no interest (conditions apply.) Click the banner below for more information. (opens in a popup window)

 

Country of origin: U.S.
Size: 12″
Record Label: Capitol
Catalog Number:
ST 2553
Year of Release: 1966
Format: Stereo
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The Beatles Butcher Cover – Yesterday and Today

Butcher Cover – The Beatles’ Best-Known Album

butcher cover promo poster
A promotional poster for the Yesterday and Today album.

Record collecting is a vast hobby, and often an obscure one. The prices that collectors pay for certain records would likely baffle a large segment of the public, and many valuable records are those by artists that aren’t even well known to the public at large.

There’s one huge exception to that, however. The original release of the album Yesterday and Today by the Beatles, with the so-called “Butcher cover”, is one of the most widely recognized valuable albums in the world, and one that is known to many non collectors. It’s also an album that many people who don’t specifically collect records by the Beatles would love to have in their collection…

…all because of the album’s cover, rather than the content.

The Yesterday and Today album, released in June 1966, was originally printed with a cover depicting the Beatles dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by pieces of raw meat and plastic doll parts. Due to public outrage, the album was quickly withdrawn and the cover replaced by one with a more modest design.

The value of the copies of Yesterday and Today with a Butcher cover lies with the cover itself; the records within them are relatively common. For those interested in owning a Butcher cover, there is both good news and bad news.

The good news is that Capitol Records produced the better part of a million copies of that album in 1966. The bad news is that many of those covers were either destroyed or altered, and the surviving examples can often sell for a breathtaking amount of money on the collector’s market.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the infamous Butcher cover in detail, outlining the history of the album and cover, the various versions of the album that exist, how to identify one, and the value of the Butcher cover in the collector’s market.

Browse by Category

Click any of the links below to jump to each category:

Yesterday and Today Album History
Song Listings
The Original Cover Design – The Butcher Cover
Butcher Covers Are Shipped And Withdrawn
Replacement Cover Design
Album Release And Reception
Collectors and Butcher Covers
Butcher Cover Terminology
First State Butcher Covers
Second State Butcher Covers
Third State Butcher Covers
The Yesterday and Today Trunk Covers
Identifying A Butcher Cover
Is It a First State or a Good Peel?
Should You Peel a Butcher Cover?
Butcher Cover Values
The “Livingston” Butcher Covers
Canadian Butcher Covers
Counterfeit Butcher Covers
Conclusion

Featured Items

Click here to view our selection of Beatles albums.

Click here to see if we have a Beatles Butcher cover in stock.

Clicking on any image will open a larger version in a new window.

Yesterday and Today Album History

yesterday and today
The final version of Yesterday and Today with the Trunk cover.

From January, 1964, when Capitol Records released Meet the Beatles in America, through the August, 1966, release of Revolver, the Beatles’ American albums differed in content, and sometimes in cover art and title, from their British counterparts. This was mostly due to different industry practices within those two countries.

In Britain, albums usually contained fourteen songs, and ordinarily did not contain songs that had been previously released as singles. The reasoning for this was that the public might not be interested in buying expensive albums that contained songs that they had previously purchased as singles.

In America, albums usually contained twelve songs, and it was quite common for albums to contain songs that had previously been released as singles.

In Britain, the Beatles and their record company, Parlophone, carefully planned out their releases, choosing songs that were intended to be released as singles while assigning others to albums. In the United States, Capitol Records, spurred on by the tidal wave of Beatlemania, was interested in releasing as many albums as possible, with twelve tracks, of course, rather than the fourteen used in Britain.

Fewer tracks meant greater profits and fewer royalties to pay, as the price of the album would be the same, regardless of how many songs were on it.

These independent decisions led to significant differences in the Beatles’ catalog in the two countries, with far more albums being released in the United States than in Britain. By putting singles and their B-sides on albums and by cutting the number of tracks from fourteen to twelve, Capitol occasionally found themselves with enough tracks left over from various projects to release a unique album to be released only in the United States and Canada. One of these albums was Yesterday and Today, which Capitol scheduled for release on June 20, 1966.

Yesterday and Today was an album planned by the American record company alone and was compiled with little, if any, input from the Beatles themselves. The tracks were taken from a variety of sources:

  • “Act Naturally” and “Yesterday” were originally on the UK version of the 1965 LP Help!, but had been omitted from the U.S. Version.
  • “Drive My Car”, “If I Needed Someone”, “Nowhere Man” and “What Goes On” were taken from the UK version of the 1965 LP Rubber Soul and had been left off of the American version of the album.
  • “Day Tripper” and “We Can Work It Out” had been released as a single in both the U.S. and in the UK, where those two songs had not been intended to appear on an album.
  • “And Your Bird Can Sing”, “Doctor Robert”, and “I’m Only Sleeping” were tracks intended for the then-unreleased Revolver album, which wouldn’t be released until August, 1966.

The completed track lineup is listed below. The album was given the title “Yesterday and Today” to take advantage of the song “Yesterday”, which had reached #1 on the American charts in October, 1965.

The Beatles were reportedly unhappy with the way that Capitol records reconfigured their intended releases, but were unable to do anything about it. This was eventually resolved when the group signed a new contract in 1967, and all releases from that time forward were identical in both the U.S. and the UK, as per the Beatles’ wishes.

As for Yesterday and Today, the Beatles likely knew as little as the American public about the content of the album prior to its release.

The back cover for all versions of Yesterday and Today
The back cover for all versions of Yesterday and Today

Song Listings

Side One

“Drive My Car” – 2:25
“I’m Only Sleeping” – 2:58
“Nowhere Man” – 2:40
“Doctor Robert” – 2:14
“Yesterday” – 2:04
“Act Naturally” – 2:27

Side Two

“And Your Bird Can Sing” – 2:02
“If I Needed Someone” – 2:19
“We Can Work It Out” – 2:10
“What Goes On” – 2:44
“Day Tripper” – 2:47

With the track listings for Yesterday and Today all set, the only thing left for Capitol to do was come up with a cover design for the album.

The Original Cover Design – The Butcher Cover

As Yesterday and Today was intended to be a North American-only release (it would also be released in Canada), Capitol had not received artwork from Parlophone, and requested that the band’s management provided them with suitable artwork for the album cover.

The photos supplied came from a photo shoot that the band had done in March, 1966 with photographer Robert Whitaker, which were originally intended to be used for a piece of conceptual art called “A Somnambulant Adventure.” For these photos, the Beatles were dressed in butcher smocks and sat on or stood around a bench while surrounded with parts from plastic dolls and raw meat.

Though these photos were not taken with the intention of using them for an album cover, the band’s management submitted them to Capitol, and one of the photos was chosen to be used for the cover of the Yesterday and Today album. Whitaker had no idea that he’d inadvertently created the Butcher cover.

Butcher Covers Are Shipped And Withdrawn

butcher cover recall letter
A copy of the letter Capitol sent to reviewers asking for the albums to be returned.

As Beatles albums had continued to sell well since their arrival in America in early 1964, Capitol had high hopes for sales of Yesterday and Today. In anticipation of this, the company printed some 750,000 covers at their three pressing plants – Los Angeles, California, Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Jacksonville, Illinois.

The front cover slicks for the cover were printed on a special paper with a slightly rough texture, and the photo used was given a slightly grainy appearance in order to make the finished cover look somewhat as though it had been painted on canvas.

At the time of the release of Yesterday and Today, record companies in America were still pressing records in both stereo and mono, as stereo records were playable only on stereo equipment and most buyers only had mono record players. Because of this, approximately 80%-90% of the finished covers were in mono, with the remainder in stereo.

Several hundred copies of the finished Yesterday and Today album were shipped to radio stations and reviewers in order to help the album receive press attention prior to release. Most of the remaining copies were shipped to distributors around the country.

Due to the controversial image depicted on the cover, reaction to the album from the few people who received advance copies was predictably hostile, and distributors and retailers expressed concern about the cover art. As the album’s release date approached, Sir Joseph Lockwood, the chairman of EMI, the company that owned Capitol Records, made the decision to recall the album.

Distributors and reviewers were asked to return all copies of the album to Capitol Records, as described in an article in a contemporaneous article in Billboard magazine about the struggles of distributors to return the albums with the Butcher cover to the record company.

It’s worth noting that while the copies of the Butcher cover that were sent to reviewers ahead of the release date are valuable, so is the letter from Capitol requesting that the album be returned to them. While photocopies of the “Butcher cover recall letter” are common, originals are not, and collectors have paid several thousand dollars for original copies of the recall letter.

Replacement Cover Design

yesterday and today 8 track tape
An alternate version of the replacement cover, used on the 8 track tape of Yesterday and Today

Capitol quickly came up with a replacement cover design; this one was much more innocuous and depicted the band surrounding a steamer trunk. This image may have been considered for use as the original cover of the album, and several different prototype cover slicks exist with slight variations on this image.

The decision then needed to be made as to what to do about the returned albums, that had the design that would soon be known as the “Butcher cover.” The decision regarding what to do about the covers may have been made at the corporate level or by individual plant managers.

At the Jacksonville, Illinois, plant, all of the returned copies had the records removed and the covers were reportedly taken to a landfill, where they were dumped into a hole that was then filled with water.

At the Los Angeles and Scranton plants, a different decision was reached – the cover slicks with the new artwork would be pasted over the existing “Butcher cover” slicks.

This process proved to be less expensive than reprinting the covers completely, but was also more time consuming. Not only was the process of precisely aligning a new slick over the old one a difficult task, but the finished covers also had to be trimmed at the mouth (the right edge) to account for any misalignment at the opening of the cover.

Once the covers were either reprinted (Jacksonville) or modified (Los Angeles and Scranton), the albums were again shipped to distributors for their June 20, 1966 release date.

It has been estimated that the cost (in 1966 dollars) of Capitol’s recall of Yesterday and Today cost the company some $250,000, and effectively wiped out any profits the company was likely to see from the album in the foreseeable future.

It’s worth noting that the Butcher cover was released in the United States only in the vinyl format. Reel to reel tape and 8 track tape versions of the album were not issued until about a month after the record. By this time, the decision to use the second cover had already been made. Cassette copies of Yesterday and Today were not released until two years later and all of them were issued with the later trunk cover photo.

Album Release And Reception

Despite the problems with the cover, the album was released as scheduled, and promptly went to #1 on the American Billboard album charts, where it remained for five weeks. The album was soon certified gold for amassing more than $1 million in gross sales.

On the day of release, the album that most buyers saw in the stores was the second cover with the steamer trunk photo. Probably half of those actually had Butcher cover slicks underneath them. A small handful of original copies with the exposed Butcher cover slick were sold at retail, though it has been estimated that only a few hundred copies were sold this way.

There have been a couple of copies offered for sale on the market over the years that still had both the original shrink wrap and price sticker intact, demonstrating that at least a few copies of the withdrawn original cover did reach store shelves.

Collectors and Butcher Covers

alternate Yesterday and today cover
Reproduction of a proposed alternate album cover.

The fact that the original covers for Yesterday and Today were withdrawn and replaced wasn’t a secret, and the public soon discovered that many of them had purchased albums that had a cover with a second cover underneath.

Not only that, but it was fairly easy to see the old cover under the new one on most copies, as the new cover was mostly white and the cover underneath was quite a bit darker.

In addition, due to the haste with which the new slicks were applied to the old covers, many covers had trunk slicks that were slightly misaligned, making it even more obvious that there was another cover underneath the trunk cover.

A few enterprising individuals discovered that steam from a tea kettle could be carefully applied to the cover, which allowed the trunk slick to be removed and the Butcher cover underneath to be exposed.

With time, the glue used to attach the trunk cover slicks became pretty secure, and attempts to peel the covers using steam became less successful, resulting in thousands of badly damaged and largely useless Butcher covers.

Within a few months, all of the “pasteover” copies of Yesterday and Today had been sold, and by the end of 1966, all of the copies seen in stores were copies that had been manufactured with the trunk cover only.

Butcher Cover Terminology

By January, 1967, four distinctly different versions of Yesterday and Today were in existence. These were the original issues with the “Butcher cover” photo, the second version of the album, with the trunk cover slick pasted over the Butcher cover, the buyer-created “peeled” versions with the trunk cover removed, and the fourth version, which was manufactured with the trunk cover slick.

While all versions of the album are currently sought out by collectors, the first issues are unquestionably the most prized and the most valuable. The second issue is also quite valuable, and the third issue may or may not be, depending on condition. The fourth version is of interest only to hard-core Beatles collectors and people who simply like the Yesterday and Today album, which, the opinion of the Beatles themselves notwithstanding, is a pretty good collection of songs.

First State Butcher Covers

first state butcher cover
A rare stereo First State Butcher cover.

The original issues of Yesterday and Today, which never had the trunk slick pasted over them, are among the most valuable and sought out albums in all of record collecting.

While 750,000 of them were printed, most were either destroyed or had trunk cover slicks pasted over them. In the end, only a few hundred examples of these first issues survive today.

Among collectors, this version of Yesterday and Today is known as a “First State” issue. These First State issues exist in both stereo and mono, as do all later versions of the Yesterday and Today album pressed through early 1968. After that, the album was available in stereo only (with the trunk cover, of course.)

First State stereo issues of the Butcher cover are much rarer than their mono counterparts, and outnumber them by a ratio of roughly 10:1.

Second State Butcher Covers

second state butcher cover
A mono copy of a Second State Butcher cover

The copies of Yesterday and Today that were shipped to stores with trunk cover slick pasted over the Butcher cover slick (and still have them attached) are known as Second State Butcher covers.

Second State issues are much more common than First State issues, as several hundred thousand copies were probably shipped to distributors and retailers in 1966.

While Second State Butcher covers were common in 1966, they’re significantly harder to find a half a century later. Over time, many of these albums have ended up in the trash, as albums often do, and quite a few of them were likely owned and eventually discarded by people who had no idea that they owned a version of the Butcher cover.

Even among surviving examples of Butcher covers, Second State Butcher covers have become more rare over time, as many people have peeled them to reveal the original Butcher cover underneath, often with varying degrees of success.

Because of peeling and general attrition, Second State Butcher covers are somewhat scarce today. As with First State issues, Second State Butcher covers are significantly more common in mono than they are in stereo.

Third State Butcher Covers

third state butcher cover
A nicely peeled “third state” Butcher cover.

The term “Third State Butcher cover” refers to a Second State cover that has had the trunk cover removed. Third State copies of Yesterday and Today tend to come in the most broad range of conditions of all the variations of the album.

Third State versions that have been professionally peeled often appear, at first glance, to be First State issues. On the other hand, Third State copies that have been badly peeled by amateurs are frequently in horrible condition, and we’ve seen examples where parts of both slicks were removed, leaving bare cardboard in places that were originally covered by the Butcher cover slick.

On the plus side, poorly-peeled Third State examples of the Butcher cover are often the most affordable variation for collectors, as poorly-peeled examples might sell for less than 10% of the price of a professionally peeled Third State cover.

The Yesterday and Today Trunk Covers

yesterday and today
The final version of Yesterday and Today with the Trunk cover.

The final version, which is not referred to as a “Fourth State” version of Yesterday and Today, is simply known as the “Trunk Cover.” These are the versions of the album that were printed after all of the Second State copies had been shipped. Trunk cover versions of Yesterday and Today have only one slick attached to the front cover and never had the original Butcher cover slick mounted underneath.

The photos used for the trunk cover were from a photo shoot that was taken shortly after the shoot that produced the original Butcher cover photos. Capitol printed test slicks of several variations of the trunk cover before settling on one that had an all white background. The version with the purple surrounding the trunk was used on the 8 track version of the album, however.

This cover was used on all copies of Yesterday and Today from June, 1966 until the late 1980s, when the album was deleted by Capitol as part of the company’s move to unify the American and British Beatles catalog.

Identifying A Butcher Cover

butcher cover
Closeup of a Second State Butcher cover. Ringo’s collar can be seen as indicated.

It would seem pretty straightforward to identify a Butcher cover; after all, it has that photo on the front, right? That’s true of First State issues, which are easily identifiable as Butcher covers. It’s also true of Third State versions, as the trunk cover has been peeled to reveal the Butcher cover slick underneath.

On the other hand, it can be difficult to distinguish a Second State Butcher cover from a later trunk cover issue, and we’ve seen numerous trunk cover copies offered for sale over the years by unsure sellers who listed it for sale with the phrase “may be a Butcher cover.”

Once you know how to tell the difference, it becomes quite obvious.

Parts of the artwork on the original cover were black, while large portions of the trunk cover are white. On Second State issues, there is one part of the cover in particular where the original Butcher cover can be seen through the white part of the trunk cover slick.

In the original Butcher cover photo, Ringo Starr was wearing a black turtleneck sweater underneath his white butcher smock and the part of the turtleneck that appears in that photo is triangular in shape. On Second State issues, the part of the trunk cover slick that is directly above that black triangular area is all white.

On Second State covers, this black triangle is always visible through the trunk cover, and it appears about 2 1/4” below the letters “oda” in the word “Today” in the album’s title. Assuming that you’re in a room with good light or outside in sunlight, the triangular area will be plainly visible. You won’t have to strain or struggle to see it; if you can’t see it, then you’re holding a later trunk cover version of the album.

Many later trunk cover issues of Yesterday and Today have a red emblem in this same location, indicating that the album received a gold record award from the Recording Industry Association of America for achieving more than $1 million in sales. If this emblem appears on the cover, then the album in question is NOT a Second State Butcher cover.

If you do find that you’re holding a Second State Butcher cover, it’s also possible to tell which pressing plant made the album. If you examine the lower right hand corner of the back cover, you will see a small logo for the RIAA. Next to this logo is a number. The number will identify the pressing plant.

2 – A stereo cover that came from the pressing plant in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
3 – A mono cover that came from the pressing plant in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
4 – (Jacksonville, Illinois)
5 – A stereo cover that came from the pressing plant in Los Angeles, California.
6 – A mono cover that came from the pressing plant in Los Angeles, California.

A Butcher cover from the Jacksonville, Illinois, pressing plant would have the number 4 on the back cover, but all but a handful of First State issues from the Jacksonville plant are believed to have been destroyed, meaning that there are no Second State Butcher cover issues from that particular pressing plant. If there were, they would have a number 4 on the back cover.

Is It a First State or a Good Peel?

While many Second State Butcher covers have been peeled by amateurs using steam or other methods, these results are often unreliable and can result in badly damaged covers. There are, however, a few people who have found nondestructive methods for peeling Second State issues that can result in a finished product that is virtually indistinguishable from a First State issue.

The difference in price in the collector’s market between a First State issue in exceptional condition and a Third State issue in similar condition can be many thousands of dollars. How can one tell the difference?

There are several ways to tell if you’re looking at a true First State Butcher cover or are instead looking at a Third State version where someone has done an exceptional job of removing the trunk cover slick.

Most covers that have had the trunk cover slick removed will have a some glue residue on them. Under bright light or sunlight, this glue residue can be seen in the form of streaks or rings on the cover. These streaks or rings may be faint, but they can usually be seen under strong light.

Another way to check is to get a piece of tissue paper and lightly moisten it (don’t get it too wet!.) Place the damp tissue on the cover and allow it to dry. Once it’s dry, try to remove it. If the tissue sticks or offers resistance when you try to remove it, then the cover in question is a peeled Third State issue. If it removes easily or can be removed by simply blowing on it, then you may, indeed, have a First State issue.

All Second State versions of the Butcher cover were trimmed prior to being shrink wrapped. Because of this trimming, which was done to address alignment issues at the right side, or mouth, of the cover, a Second State Butcher cover will not be quite as wide as a First State cover. First State covers will be about 1/8” wider than Second State covers.

Should you not have a First State cover handy for comparison, and few of us do, you could also compare the cover in question to other Beatles albums of the same period. At the moment, we happen to have a Second State cover on hand, and it measures 12 1/4” wide. A copy of The Beatles Second Album that we have on the shelf measures about 12 3/8” wide in comparison.

As we’ve mentioned the difference in price between a First State issue and a nice Third State issue can be $10,000 or more. Be sure you know what you’re buying before you buy.

Should You Peel A Butcher Cover?

peeled butcher cover
A poorly peeled Butcher cover. Don’t try this!

In 1966, it was often possible to turn a Second State Butcher cover into a very presentable Third State version by simply using steam from a tea kettle to remove the trunk slick from the cover. We’ve seen copies where this was done that looked nearly identical to First State issues.

Those days are long gone; some fifty years of aging has pretty much rendered the adhesive impervious to steam. If you try that method today, you’re likely to end up with a soggy mess and a ruined Butcher cover.

Short version: Don’t attempt to peel a Butcher cover yourself! Period. Don’t do it.

We’ve seen numerous horrible examples of covers that were ruined by amateurs who were attempting to peel their cover themselves. Consider this – a really nice Third State cover in stereo can sell for as much as several thousand dollars.

A ruined one might sell for $0.

There are individuals who have developed methods of removing the top slick using various chemicals. These processes usually work quite well, and the results are often nearly indistinguishable from First State issues. Of course, these people who can peel a Beatles Butcher cover using these methods are professionals, and they charge a fee for the service.

Still, if you own a Second State Butcher cover, it may (or may not; read on) be worthwhile to consider having it professionally peeled. Obviously, such a decision must lie with the individual, but there are several factors to take into consideration when considering whether or not to peel a Second State issue.

All versions of the Butcher cover are collectible, and collectors are interested in owning all three versions in the best possible condition. All three are relatively uncommon, and the First State versions are quite rare.

Second State versions, however, are becoming increasingly rare, as many thousands of them have been peeled over the years. As these records were sold when new as Second State issues, they have value to collectors “as-is”, that is, in their original unpeeled state.

If your Second State version is in pristine condition, be it still sealed or perhaps still in the original shrink wrap, or even in mint condition, you should probably leave it alone. It’s worth the most it’s ever going to be worth in its current condition.

Keep in mind that Second State Butcher covers are collectible in their own right, as that’s the way the album was sold when it was first released to the public. Every time someone peels one, there’s one less Second State Butcher cover left in the world. As time goes on, they’re becoming increasingly rare.

On the other hand, if there are any problems at all with the front cover, it may well be beneficial to have it professionally peeled. Such problems might include either excessive front cover wear or perhaps writing on the cover. Another example would be excessive foxing, which is an age-related deterioration of the paper that causes brownish spots or blotches to appear on the cover. Foxing is most commonly seen on white paper, so it shows up often on Second State Butcher covers that have been improperly stored.

Again, the decision is up to you. Collectors are paying surprisingly high prices for Second State issues in better than average condition these days. If your Second State Butcher cover is in exceptional condition, you won’t increase its value in any way by having it peeled.

If it has problems, however, you can turn a so-so Second State issue into a very nice and more valuable Third State issue by having it professionally peeled.

If in doubt, you might want to consult with someone who peels them professionally. They can make a recommendation, and the pros will tell you if you have an example that would be best left alone.

Whatever you do, don’t try to peel a Beatles Butcher cover yourself!

Butcher Cover Values

sealed butcher cover
A sealed, unopened mono Second State Butcher cover.

With most records, establishing value is usually pretty easy. There is usually one version of a record that’s collectible, and there’s a “going rate” for mint copies, with copies in lesser condition selling for less, with the price determined by the condition.

Establishing values for Butcher covers is a bit more complex, as the price is determined by many factors, instead of just the condition.

Here are the factors that help establish the “value” of a Butcher cover:

State – Is it a First State, Second State, or Third State issue? Each version has their own price ranges.

Format – Is the album a mono version or a stereo version? Mono copies are substantially more common than stereo copies, so stereo copies will sell for higher prices. On the other hand, the values don’t correspond to their rarity. There may be ten times as many mono copies as stereo copies, but stereo copies usually only sell for about twice as much money.

Condition – As with any collectible, condition is of the utmost importance in determining the value of a Butcher cover. The better the condition, the higher the price.

Copies that are still sealed in their original factory shrinkwrap and have never been opened have sold for astonishing amounts of money. A sealed stereo First State Butcher cover sold for $75,000 in 2015. Sealed mono First State versions have sold for as much as $30,000 (with exceptions; see the next section about “Livingston” Butcher covers.)

Values for unsealed, opened copies of First State issues have sold for anywhere from $5000-$25,000, depending on whether they are mono or stereo.

Collectors are also interested in still sealed Second State issues. While Second State versions are more common than First State issues, sealed copies are quite rare, as most people who bought the album in 1966 opened them and played them.

Sealed mono Second State versions have sold for $5000-$7000 and stereo copies have sold of upwards of $10,000.

Pricing for Second State issues can vary widely, though nice mono examples often sell for $500-$1500 and stereo copies from $1000-$3000.

The widest price ranges come with Third State issues, as the condition for copies seen on the market is all over the map. We’ve seen badly peeled Third State copies sell for as little as $50, and the condition was so poor that we thought even that price was generous.

Then again, truly pristine, professionally peeled stereo Third State issues have sold for as much as $3000, and we recently saw a nicely peeled mono Butcher cover sell for nearly $2500. It all depends on condition.

One nice thing about Butcher covers is that the demand is always there, regardless of condition. This is the one record that everyone seems to know about, even if they’re not Beatles collectors or even record collectors. Most record collectors, regardless of their interest in the Beatles, would like to have a copy of the infamous Beatles Butcher cover in their collection, and for those types of collectors, condition often doesn’t matter.

We’ve found that badly peeled Third State versions are often the easiest ones to sell, simply because they’re the most affordable for buyers. Few people have $25,000 at hand for a First State Butcher cover, but nearly everyone can find $100 or so for a badly peeled Third State version. Once you own one of those, you can rightly claim that you own perhaps the most famous record in all of record collecting.

It’s worth noting that the prices listed above are the highest examples of prices paid for pristine copies of Butcher covers in various configurations. Most copies offered for sale sell for less, though prices can vary widely according to condition, state, format, and the fluid nature of the collecting market.

The “Livingston” Butcher Covers

livingston butcher cover letter
A copy of the letter that accompanied some of the Livingston Butcher covers.

While a First State Butcher cover is generally regarded as the most desirable variation of the Yesterday and Today album, the ultimate example to own would be to have a copy of a so-called “Livingston” Butcher cover.

Alan Livingston was the president of Capitol Records in the 1960s, and he signed the Beatles to Capitol Records. He was also president of the label at the time of the release of Yesterday and Today, and he is the man who ordered Capitol employees to discontinue distribution of the original version of the cover.

Withdrawn they were, with most copies replaced with Second State issues with new cover slicks pasted over the original. Before the covers were altered, Livingston put twenty four sealed copies of the First State Butcher cover in a box and took them home. Nineteen of those copies were mono, and five were stereo.

Twenty years later, in 1986, Alan Livingston’s son Peter appeared at a Beatles convention in Los Angeles with four sealed First State copies from his father’s box – two in mono and two in stereo. He sold three of the four records that day, and eventually sold all of them.

Peter Livingston also arranged to have his father sign a notarized letter stating that he was the president of Capitol Records in the 1960s and that the accompanying record came from his personal collection.

A so-called “Livingston” Butcher cover is now among the most highly sought out records in all of Beatles collecting. With so few of them available and the impeccable provenance that comes with the letter, the prices paid for Livingston Butcher covers have steadily increased since Peter Livingston sold them for $1000 (for the mono) and $2500 (for a stereo copy) in 1986.

It has been nearly a decade since either a mono or a stereo Livingston Butcher cover has appeared for sale, but the last mono copy sold for $44,000 and the last stereo copy sold for $85,000. We personally know a collector who has offered $125,000 to one of the five owners of a stereo copy, and his offer was politely declined.

In time, it’s possible that a stereo Livingston Butcher cover may sell for $250,000, though at least one of those owners has vowed never to sell. You can read more about the Livingston Butcher cover here.

Canadian Butcher Cover

Since the original release of Yesterday and Today in 1966, the album has been released in only two other countries – Canada and Japan. The Canadian release was contemporaneous with the American version and was intended to be issued with the same cover with the infamous Butcher photo.

Unlike the American copies, which were already in transit to distributors and retailers at the time of the recall, the Canadian pressings were still in the production stage. Because of this, no Canadian versions of the Butcher cover were ever shipped to distributors or stores.

Paul White, former vice president of Capitol Records of Canada, had received two completed mono covers and a Butcher cover slick (not a completed cover) for the stereo version from the printer that was producing the cover. He gave one of the mono copies to an associate and he kept the other one, along with the stereo slick.

To date, no other examples of a Canadian mono Butcher cover has surfaced, and no completed stereo covers are known to exist. All copies shipped to stores from the day of release used the trunk cover photo, there are are no Canadian Second State copies in existence.

The Japanese version of Yesterday and Today was not released until 1970. All copies ever printed in that country used the artwork with the trunk cover.

Counterfeit Butcher Covers

counterfeit butcher cover
No, this copy is not authentic…

Sooner or later, it always happens. When a manufactured commodity becomes rare and demand increases, someone tries to fill that demand. In the case of rare records, that always comes in the form of duplication, or counterfeiting.

Like many rare Beatles records, such as Introducing the Beatles, the First State Butcher cover has been counterfeited on several occasions. Most of these copies can be easily detected by anyone with even passing familiarity with original 1960s Capitol Records Beatles albums.

The cover construction is usually different, and the printed covers usually have a slick, rather than a slightly rough, texture to them. The vinyl used on the records is usually thinner than those used on the originals, and many of the counterfeits are accompanied by colored vinyl records. All original examples of the Butcher cover were shipped with black vinyl records.

While most counterfeit Butcher covers are copies of the First State issue, there are also counterfeit trunk covers that appear to be pasteover (Second State) issues, complete with a faint outline of Ringo’s collar in the white area next to the trunk, as you would see on a true pasteover.

The copies we’ve see like this have flimsy cover construction, poor print quality, and incorrect height measurements, as they’re about 3/16″ shorter than an authentic copy.

The most recent counterfeit pasteover that we’ve seen appeared to be a stereo issue, and said so on the front and back cover, but had a number “6” in the lower right hand corner, which is ordinarily found on mono issues from the Los Angeles pressing plant.  A genuine stereo pressing from Los Angeles should have had a “5” on the back cover, rather than a “6.”

The going price for current counterfeit pressings is about $40, and many collectors find that to be an acceptable price. Be aware, however, that these pressings are unlikely to increase in value in the future, as they’re only imitations and not the real thing.

Butcher Cover Conclusion

Without a doubt, the Beatles Butcher cover is the most famous and infamous record in all of record collecting. They are rare, they are interesting, and they just happened to be a product of the most famous rock and roll group in the history of the medium.

All of those things combine to make the Butcher cover one of the most fascinating albums in the record collecting hobby, and it’s likely that mint condition copies of all three “states” of the album will continue to rise in value in the future.

It’s also amazing to look at the original cover photo some fifty years after the original release. To this day, the response from many remains unchanged from that of the public in 1966:

What were they thinking?

Click here to view our selection of Beatles albums.

Click here to see if we have a Beatles Butcher cover in stock.

Beatles – Live from the Sam Houston Colosseum rare 2 LP set

Beatles Sam Houston Colosseum

Offered for sale is a scarce 2 LP live album by the Beatles, entitled Live from the Sam Houston Colosseum.

About this copy: The cover is M- and retains its original shrink wrap.  Discs are M- and appear to have had little, if any, play.

A nice copy of a hard to find Beatles artifact.

Background: There are plenty of live recordings of the Beatles, recorded during their three American tours from 1964-1966, and one official live album, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.  Most of these recordings are poor quality, and came from low-quality sources.

The official Hollywood Bowl album offers improved sound, but features recordings from several different concerts held a year apart.

Live from the Sam Houston Colosseum, on the other hand, was recorded from a soundboard tape made by radio station KILT, which was, at that time, the predominant pop/rock radio station in the Houston, Texas area.  Recorded on August 19, 1965, this two record set contains the complete concerts from both the afternoon and evening performances.  While the screaming that you always hear in live Beatles recordings is present, the overall quality of the recording is among the best we’ve heard.

The front cover photo features an outtake photo from the 1966 sessions that produced the cover for the infamous Yesterday and Today “Butcher cover.”  The back cover photo was taken from their 1965 performance at Shea Stadium in New York.

This record is eligible for PayPal Credit financing by PayPal. U.S. customers may choose to pay later at checkout, and may receive up to six months financing with no interest. Click the banner below for more information. (opens in a popup window)

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Country of origin: U.S.
Size: 12″
Record Label: Ruthless Rhymes/Audifon
Catalog Number:
BVP 006
Year of Release: 1978
Format: Stereo
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Beatles – Yesterday and Today Capitol stereo LP

beatles yesterday and today stereo

Offered for sale is a late 1960s stereo pressing of Yesterday and Today on the Capitol rainbow label.

About this copy:  This copy of Yesterday and Today is a late 1960’s stereo pressing on the Capitol rainbow label.  This is not a Butcher cover, but a copy with the more common trunk cover.

The number 16 on the back cover indicates a Jacksonville, Illinois pressing.

The cover has a “Gold Record Award” stamp printed on the cover.

The cover is VG+, with faint ring wear and a repaired 3″ seam split.

The disc is VG+, with a few scuffs from the paper inner sleeve.

A nice clean play copy of a terrific record.

Background:  Yesterday and Today, released in June 1966, was the eighth Beatles album to be released by Capitol Records.  The original “Butcher” cover was withdrawn shortly before release and replaced with a photo of the Beatles sitting around a steamer trunk.

The album, originally released only in the U.S. and Canada,  reached #1 on the Billboard album charts.

 

Country of origin: U.S.
Size: 12″
Record Label: Capitol
Catalog Number:
ST2553
Year of Release: 1966
Format: Stereo
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Vinyl Records Value – What Are Your Records Worth?

Vinyl Records Value

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vinyl records value
Are your records valuable?

What are my records worth? That’s a common question these days as record albums are making a comeback among both casual music fans and hard core collectors. People are aware that some records are valuable, but most people don’t know exactly which records people are looking for or why they’re looking for them.

Establishing vinyl records value is an inexact science, and there are a number of factors that go into determining whether a given record is something that will bring a lot of money from a collector or something that would best be used as a place mat.

In this post, we’ll go over a number of factors that may determine the value of a particular record. Keep in mind that there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration, and it’s quite rare for a record to be valuable based on one factor alone. It’s usually a combination of things that add to a vinyl record’s value, and other factors can sometimes turn a valuable record into one that isn’t worth all that much seemingly overnight.

The list of qualities that can affect a vinyl record’s value is constantly changing, and the list shown below should not be considered to be definitive. As this post on vinyl records value is going to be fairly lengthy, we’ll divide it into sections.

Vinyl Records Value Categories

Click any of the links below to jump to each category:

Age of the Record
Who is the Artist?
Overall Scarcity
Sealed Records
Autographed Records
Commercial vs. Promotional Issues
Small Label vs. Major Label
Label Variations
Mono vs. Stereo vs. Quadraphonic
Colored Vinyl and Picture Discs
Picture Sleeves
Acetates and Test Pressings
Foreign Editions
Limited Editions
Withdrawn Releases
Counterfeit Records
Reissues and Falling Prices
Condition of the Record
Finding Recent Prices
Conclusion

Featured Items

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Age of the Record

old records
Are old records valuable?

Many of the people we’ve spoken to about records over the years have the impression that “old records” must be worth more than new ones. While the age can have an effect on a vinyl record’s value, it’s one of the less important factors. Releases from early in the career of a famous artist may have more value than those from later in their careers, particularly if they didn’t become famous right away. A good example of this would be the recordings of Elvis Presley. While his first five records for the Memphis-based Sun label sold reasonably well for their day, their sales figures were minuscule compared to those of his later releases on RCA, making the Sun versions fairly valuable.

On the other hand, records by artists that are not of interest to collectors will have little value, regardless of age. There are many records in the easy listening genre from the 1950s, such as those by Ray Conniff or Percy Faith, that are now some 60 years old, but they still sell for only a couple of dollars in most used records stores, provided they bother to offer them for sale at all.

“Old records” may have some value, but as a rule, it’s not because they’re old. It’s because of something else.

Who is the Artist?

This should be obvious, but the artist in question will be a big factor in determining the value of a record. While tens of thousands of artists have released records since the invention of the medium, not all of them interest the public in equal measure.

Some artists are simply more popular as well as more collectible than others. Artists in the rock, blues, jazz, classical and soul categories tend to be more collectible than those in the easy listening, country, spoken word or comedy categories.

Famous artists' records tend to be more valuable
Famous artists’ records tend to be more valuable

Some artists tend to have a longtime following, while others are popular only while they are actively recording. With the former, such as Elvis Presley, Pink Floyd, blues singer Robert Johnson, or the Beatles, many of their records remain both valuable and highly collectible long after they stopped recording or even after their deaths.

Other artists may have had records with high values only during the time they were recording, with prices in the collector market dropping considerably after they finished their careers or when they passed away.

In the late 1970s, for example, Todd Rundgren and the Cars were highly collectible, but these days, there’s little interest in their recordings. On the other hand, records by the Beatles are selling for the highest prices ever and prices remain steady more than 40 years after they released their last album.

Exceptions to that exist; that can come in the form of artists who were never particularly popular, but who were influential in the industry. That’s true of artists such as Robert Johnson, the Velvet Underground, or the Stooges. None of these artists were very successful and their records sold poorly when new. All three were enormous influences on other musicians, however, and as a result, their records sell for surprisingly high prices today.

Still, as a rule, popular artists will have records with higher values than obscure ones.

Overall Scarcity

This factor is pretty straightforward when it comes to vinyl records value; records that sold well and are quite common are going to be less valuable than records that sold poorly or are hard to find. A lot of albums sold in the 1970s and early 1980s sold millions of copies when new, and as such, it isn’t difficult to find copies in nice, playable condition.

That being the case, such records aren’t likely to sell for very much money in the collectors market.

Even best-selling records can get scarce over time
Even best-selling records can get scarce over time

On the other hand, even records that sold well when new can become scarce in time, especially when one takes the condition of the record into account. Albums by Elvis Presley and the Beatles sold millions of copies when they were first released, but finding nice original copies of those records now can be difficult, as many have been thrown away or damaged through heavy play or abuse.

People have tended to take better care of their records in recent decades, so it’s a lot easier to find a nice copy of a 1980s album by Bruce Springsteen than it is to find a 1960s album by the Rolling Stones, for example.

“Common” is also relative; records that sold well in the 1950s and 1960s still sold in substantially smaller quantities than those sold in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1950s, it was rare for even a popular album to sell much more than a million copies. By the 1980s, albums selling more than 5 million copies were relatively common.

What the “common vs. scarce” factor means is that the most valuable record by a particular artist may not be their best-known title, but rather one that was disregarded by the public and/or critics when originally released, making it relatively scarce today. A good example of this would be Music from the Elder by Kiss, released in 1981. Released after a string of best-selling albums, Music from the Elder had a different sound from their previous releases and offered no hit songs and no songs that regularly received airplay. As a result, the album soon went out of print.

The group went back to making records that were similar to their earlier releases and sales of subsequent albums were brisk, making Music From the Elder a collector’s item.

Sealed Records

One factor that’s of vital importance in determining a vinyl record’s value is condition, which we’ll discuss at length later. Because the condition of a record is held to be important by collectors, the ideal example of a record to own, in the eyes of many collectors, would be one that has never been played at all. Because of this, collectors will often pay a huge premium for sealed, unopened examples of records they are seeking.

sealed recordsWhen record albums were first offered in the late 1940s, they were sold without any external wrapping on the cover. Customers in record stores could remove the records from the cover and many stores would even allow them to play the records to help them make a buying decision. This led to problems with both theft and damage, and by the early 1960s, a number of large retailers started sealing their albums in plastic bags. Eventually, this practice was picked up by the major record companies, who began protecting their covers with shrink wrap.

In general, a copy of an album that is still in original, unopened shrink wrap will sell for a lot more money than one that is in opened condition, even if the opened copy has not been played.

The difference in price can range from modest to quite significant, depending on the artist and title. A sealed copy of a relatively recent release may carry a small premium over an opened copy, but older and/or more desirable titles may exhibit a substantially larger premium. Sealed copies of older albums by the Beatles might sell for as much as ten times the price of an opened example, for instance.

This is a case where age can affect vinyl records value, as the older an album is, the harder it is to find a copy that has never been opened or played.

Autographed Records

autographed record
An example of an autographed record.

One factor that can influence vinyl records value is having the autograph of the artist on it. While autographed albums and single aren’t particularly common (while forgeries of them are), they usually do command a premium over regular copies of the record that are not signed.

Autographed records that are personalized, such as “To Jane, best wishes…” tend to sell for less money than those that simply have the artist’s signature on it. When it comes to musical groups and autographs, albums that are autographed by the entire group will sell for substantially higher prices than those with the signatures of some, but not all, members.

Autographed records with provenance, such as a photograph of the artist signing the record, tend to bring the highest prices of all.

Commercial vs. Promotional Issues

One factor that can affect vinyl records value is if the record in question is a promotional issue, as opposed to a commercial, or “stock,” copy of the record. Promotional, or “promo,” copies of a record are often identified in some way, and they often have a special label that indicates that the particular records was made for promotional, or radio station, use. While the labels on most records are colored, many promotional issues have white labels, which has led to the term “white label promo” being used among collectors.

promotional recordPromotional copies of records are usually pressed before stock copies to ensure that they reach radio stations prior to the commercial release of the record. They are also pressed in relatively small quantities compared to stock copies of the same records. While an album may sell in the millions, there may be only a few hundred promotional copies made of that same record, making them collector’s items.

Sometimes, promotional copies of a particular record may be different from the stock counterpart. The promotional copies of the Beatles’ single “Penny Lane” had a different ending than the version of the song on the stock copies of the single, making these rare copies quite valuable in comparison to the million-selling stock counterpart.

On other occasions, a record may be issued only as a promotional item. Such albums may be live recordings, made for radio broadcast, or perhaps compilation albums, again intended to stimulate airplay. These “promo-only” releases are usually sought after by collectors, though the interest in them will be directly related to the interest in the artist. A promo-only Rolling Stones record, for example, will attract far more interest from collectors than one by Andy Williams.

As a rule, a promotional copy of any record will command higher prices in the collector’s market than the stock counterpart, though there are occasional situations where the opposite is true. Some records have sold so poorly in the stores that the promotional copies are actually more common than the stock counterparts. A good example of this is the Beatles’ first single, “My Bonnie,” which was credited to Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers. Promotional copies with a pink label, while relatively rare, are probably ten times more common than the stock copies with black labels, of which fewer than 20 copies are known to exist.

We have written an extensive article about white label promo records; you can read it here. (new window)

Small Label vs. Major Label

Jim Reeves first album on the small Abbott label.
Jim Reeves first album on the small Abbott label.

This issue of scarcity comes into play when one looks at whether a particular record was released by a small, regional label or a large national one. Larger labels have national distribution and multiple pressing plants, and popular records might be pressed in the millions. Smaller labels might press only a few hundred or several thousand copies of a particular record.

There are examples of records being initially released on small labels and then later released on larger labels when the small record company negotiated a distribution deal with the larger label in order to sell more records. An example of this would be the 1963 surf album Pipeline by the Chantays, which was originally released on the California-based Downey label. When the song became a hit, Downey struck a deal with the nationally distributed Dot records to have them release the album instead. Today, copies of the album on the Downey label are far harder to find than their Dot counterparts, and sell for higher prices.

Sometimes an artist will release records on a small label and then move to a larger one. In these cases, their earlier releases tend to be more collectible than their later ones. The country group Alabama released a couple of albums on the small LSI label under the name “Wild Country” before changing their name and moving to the large RCA label. As the records by the group issued by RCA sold quite well, they tend to sell for modest prices. The two albums on LSI, on the other hand, are quite rare and sell for several hundred dollars or more when they’re offered for sale.

Another example, also in the country genre, is the first album by Jim Reeves. His first album, Jim Reeves Sings, was issued in 1956 on the small Abbott label. When that album began to sell well, Reeves moved to major label RCA. While his RCA albums sell for modest prices, his lone album on Abbot has sold for as much as $1000.

Label Variations

One album, 6 labels. One is worth $10; one is worth $10,000!
One album, 6 labels. One is worth $10; one is worth $10,000!

A significant factor in determining a vinyl record’s value is the label on the record itself. A given album or single might have been released with several different labels on the disc itself, even among releases by the same record company.

Record companies often change the appearance of the labels used on their records. While it has happened less often in recent decades, changes in label art an appearance were quite common among the major labels during the 1960s and 1970s.

Records by the Beatles, for instance, were released by Capitol Records on a black label with a rainbow colored perimeter, a green label, a red label, a custom Apple label, an orange label, a purple label, and a new version of the original black label, all over a period of about 20 years.

As a rule, collectors tend to favor original pressings, so for a given title, the most desirable label variation would be whichever one was in use on the day the record was originally release for sale to the public. There are exceptions to this, however. The red Capitol label mentioned above was commonly used in the early 1970s for a number of titles, but was never intended to be used for records by the Beatles. A few copies of the band’s Revolver and Yesterday and Today albums were accidentally issued with that label, and despite not being “original” issues, they do sell for quite a lot of money on the collector’s market.

Sometimes, minor differences on labels can make a difference, as well. The first copies of Meet the Beatles to be sold in America were rushed to the stores without including publishing information for the songs on the record. While later copies had either “BMI” or “ASCAP” after each song title, the very first issues of the album sold in stores lacked this text. While this might seem to be a minor matter, the difference in value between a copy that lacks the text and one that has it can be more than $1000, depending on condition.

As many albums by popular artists have remained in print for many years, or even decades, the label on the record in question is often a significant factor in determining that vinyl record’s value.

Mono vs. Stereo vs. Quadraphonic

mono record stereo recordA significant factor that can affect a vinyl record’s value is the format. Until 1957, records were sold only in mono. Between 1957 and 1968, records were usually sold in both mono and stereo, and between about 1972 and 1976, a few records were available in 4 channel quadraphonic sound. During the time when records were sold in more than one format simultaneously, one of the formats was usually pressed in smaller quantities than the other. Mono records were more common than their stereo counterparts in the early 1960s, for instance, but were the harder variation to find by 1968. Quadraphonic pressings were always intended for a niche market, and never sold in large quantities, except in the few cases where all copies of a particular title were encoded in quadraphonic sound.

While the value of a mono record in relation to its stereo counterpart will depend on when the record was released, quadraphonic copies are almost always worth more money than the same album in stereo.

The topic of mono vs. stereo is a complex one, and we have previously cover that in detail in another article which you can read here. (new window.)

Colored Vinyl and Picture Discs

picture disc recordsWhile most records are pressed from black vinyl, sometimes other colors are used. On rare occasions, a special process is used to create a picture disc, which has a photograph or other graphics actually embedded in the record’s playing surface. With few exceptions, colored vinyl and picture disc pressings are limited editions, and are usually far harder to find than their black vinyl counterparts.

Both colored vinyl pressings and picture discs have been issued as commercial releases and as promo-only releases. In the early 1960s, Columbia Records would occasionally press promotional copies of both singles and albums on colored vinyl (we’ve seen red, yellow, blue, green, and purple) in order to grab the attention of radio programmers.

In the late 1970s, picture discs were often pressed as promotional items and became quite popular among collectors. Most of these were pressed in quantities of only a few hundred copies.

More often, colored vinyl and picture disc records are issued as limited edition pressings, created to spur interest among buyers. Most of these titles are also available on regular (and more common) black vinyl.

As with everything else on this list, there are occasional exceptions to the rule. Elvis Presley’s last album to be issued while he was alive was Moody Blue, which was pressed on blue vinyl when originally released. A couple of months later, RCA Records decided to press the album on black vinyl as a cost-cutting move, which would have made the blue pressings rare and desirable. Shortly after this decision was made, Elvis passed away, and the label made the decision to return to blue vinyl for that album, and all pressings for the next ten years or so were issued blue vinyl. In the case of Moody Blue, it’s the black vinyl pressings that are actually the rare ones.

We’ve written articles about colored vinyl and picture discs, and you can read it here:

Colored vinyl article (new window)
Picture disc article (new window)

Picture Sleeves

A rare Can't Buy Me Love picture sleeve.
A rare Can’t Buy Me Love picture sleeve.

While vinyl record albums usually include printed covers, most 45 RPM singles do not, as they were generally issued in plain paper sleeves. It was not uncommon, however, for singles to be issued in special printed sleeves bearing the title of the song, the name of the artist and perhaps a graphic or photograph. These are known as picture sleeves, and most of the time, these picture sleeves were available only with the original issues of the records. While not intended as limited edition items per se, picture sleeves were designed to spur sales and were often discontinued once sales of the record began to pick up.

For various reasons, some picture sleeves are harder to find than others, and there are a number of records, some by famous artists, where certain picture sleeves are rare to the point where only a few copies are known to exist. Some picture sleeves, such as “Street Fighting Man” by the Rolling Stones, which was withdrawn prior to release, can sell for more than $10,000.

Others are rare, but not to that degree. The picture sleeve for the Beatles’ single “Can’t Buy Me Love” were commercially available, but were only printed by one of Capitol Records’ pressing plants, making it available only for a short time and only in the eastern United States. It’s one of the rarest commercially available Beatles picture sleeves, and mint copies have sold for more than $1000.

This is one of the factors that pretty much has no exceptions; a record with a picture sleeve is always more valuable than the same record without one.

Acetates and Test Pressings

test pressing recordWhile the majority of records are standard issues that were manufactured with the intention that they be sold in stores, some are pre-production versions that were made for in-house use at the record companies prior to making the stock pressings.

Acetates, or lacquers, as they are more properly known, are records that are individually cut on a lathe by a recording engineer. The recordings are cut on metal plates that are coated with soft lacquer. Acetates are the first step in the process of making a record, as they can be plated with metal and used to make stampers for production of the copies sold in stores.

They can also be played on a turntable and are often used to evaluate the sound of a song or an album prior to putting it into formal production. While acetates can be played as one would play any regular record, they don’t wear particularly well and will become quite noisy after only a few plays.

On rare occasions, acetates have been sent to radio stations as promotional items when regular pressings were not yet available.

As acetates are cut one at a time, they are understandably rare, and command a high value in the market place as they are both rare and unusual.

Test pressings are a bit more common than acetates, and are made to test stampers prior to mass produced production runs. They are usually the first pressings made from a set of stampers, and can be distinguished by their labels, which will differ from those used on stock pressings. Test pressings may have blank white labels or they may have special labels that indicate that they are test pressings. These custom labels usually have blank lines printed on them so that the people working with them can write the title and artist on the labels by hand.

As with acetates, test pressings are usually used for evaluation purposes by record company personnel, though they are occasionally sent out as promotional items. As they are rather unusual and limited in production to just a handful of copies, test pressings are highly regarded and sought out by collectors. Sometimes, test pressings may contain different versions of one or more songs from the commercially released albums. This can also add to their value.

Test pressings of Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 album Born to Run were sent to radio stations in a cover that had the album title in a different font from commercial releases. These so-called “Script Cover” pressings of the album have sold for more than $1000.

We have written a more in-depth article about test pressings and acetates. You can read it here. (new window)

Foreign Editions

A unique Beatles album from Denmark.
A unique Beatles album from Denmark.

Records pressed in foreign countries are often of interest to record collectors. While most collectors are interested in records from the country where they live, a lot of them are interested in owning anything unusual by the artists that interest them.

Most record albums are designed by record companies in either the United States or Great Britain, and most releases from either country are nearly identical. Other countries, however, have been known to create dramatically different versions of records from the U.S. or UK counterparts.

Sometimes, foreign pressings may have different titles, or different covers from the more common versions from the U.S. or UK. On other occasions, record companies in other countries may choose to press albums on colored vinyl.

Many albums from Japan from the late 1950s through the early 1970s were pressed on dark red vinyl. Japanese pressings were also issued with a paper sash, or “obi,” that wrapped around the cover and provided information for the buyer in Japanese.

These pressings are highly regarded by collectors for both their unusual appearance and their sound quality.

If an artist is not from the United States, collectors will often seek out records from the artist’s country of origin. While many American Beatles records are worth a lot of money, so are those from Great Britain, as the band released records there prior to releasing them in the U.S.

Prices for foreign (non-U.S.) records can vary widely, depending on age, condition, and all of the other factors mentioned in this article. In general, collectors in the United States will always be interested, to some degree, in any foreign record by artists whose records they collect.

We’ve written a detailed article about Japanese records. You can read it here. (new window)

Limited Editions

A numbered, limited edition Beatles album.
A numbered, limited edition Beatles album.

While scarcity can be a major factor in a vinyl record’s value, intentional scarcity can affect it even more. While limited edition pressings of albums are a relatively new thing, they are now quite common, with record companies intentionally limiting releases to a few hundred or a few thousand copies.

In past decades, when records were the predominant format for selling music, record companies were content to sell as many copies as possible of a given title. In recent years, records have become more of a niche item, and record companies are somewhat hesitant to spend the money to master, press, and distribute them. By producing only a limited number of a given title, and by making it publicly known that production will be limited to xxx number of copies, the record companies have a greater likelihood of having a particular title sell out quickly, rather than sitting on a shelf for a period of months or years.

Sometimes, these limited editions are individually numbered, while most are not. Sometimes, a limited number of copies of a given album will be pressed on colored vinyl, with a larger number pressed on black vinyl. In some cases, such as with the soundtrack album to the 2010 film Inception, all copies are colored vinyl and they are numbered as well.

Limited edition pressings my most any artist will have some value above the original selling price, as record companies are unlikely to issue limited edition pressings if there is no established market for them.

The exception to this would be records from companies that do not ordinarily release records, such as the Franklin Mint. Over the years, the Franklin Mint has released a number of recordings as limited edition sets, usually spanning many volumes. Most of these recordings were also pressed on colored vinyl and the sets were marketed in mass media to consumers who were not record collectors. These recordings have little value unless they are offered in complete sets, some of which came with as many as 100 records.

Withdrawn Releases

The original withdrawn "Butcher cover" version of Yesterday and Today.
The original withdrawn “Butcher cover” version of Yesterday and Today.

Occasionally, record companies release an album or single, only to change their mind and withdraw it from general release. This can happen for a number of reasons, ranging from a corporate decision that may or may not have anything to do with the record itself, a decision by the artist to change the product after release, or even an announcement by prominent retailers that they will refuse to sell the record as released.

Regardless of the reason for withdrawing the record from circulation, such releases will naturally be scarce, hard to find, and in demand among collectors. More often than not, withdrawn releases will also command substantial prices on the collector market.

Listed below are a few examples of record albums which were withdrawn from the market shortly before or shortly after being released to stores.

Angel – Bad Publicity – The 1979 album Bad Publicity had a cover that depicted the band having a raucus party in a hotel room. After only a handful of copies had been issued as promotional items, the album was withdrawn, retitled to Sinful, and released with completely different artwork showing the band in white suits against a white background.

Prince – The Black Album – In 1987, Prince intended to release an untitled album that had an all-black cover on which neither a title nor the name of the artist appeared. The so-called “Black Album” was withdrawn prior to release by Prince himself, for reasons that remain unclear to this day. A few copies have leaked out over the years, and they have sold for as much as $10,000.

The Beatles – When retailers complained about the original cover art for the Beatles’ 1966 album Yesterday and Today, which showed the band sitting on a bench with broken dolls and raw meat, Capitol Records ordered all copies returned from stores and radio stations. The cover was replaced by a picture of the band sitting around a steamer trunk.

This so-called “Butcher Cover” is perhaps the best known record in all of record collecting, and copies have sold for thousands of dollars.

We have written an extensive article about the Beatles Butcher cover. You can read it here. (new window)

Counterfeit Records

Original (color) and counterfeit (black and white)
Original (color) and counterfeit (black and white)

Whenever there’s a commodity that is worth money to people, there are unscrupulous people who try to take advantage of them by forging that commodity. Paintings have been forged, currency has been counterfeited, and unfortunately, so have many rare records.

While there are many factors that go into determining vinyl records value, perhaps none is more important than the need for the record to be an original pressing and not a counterfeit pressing created at a later date to resemble the original issue.

Counterfeit records first appeared on the market in the late 1960s or early 1970s and while the early attempts were rather obvious and fairly crude, technology has improved in recent years, making many counterfeit records difficult for the layman to identify. The practice isn’t limited to rare or valuable titles, either, as a number of mass-produced titles were counterfeited in the late 1970s. These titles were sold by chain record stores alongside the legitimate record company issues.

If a record routinely sells for a lot of money, there is a good chance that the title in question has been counterfeited. Many albums by the Beatles, along with other popular artists such as the Yardbirds, Elvis Presley, and Pink Floyd, have been counterfeited. In a few cases, such as the Beatles album Introducing the Beatles, counterfeit copies may actually outnumber the real ones.

It goes without saying that a counterfeit copy of a rare record will have limited value when compared with an original pressing.

We have written an extensive article about counterfeit records. You can read it here. (new window)

Reissues and Falling Prices

One factor that can significantly affect a vinyl record’s value is the availability of reissues. In the 1950s through the mid-1970s, record companies kept close tabs on whether an album was selling well or poorly. Poor selling albums were usually removed from the catalog and existing copies were sold at a discount. Starting in the 1980s, record companies took a different approach, and reduced the prices of slow-selling records, keeping them in print but offering them for sale at a lower price point.

Collectors often become interested in records that have gone out of print, and the prices for these no longer available titles can get quite high, depending on the artist and title. In these cases, collectors are usually paying high prices simply to hear the music. Record companies do pay attention to such market trends, and today, it’s quite common to see newly-pressed reissues of albums for sale that haven’t been available on the market in decades.

In the case of some albums, which may have only been originally for sale from small record companies, these reissues might actually sell more copies than the original album. When an album is reissued, the original vinyl record’s value usually falls in the marketplace. While some collectors remain interested in owning an early or an original pressing of a recently reissued album, there are others who are only interested in hearing the music, and will be happy to own a reissued version of the album instead.

Reissues can often affect a vinyl record’s value dramatically, and sometimes, the price of original pressings can drop as much as 90% when a formerly rare album again becomes available as a newly-released record.

Condition of the Record

While all of the factors listed above are important when it comes to evaluating a vinyl record’s value, perhaps none is as important as the condition of the record. Most mass produced records sold over the past 60 years or so have been poorly cared for by their owners. They may have been played on low-quality equipment, stored outside of their covers, and handled by their playing surfaces, rather than their edges.

Record changers, which were phonographs that were capable of playing up to a dozen records in sequence, were popular in the 1960s and 1970s and were particularly prone to adding scratches and abrasions to a record’s playing surface. Many covers were poorly stored, leading to ring wear or splits in the covers. Furthermore, owners often wrote their names or other information on the record’s cover or label.

Condition matters a lot.
Condition matters a lot.

Collectors are interested in buying records in the best possible condition, and ideally, they’d like to own copies of all of their records in the same condition in which they were originally sold – mint and unplayed, with pristine covers.

Finding a copy of any record that is more than 20 years old in such condition is quite difficult, and the value of a record can vary widely depending on its condition. In the case of many records from the late 1950s and early 1960s, finding worn and nearly-unplayable copies of a particular record might be relatively easy, while finding one in mint condition may be nearly impossible.

In the case of such records, a mint copy might sell for 50 times as much money as a worn-out copy of the same record.

When it comes to a vinyl record’s value, condition is paramount, and worn copies of a record usually sell for modest amounts of money except in the cases of items that are rare to the point of being unique.

In the case of records that are common to moderately rare, anything copy that isn’t in something close to new condition may have little to no value at all.

While some collectors are willing to accept “filler” copies of a rare record in poor to average condition until they find a better copy, most buyers prefer to buy only once, and will hold out for the best possible copy they can find.

What does all of this mean? It means that if you’re someone who has a box of “old records” and you want to know about those vinyl records’ value, you’ll likely discover that they’re common titles in average to poor condition and they’re likely not worth very much money.

On the other hand, if you have a rare record that is also in exceptionally nice condition, you’ll likely be able to sell it for a premium price.

Finding Recent Prices

Starting in the late 1970s, the easiest way to find out about vinyl records value was to consult a price guide. Over the past 40 years, a number of books have been published every other year or so that list the value of certain types of records. There are price guides for rock albums, jazz albums, classical albums, 45 RPM singles, country records, and soundtrack and original cast recordings. There are also specialty price guides for records from Japan, records by the Beatles and records by Elvis Presley.

A record price guide.
A record price guide.

While these guides have served collectors and sellers fairly well, the books are bulky, somewhat expensive, and have a tendency to become outdated rather quickly. That’s not to say that they aren’t useful; on the contrary, they serve as valuable references. Furthermore, even the outdated price guides can offer insight as to how a vinyl record’s value has increased over time. It’s amusing to look at price guides from the late 1970s to see how albums that might sell for $1000 today were once listed as having a value of $35 or so.

Record price guides are still published today and they’re still useful tools. On the other hand, there are also some online tools that can provide some more accurate and up to date information regarding vinyl records value. Several sites, for example, monitor the sales of records on the eBay auction site and archive them, making it possible for you to see what a particular records might have sold for yesterday, or last month, or even five years ago.

As there are millions of records for sale on eBay, including multiple copies of most records at one time, the marketplace is somewhat of a buyer’s market, which means that the prices of most records sold on the site are somewhat lower than they might be in a record store or in a private transaction between two collectors.

Still, the millions of record sales on the site each year do provide some good insight into overall vinyl records value, and can also show trends over the past decade or so. This makes it easy to see if a particular record is increasing in value over time or going down as interest sometimes wanes.

While there are a number of different sites that track and archive record sales on eBay, the two we use most often are:

Popsike.com – This site is free to use for a limited, but unspecified, number of searches. After a certain number of searches, you’ll be asked to register, which is free. If you exceed a further (unspecified) limit, you’ll be asked to subscribe. Currently, the cost of subscribing to Popsike is about $35 per year, though most users will never use the service enough to reach the threshold that requires paying a subscription fee.

Popsike’s home page has a few lists of popular searches, as well as lists of recent sales in certain popular categories, such as blues, Beatles, classic rock, jazz, and classical. You can search by artist or title and you can sort results by price or date of sale. Popsike has listings for record sales on eBay going back to 2003, though they note that their database is neither definitive nor exhaustive.

Collectors Frenzy – We also like Collector’s Frenzy. This site’s homepage has a quick list of the 20 records that have sold on eBay from the previous day. There’s a calendar on the page so that you can go back a day, a week, a month, or more. You can also search the site to find examples of a particular title that may have sold in the past. The site has simpler search features than Popsike, and the database doesn’t seem to go back quite as far. But the “what sold yesterday” tool is quite useful just to get a sense of current trends in pricing.

Vinyl Records Value Conclusion

We hear from people all the time – “I have some records. What are they worth?” With most commodities, the answer is a fairly simple one. If you have an ounce of gold, it’s worth a certain amount of money. The same applies to a barrel of oil.

That’s not the case with records, however. Vinyl records value is determined by a number of factors, including condition, scarcity, the name of the artist, and a host of other things, both obvious and obscure.

Because the value of a particular record is tied to so many factors, it’s difficult to give a general answer as to its value without knowing all of the particulars about that particular pressing.

The quickest way to find out is to check with Popsike or Collector’s Frenzy for a quick glance at recent sales. Keep in mind that these prices reflect retail sales, and not the amount of money that you’d receive if you’re selling to a store or a reseller. Keep in mind that the highest prices are paid for copies in near mint condition, which may or may not apply to the records you currently have in your possession.

Record collecting is a fascinating hobby, however, and the many factors that can go into determining vinyl records value are among the things that keep the hobby interesting to collectors.

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