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.

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.

This is perhaps the nicest example of a third-state 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.

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.

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

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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)

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.

Click here to visit our rare records store.

Most Valuable Vinyl Records – The Top 10 Rarest Albums

Most Valuable Vinyl Records

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most valuable vinyl records Vinyl records have made a comeback in recent years, and as a result, people are often searching for information about them online. One of the most popular searches, oddly enough, is for the phrase most valuable vinyl records.

People know that some records are more valuable than others, and that many records are quite expensive. As a lot of people are now giving thought to the boxes of records in their attic or basement that they haven’t touched in decades, it makes sense that they might have a curiosity as to whether they personally own any of the most valuable vinyl records.

The short answer is – they don’t, and neither do you. That’s not because you don’t have good taste in records or that you simply bought the wrong ones in the store all those years ago.

The real reason that you, or any randomly selected individual, don’t own any of the most valuable vinyl records is because, with few exceptions, nearly all of the most valuable vinyl records are highly unusual, one-of-a-kind items.

We’re talking about things like Elvis Presley’s cut-with-a-lathe acetate of “My Happiness”, or the one acetate of “That’ll Be the Day” by the pre-Beatles Quarrymen, or the intentionally pressed-in-a-quantity-of-one albums by the Wu Tang Clan (Once Upon a Time in Shaolin) or Jean-Michele Jarre (Music for Supermarkets).

Those records are indeed the most valuable vinyl records, but they’re all unique, aren’t likely to change hands anytime soon, won’t be affordable if they do, and aren’t records that anyone reading this article actually own.

We suspect that when people do a search for “most valuable vinyl records”, what they really want to know is “Do I personally own any of the world’s most valuable vinyl records?” We know that when we bought our first record price guides back in the late 1970s, the first thing we did was look up records we owned to see if we had anything that was worth a lot of money.

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Click here to browse some of the rarest records we have in our store.

We didn’t, of course, and that’s because nearly all of the top 100 of the world’s most valuable vinyl records are individually cut acetates, test pressings, pre-production (not commercially released) items that were never formally released, or other items that likely would only have been available to record company employees or in some cases, only to the artists themselves. A few other items on the list are ultra-rare pre-World War II blues 78s and ultra-rare 45 RPM singles that were released on tiny regional record labels and were quickly forgotten.

That being the case, we put this article together to list some of the world’s most valuable vinyl records, but with a bit of a twist. This article will cover the rare and the valuable, but only record albums, and only albums that were actually commercially available. We’re leaving out the 45 and 78 RPM singles because on this site, we focus on albums, so we’ll restrict the list to that format only.

That is, these are albums that were, at least in theory, sold in stores and records to which the general public might have been able to purchase at one time or another.

We’ll list 10 of the world’s most valuable vinyl records, more or less in order of value. Keep in mind that these are prices for items that have been sold publicly. Obviously, private sales are just that, and we have no idea as to the sorts of deals that may have gone on between private collectors.

World’s Most Valuable Records – The Top 10

It likely won’t surprise most readers to see that a majority of the most valuable vinyl records are by the Beatles. They are perhaps the most heavily collected artist, and the single biggest-selling band of all time. With that kind of interest, it only stands to reason that a number of albums by the Beatles would appear on a list such as this one.

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

Beatles – Yesterday and Today sealed stereo “first state” Butcher cover (1966) – $125,000 – The infamous withdrawn pressings of the Beatles 1966 American LP Yesterday and Today are perhaps the most sought out album in history. The album was intended to be released with a photo that depicted the Beatles dressed in butcher smocks, posing with chunks of raw meat and parts of disassembled toy dolls. This cover became known as the “Butcher Cover.”

The response to review copies of the album was hostile, and stores were threatening not to stock the album when it was formally released to the public. Capitol Records changed their mind about the cover and printed new ones…which they then pasted over the photo with the dolls.

While the covers with the second cover pasted over the first one, known as “second state” Butcher covers, are collectible, the “first state” covers that never had the second cover pasted over it are among the rarest and most valuable of all records. Most of the review copies were sent back to the record company at their request, though it appears that a handful of copies were sold at retail in Southern California. Mono copies are considerably rarer than their stereo counterparts, and only a handful of copies survive today in pristine, still-sealed (unopened) condition.

There may be a few dozen sealed mono copies in existence, but there are likely fewer than 10 known sealed stereo copies, and one of them sold for $125,000 in 2016.

While a sealed stereo “first state” Butcher cover can sell for six figures, even a mint one can sell for considerable amounts of money, and copies have sold for more than $15,000

Mono sealed copies, mono or stereo opened copies, intact second state copies and peeled “third state” copies of this album sell for considerably less, sometimes for as little as $100, depending on condition.

Click here to read a more comprehensive article about the Beatles Butcher cover.

freewheelin bob dylanBob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan with withdrawn tracks (1963) $35,000 – Bob Dylan’s first album, released in 1962, drew some critical notice but didn’t sell well enough to make the Billboard charts. His second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, on the other hand, drew attention and sold well enough to reach #22 on the American Billboard album chart.

The album consisted mostly of self-written material, including the now-classics “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”

The album was issued in both mono and stereo, but at Dylan’s request, four songs were withdrawn from the album shortly before release and replaced with new ones.

The intended original album contained the songs:

  • “Rocks and Gravel”
  • “Let Me Die in My Footsteps”
  • “Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand”
  • “Talkin’ John Birch Blues”

These songs were replaced with:

  • “Girl From the North Country”
  • “Masters of War”
  • “Bob Dylan’s Dream”
  • “Talkin’ World War III Blues”

Even though the original version of the album was ready for release, new stampers were manufactured with the new songs, and the album shipped to stores on the scheduled day of release with the second set of songs.

It appears, however, that at some point during the early days of manufacturing the album, a few copies were accidentally pressed using the stampers for the original intended version of the album. On the mono copies, the labels listed the second set of songs, but actually played the withdrawn tracks. These can be identified by either playing the record or by examining the stamped numbers in the “dead wax” area near the label. The numbers on the rare version of the album end in -1, followed by a letter. Later pressings have “2” (or higher) as the final digit.

Only a dozen or so mono copies have been found so far, and only two copies have been found in stereo. The stereo pressings are easier to identify, as not only do the records play the original songs, but the labels also list the original songs.

Mono copies have sold for as much as $12,000, but one of the two known stereo copies sold a few years ago for $35,000. As these were pressed by mistake, these copies may very well have found their way into record stores back in 1963, and it’s possible that more copies are still out there.

beatles frank ifieldThe Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage (1964) $30,000 – When the Beatles first started releasing records in Britain, their UK label, Parlophone, offered their contract to the label’s American counterpart, Capitol. Capitol declined the offer, as English acts hadn’t sold particularly well in the U.S. up to that point.

Tiny Vee Jay Records ended up with the contract. They released a few singles that went nowhere, and gave up. When Capitol announced their intentions to release the Meet the Beatles album in early 1964, Vee Jay realized that they had a bunch of Beatles material sitting in their vaults.

A lawsuit from Capitol prohibited Vee Jay from releasing any Beatles product after October, 1964, but between January and October of that year, they released Introducing the Beatles, Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Beatles (a reissue of that album with a different title), The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons (that album again, along with a Four Seasons LP) and Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield.

Frank Ifield was an English singer whose biggest hit was “I Remember You,” which reached #5 on the U.S. charts in 1962. The Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield LP was a collection of eight songs by Ifield, along with four tracks by the Beatles: “Please Please Me”, “From Me to You”, “Ask Me Why”, and “Thank You Girl”.

That album was released in February, 1964 with a cover depicting a drawing of an old man with a mustache wearing a Beatle wig. The album sold poorly, and in October of that year, looking for a last-minute boost in sales before their rights to sell Beatles records went away, Vee Jay made some changes to the album:

  • The title was changed, dropping the “Jolly What!”, but retaining the “On Stage,” suggesting that the album was a live recording, which it was not.
  • All four Beatles song titles (but none by Ifield) were listed on the cover
  • The cover was changed to one with a drawing of the four members of the Beatles
  • “The Beatles” was printed in a lighter, easier-to-read font than was “Frank Ifield”

The new cover was only available for a few weeks and while exact pressing figures are unknown, it’s likely, based on sales over the years, that only a few hundred mono copies were pressed, and likely fewer than 100 stereo copies were pressed.

The version of the album with the old man on the cover is rare, and copies sell in the $100-$400 range, depending on condition and whether they are mono or stereo.

Mono copies of the second cover are rare and sell in the $5000-$10,000 range. The stereo pressing is one of the most valuable vinyl records sold in the U.S. by the Beatles and a sealed copy was offered for sale a few years ago by a prominent Los Angeles record store for $30,000.

Those looking to cash in should be aware that both the mono and stereo copies of this album have been counterfeited, with most counterfeit copies lacking the printing of the album’s title on the spine of the cover.

white album low numberThe Beatles – The Beatles (aka “The White Album”) low-numbered copies (1968) $10,000+ – After the 1967 LP Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album that had an unusually elaborate cover, the Beatles went minimalist on their 1968 follow-up. Titled simply The Beatles, the album had a cover that was all white, though the name of the band was embossed on the cover.

In addition, every copy of the album sold during its initial release was individually numbered. Multiple copies were made in both the U.S. (in stereo only) and in the UK (in mono and in stereo) bearing #1. These were given to members of the group and to high-ranking record company employees.

A few years ago, Ringo Starr sold his personal mono copy with #1 on it in an auction and it sold for $750,000!

All other copies were consecutively numbered (though various numbering systems were used) on both U.S. and UK pressings and copies numbered into the millions. One would think that since every copy bears a unique number that all copies should share equal value, but collectors are particularly interested in finding copies that have low numbers.

Pricing can vary dramatically for numbered copies of The Beatles depending on the number. A mint copy with a six or seven digit number might sell for $100 or so, but copies numbered under 100,000 draw higher prices, and the prices increase substantially for copies lower than 10,000, 1000, or 100. In 2008, a UK copy with #5 sold for £19,201 (about $27,000 U.S.) and we recently saw a U.S. copy with number 32 offered for sale for $10,000.

While copies numbered under 100 were likely all issued to record company employees, it’s possible that numbers above that were sold to the public and these could sell for anywhere from $1000-$10,000, depending on the number.

The Beatles was sold with numbered copies in a number of different countries besides the U.S. and the UK, and prices will vary widely depending on the country and the number. Still, there are a lot of low-numbered copies out there, and The Beatles is one of those rare cases where you might just have one of the world’s most valuable vinyl records sitting in your closet.

velvet underground and nicoThe Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1966) stereo pressing without the song “Sunday Morning” $22,000 – The 1966 debut by the Velvet Underground, the self-titled The Velvet Underground & Nico, sold poorly but remains one of the most influential albums of all time.

The album featured a banana on the cover in the form of a sticker and printed above it were the words “Peel slowly and see.” Many people did just that, and it’s hard to find an original copy of that album in either mono or stereo that still has a fully intact banana.

Copies of The Velvet Underground & Nico in mint condition with a complete banana have sold for upwards of $1000, but in 2017, a previously-unknown variation of the LP came up for sale. This version was missing the song “Sunday Morning,” which would ordinarily have been the first song on side one of the album.

The cover and label of this particular U.S. pressing did list that song title, but the record did not include the song on it. Apparently, the album was originally intended to be released without the song, but it was added at the last minute and new stampers were made. As with The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, a few copies appear to have been pressed with the earlier stampers by mistake, creating an ultra-rarity.

The only copy known to date sold for $22,000 in 2017, which would certainly qualify it as one of the most valuable vinyl records and was a stereo copy. Most stereo copies of the album have the letters “REV” (for revision) etched in the dead wax area near the label on side one. Copies of this ultra-rare version can be identified by either playing the record, where “I’m Waiting for the Man” would be the first song, rather than “Sunday Morning.” Alternatively, the record can be identified by the lack of “REV” in the dead wax on side one.

Introducing the Beatles stereo with "ad back" coverThe Beatles – Introducing the Beatles stereo with “ad back” cover (1964) $15,000 – Yes, another Beatles album, and another album from the misfit label Vee Jay. Vee Jay had acquired the rights to an album’s worth of Beatles songs (released as Please Please Me in the UK) in 1963, but due to the poor sales of several singles, the label, which was strapped for cash, decided not to release the album.

When Capitol released “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and announced the release of Meet the Beatles in January, 1964, Vee Jay remembered that they had the unreleased album in their vaults and quickly rushed to release it to the public.

The label titled the album Introducing the Beatles and quickly put together a front cover with a photo of the band, but they were in such a rush to get the album to stores that they didn’t bother to create a back cover for the album. First pressings of the album, issued in both mono and stereo, list no song titles anywhere on the cover. The back cover of the album shows pictures of 25 other Vee Jay albums, but has no information about either the group or the contents of the record.

About the same time, Vee Jay also released a few copies of the album that had blank white back covers. This may have been a production error. Within a couple of weeks, a “proper” album cover listing song titles was added to the album, and a couple of weeks later, that back cover was changed as two songs (“Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”) were dropped from the album and replaced with two others (“Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why.”

The first version of Introducing the Beatles with the 25 cover photos on the back cover is known as the “ad back” cover and the version with no printing at all is known as the “blank back” cover.

The “ad back” version is the more valuable, as it’s both harder to find and is considered to be the original pressing of the album. Stereo copies have sold for as much as $15,000, putting them among the most valuable vinyl records, and mono copies have sold for about half that price. As Vee Jay pressed about 50 mono records for every one in stereo, the stereo version is a relative bargain.

“Blank back” copies sell for $3000-$5000, depending on whether they are mono or stereo, but finding a blank back copy without a lot of cover wear is quite difficult.

While Introducing the Beatles is the most heavily counterfeited album of all time, most of the counterfeit copies of this album are of later pressings. We are not aware of counterfeit copies of either the ad back or blank back versions of this album.

Be aware that due to the large number of counterfeits of this album, most people believe that Introducing the Beatles is actually a fairly common album. That’s not the case; it’s rather rare and exceptionally so in stereo.

beatles albums parlophoneThe Beatles – Please Please Me UK stereo with black and gold label (1963) $21,000 – The Beatles first album, Please Please Me, was released in Britain nearly a year before its U.S. release as Introducing the Beatles. The album was initially released in March, 1963 in the UK on the Parlophone label, and first pressings were available only in mono.

A month later, stereo copies were released, and like the mono, the label used on the record was the then-current black Parlophone label with gold print. Shortly after the stereo release, Parolophone changed their label artwork to a black label with yellow and white print, and that label was used for all subsequent pressings of the album through 1969.

At the time, mono records typically outsold stereo pressings by a ratio of nearly 100:1, as most buyers did not own stereo phonographs. While mono pressings sold fairly well when the album was first released, stereo copies did not, and it is estimated that fewer than 1000 stereo copies were sold with the black and gold label before Parlophone changed label designs, making the first-issue stereo pressings quite rare, given that the album eventually sold millions of copies.

While original mono copies are rare, it’s the stereo pressings that qualify as being among the world’s most valuable vinyl records.

Finding an original stereo UK pressing of Please Please Me is quite difficult, but it’s even harder to find a copy in collectible condition, as most people who bought the album played it until it was worn out. Mono copies turn up for sale fairly frequently, but stereo copies are much harder to find and much more expensive.

In 2014, a stereo copy in exceptional condition sold on eBay for £14,994, or about $21,000 in 2018 dollars.

stonewall tiger lilyStonewall – Stonewall (1976) $14,000 – You may not have ever heard of a band called Stonewall, and that’s not surprising. They released only one album, the self-titled Stonewall in 1976, and it’s not even fair to suggest that that album was even properly released.

Stonewall was issued by the small Tiger Lily record label, and Tiger Lily is known among record collectors as a “tax scam” label. Tiger Lily was apparently run by Morris Levy, who was also the president of Roulette Records. Under tax laws in effect in the 1970s, record labels could charge recording, pressing and distribution costs against profits.

Tiger Lily was apparently set up for the express purpose of not making money. The label solicited tapes from a variety of artists who thought they might get a record deal. Ordinarily, when record companies solicit tapes, they listen to them, find artists the like, sign them to a contract, and put them into a studio to record an album.

Tiger Lily Records apparently took a different approach. They asked for tapes, cut records from them and released the albums without any effort to promote them and often without even informing the artists and certainly without paying them their due royalties. Most of the titles were pressed in small runs of a few hundred copies, and then then were deleted from the catalog.

Most Tiger Lily albums purchased by the public were likely found in the discount bins.

In the meantime, Tiger Lily fabricated recording and distribution “costs” which they used to offset profits at the main label, Roulette.

The 60+ known albums released by Tiger Lily covered the full spectrum of music, from pop to country to hard rock. Everything released by the label is collectible to some degree, but some records are harder to find (and contain better music) than others.

Stonewall was an album by a hard rock group if the same name, and the album compares favorably to a number of better-known hard rock acts of the era, such as Grand Funk Railroad or Cream. Their lone album is also one of the hardest titles to find on the Tiger Lily label, and in 2014, a copy of the album was sold on eBay for $14,100.

We’ve never seen a copy and we don’t know anyone who has, but there have to be more copies out there than the handful that have turned up to date. While it’s likely that future copies that turn up will sell for less money than $14,000, the album still qualifies as one of the most valuable vinyl records sold to date.

It’s also a pretty good album, and it has since been legitimately reissued.

beatlrs white album exportThe Beatles – The Beatles (aka “The White Album”) UK export copies (1968) $10,000+ – Yes, the White Album appears on this list again. This time, it’s not the number on the cover that matters (though it might affect the price.) This particular version of the White Album is the version that Parlophone Records in Britain made especially for export.

In 1968, the Beatles created their own record label, Apple Records. All of their records from that point on, in both the UK and the rest of the world, were intended to be issued on that label and in most countries, the White Album appeared with green Apple labels. Due to some legal issues, the Apple trademark hadn’t yet been secured in a few countries when the White Album was released.

For service to those countries (in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), Parlophone pressed a few copies of the White Album that had black and yellow Parlophone labels, rather than Apple labels. There were likely only a few thousand copies ever pressed like this, if that, and most of them have long since vanished.

A copy in pristine condition was sold in 2015 for just under £10,000, or about $14,000 in 2018 dollars. This record is an interesting listing among the most valuable vinyl records as it’s a UK pressing that one might find just about anywhere other than the UK, as the record was made only for export.

beatles yesterday red target labelBeatles – Yesterday and Today red Capitol “target” label (1971) – Yes, another pressing of Yesterday and Today by the Beatles qualifies as one of the most valuable vinyl records, but this one is not a Butcher Cover.

After the Beatles created their own Apple Records label in 1968, all of their new albums in the U.S. and the UK were released on that label. In the U.S., even older titles were eventually reissued with Apple, rather than Capitol, labels, and this remained the case until the Apple label was dissolved in 1975.

In 1970 or 1971, due to an error at Capitol’s Winchester, Virginia pressing plant, a few copies of the 1966 LPs Revolver and Yesterday and Today were inadvertently pressed using the red “target” style Capitol label that was then in use for all non-Beatles albums issued by Capitol.

The Revolver pressings are fairly rare, and sell for $300-$500 when they turn up for sale, compared to $30 or so for the regular Apple pressings. The mispressing of Yesterday and Today, on the other hand, is exceedingly rare, and to date, only 2-3 copies have turned up for sale.

A copy with this label was sold in 2016 for $11,250. While only a few copies are known, it’s quite likely that others are out there. It should be noted that prior to moving the Beatles Capitol albums to the Apple label, all of them were briefly available on a green Capitol label that has similar artwork to the red label.

While red label pressings of Yesterday and Today would sell for thousands of dollars, the green label pressings command prices in the $100 range, as they are far more common.

hank mobley blue note 1568Hank Mobley – Hank Mobley Blue Note 1568 (1957) – $10,000 – Hank Mobley was a tenor saxophone player who had a long career, the early part of which was spent with Blue Note Records of New York City. Many of Blue Note’s releases from the 1950s have long been sought out by collectors, and first pressings of a number of their titles from the 1950s routinely sell for more than $1000.

The most valuable of all of them is the self-titled Hank Mobley, released in 1956. Oddly enough, the album was Mobley’s sixth title for Blue Note, but for some reason, the first pressing of that album was quite small, with estimates that no more than 300-1000 copies were printed.

First pressings can be noted by a discrepancy in the record company’s address on the label; side one lists the city as “NYC,” while side two lists “New York 23.” For whatever reason, the album was not reissued after Blue Note was acquired by Liberty Records in the mid-1960s, making all copies of the album relatively rare compared to other Blue Note titles.

While Hank Mobley has long been a highly sought out album by fans of jazz and hard bop, in recent years, the price of the album has escalated dramatically. Copies often change hands for upwards of $5000, and in 2015, a buyer on eBay paid £7300 ($11,000 in 2018 dollars) for a pristine copy.

Copies with “NYC” on both sides also command high prices and sell for almost $5000 in mint condition.

Most Valuable Vinyl Records Conclusion

No list of the most valuable vinyl records can be either complete or definitive. Thousands of records are sold every day, and new high prices are established all the time. As we mentioned earlier, the true examples of the most valuable vinyl records are odd, one-of-a-kind items that likely come from the collection of either the artists themselves or high-ranking record company employees and are not the sorts of records that the layman is likely to encounter.

Others are obscure singles, either 45 or 78 RPM that were pressed by tiny regional labels or which were pressed by major record companies but withdrawn prior to release, with only a few copies “leaking out.”

In this listing of the most valuable vinyl records, we’ve tried to list albums only, as that’s what our site is about. We also tried to list only records that were sold commercially. Granted, they might have been available only in select regions or available only for a short period of time. In a couple of cases, they’re records that were released by accident using stampers that were mistakenly used at the pressing plant by employees that weren’t paying as much attention as they should have been.

Do you own one of these records? Frankly, it’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible. In our nearly 40 years of selling records, we’ve had exactly one of the records on this list – an “ad back” stereo copy of Introducing the Beatles.

Still, a big part of record collecting is the thrill of the chase and hunting down of rarities, and every one of the most valuable vinyl records listed here is something that someone, somewhere, might possibly encounter in going through a box of used records at a yard sale, a thrift store or even a record shop.

LIkely? No, but the unlikely happens every day. Good luck!

We don’t have the most valuable vinyl records, but you can browse some of the rarest records we have in our store.

 

Counterfeit Records and Pirate Pressings

Counterfeit Records – Buyer Beware

introducing the beatles counterfeit recordsWhen anything becomes both valuable and collectible, it’s inevitable that sooner or later, someone will attempt to reproduce it in order to profit from presenting and selling the reproduction as if it were the real thing. It happens with money, paintings and stamps, and unfortunately, rare records.

While many counterfeit records were easily identified and sold as such when they were new and plentiful, over time, people forget about them or forget how to distinguish them from original pressings.

Often, buyers will pay top dollar for records that aren’t authentic. Just as often, the sellers of those records aren’t even aware that the item they’re selling is a counterfeit, rather than an original pressing.

Counterfeit records, pirate pressings and bootlegs have been sold to unwitting collectors for decades, though the practice of making counterfeit records seems to have peaked in the late 1970s. In this article, we’ll cover the history of counterfeit records, show a few examples of some frequently seen titles, and offer some general advice as to how to avoid inadvertently paying a lot of money for a record that may be a forgery.

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

Counterfeit Records and Pirate Pressing Terminology
History and Motivation
Examples of Counterfeit Records
Examples of Pirate Pressings
Modern Pirate Pressings
Counterfeit Stickers and Resealed Records
How to Identify Counterfeit Records
Conclusion

Counterfeit Records and Pirate Pressing Terminology

Before going into detail about these questionable pressings, it’s important to understand the terminology and the differences between the three kinds of unauthorized records that are usually encountered in the market.

elvis costello counterfeit
Counterfeit copy of Elvis Costello Live at the El Mocambo. Note the tears around the spindle hole. These are common on counterfeit pressings

Counterfeit records – Counterfeit records are unauthorized releases of any record that are intended to duplicate the original, authorized pressing in order to fool the buyer into thinking that they are buying the genuine item.

These records often look quite a lot like original pressings and can easily fool the untrained eye or inexperienced buyers. Most counterfeit records are singles or albums by major artists and are usually reproductions of items that are long out of print or titles which were only issued for promotional or radio station use.

Pirate pressings – Pirate records are pressings which contain recorded music which has been previously and legitimately released, but are packaged in such a way as to not fool the buyer into believing they are buying the original item.

Pirate pressings may contain the exact same songs as a well-known album, but may have a different cover, a different title, a different label and record company mentioned on the product, and often may feature all of those things.

A relative of pirate pressings are so-called “tax scam” labels, which often popped up for short periods of time to release records for the express purpose of losing money. The Tiger Lily label may be the best example of this.

Unlike counterfeit records, which are made to fool buyers into paying money for a rare collectible, pirate pressings were often sold at the same price as regular albums, and were simply manufactured to make money from buyers who might otherwise buy the legitimate album.

Bootlegs – Bootleg albums are records which contain previously unreleased material, usually by a well-known artist. Bootlegs represent an entirely new product, and are not intended to fool the buyer into believing that they’re buying a legitimate release from a major record company. While there are some exceptions, most bootleg records do not represent legitimate releases and usually contain previously unreleased studio or live recordings.

The term “bootleg” is often used interchangeably in casual conversation with “counterfeit0” or “pirate” to refer to any record that was not authorized by a record company and/or recording artist.

This usage is incorrect and often confuses collectors and would-be buyers, as bootlegs are distinctly different products from counterfeit records. The three terms, counterfeit records, pirate records and bootleg records refer to three distinctly different products.

Despite this, one will often hear even experienced record sellers refer to a counterfeit record as “a boot,” as in, “This record isn’t original; it’s a boot.” One rarely encounters the term “pirate” among collectors, but that may have a lot to do with the fact that pirate pressings, while once quite common in the 8 track tape format, have always been relatively rare in the record market.

Counterfeit Records History and Motivation

introducing the beatles counterfeit
Early counterfeit of Introducing the Beatles – note the poor print quality of cover and label

Counterfeit records have been sold to collectors for decades; the earliest examples likely date to the age when records were still shaped like cylinders. Many rare blues 78 RPM singles have been counterfeited, as well.

All five of the Elvis Presley singles issued on the Sun label have been counterfeited in both 45 and 78 RPM formats, as these became collectible rather early in Elvis’ career.

As collectors started to seek out records that were no longer available for general sale, unscrupulous individuals decided to fill the need in the marketplace by making reproductions.

Early attempts were often of questionable quality, but as technology improved in the graphics industry, so did the quality of the counterfeit records produced by these individuals.

While some counterfeit records were produced to be sold to collectors at the market price for the reproduced item, many titles were simply sold in quantity to record wholesalers, often at rock-bottom prices.

The album generally regarded as the most-widely counterfeited album ever, Introducing the Beatles, was often found in the 1970s in stores selling them at discounted prices that rarely topped $4.

Few buyers likely thought they were buying a rarity at those prices, especially when the discount bins were often full sealed copies at that price.

Of course, over the decades, many of these records have changed hands multiple times and their origins have long been forgotten. Today, people find the now-40-year-old-copies of that Beatles album and assume that they must be original because they’re old, or because their parents bought them as children.

In fact, they’re just forty year old counterfeit records.

While some titles, such as Introducing the Beatles, often appeared in bargain bins, other counterfeit records were made to fool buyers purchasing brand new releases. In the late 1970s, counterfeit copies of new titles by major artists often found their way into the distribution chain.

At that time, it was sometimes possible to buy counterfeit pressings of a new album the very week it was released. These were sold by stores that may have had no idea that the records they were selling were fraudulent in origin.

Perhaps the most famous example of this was the soundtrack to the film, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring the Bee Gees. This album was pressed in large quantities in anticipation of it becoming a big seller.

Unfortunately, the movie was a flop and the record sold poorly, leading many retailers to return them to distributors. The record company reportedly had more copies of this particular album returned to them from distributors who couldn’t sell them than they had pressed in the first place.

Regardless of whether the records being reproduced were older collectibles, rare promotional items, or new releases, the motivation for those who made them was the same – to produce them as cheaply as possible and to sell them at a profit.

Most often, counterfeit records are rare titles by major artists, though there are also plenty of examples of relatively obscure titles by artists that are unknown outside the collecting community. The latter is particularly true of albums in the garage rock and psychedelic rock genres.

Examples of Counterfeit Records

To list all known examples of counterfeit records, even in the rock and roll category, would be a thankless task best suited to encyclopedists. Still, there are a number of well-known examples that most collectors are likely to encounter sooner or later, and that would include, not surprisingly, counterfeit records by the Beatles.

Introducing the Beatles – Introducing the Beatles is the granddaddy of all counterfeit albums; no other record has ever come close. It’s quite likely that the counterfeit copies of this album outnumber originals by two or three times, despite the fact that the original album sold quite well.

Savage Young Beatles counterfeit. Note the red catalog number (arrows)
Savage Young Beatles counterfeit. Note the red catalog number (arrows)

Introducing the Beatles was released on the small Vee Jay label in January, 1964 and due to legal action, was out of print by October of that year. After that, it became a highly sought after collector’s item, and the counterfeiters took over to fill that demand.

Early counterfeit issues were clumsily produced, with fuzzy covers and poor color. Later pressings were much more convincing.

With original pressings of the album, mono copies outnumber stereo copies by a ratio of roughly 50:1, making stereo copies quite rare. Naturally, about 95% of the counterfeit copies have covers that say that they are stereo.

What they don’t have are records that say they are stereo, and every fake copy of this album we’ve ever seen with a stereo cover had a record that played mono and lacked the word “stereo” on the label.

Original pressings were made with surprisingly thick vinyl with stamped numbers in the trailoff or “dead wax” area near the label. Most counterfeit copies are pressed with thinner, more flexible vinyl and have handwritten numbers in the dead wax.

Counterfeit copies of the album that feature a color band around the label are usually missing the color green in the band.

The easiest way to determine whether a copy of Introducing the Beatles is genuine or not is to look at the hole on the label. Do both the title of the album and the name of the group appear above the label? If so, the record is likely genuine. If the name of the album and the name of the group are separated by the play hole, then the record is a counterfeit.

Any copy with a brown border around the front cover is a fake.

Many original pressings of Introducing the Beatles included a custom Vee Jay paper inner sleeve. These are missing on all counterfeit copies.

beatles songs pictures and stories counterfeit
Counterfeit copies of Songs Pictures and Stories of the Beatles leave out the word “Stories” from the title.

Other counterfeit Beatles albums on Vee Jay:

  • Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles – The counterfeits of this album omit the word “stories” from the title and lack the original album’s gatefold cover.
  • The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage – Originals have the title of the album written on the spine of the cover; counterfeit copies do not.
  • Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage – Originals have the title of the album written on the spine of the cover; counterfeit copies do not

Other counterfeit Beatles and Beatles-related albums of note:

  • Yesterday and Today – Many of the counterfeit copies of the Beatles famous “Butcher Cover” have front covers that feel slick to the touch, while originals had a rough feel to them. Many of the fakes have colored vinyl records; the originals were all black. The colored vinyl pressings are technically pirate issues.
  • Let It Be – Believe it or not, this album was out of print for several years in the late 1970s, so some wily individuals made copies of it. Originals have a red label with sharp printing; the fakes that we’ve seen have pinkish labels with somewhat blurry printing.
  • The Savage Young Beatles – (see image above) Original pressings feature the catalog number on the front cover printed in black; the counterfeit copies show the number in red.
  • The Beatles Christmas Album – This one can be tricky, as many counterfeit copies of this record are quite convincing. The original album had a cardboard cover with a paper slick glued on; most of the fakes have the cover art printed directly on posterboard. On original pressings, look at the second photo on the lower left of the front cover. The words “theater royal” are legible on original pressings.

Note: the presence of the stamped words “Bell Sound” in the vinyl are not necessarily an indication of an original pressing, as many of the fakes have this.

  • Original and counterfeit copies of Two Virgins. Note the bag that opens at the top and lacks the seal sticker
    Original and counterfeit copies of Two Virgins. Note the bag that opens at the top and lacks the seal sticker

    John Lennon/Yoko Ono – Two Virgins – Original U.S. pressings included a brown paper outer cover that was sealed with a round white sticker on the right side. Copies with brown covers that open on other sides, which lack the sticker, or copies where the brown wrapper is not large enough to cover the entire album cover are likely fakes.

  • Roots: John Lennon Sings the Great Rock & Roll Hits – Counterfeit copies of this 1975 mail order album are quite convincing, especially since the original pressings were so poorly made.Original pressings included a custom inner sleeve advertising other albums on the label, and had the title of the album printed on the spine.On original covers, the text on the other albums shown on the back cover is legible, and on original discs, the catalog number is faintly etched on the label itself.
  • Ed Rudy – American Tour With Ed Rudy #2 – an album of Beatles interviews. Original pressings had thick, ultra-heavy vinyl; the counterfeit pressings used thin, flexible vinyl.

Other common or well-known counterfeit albums by major artists:

  • David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World – Original U.S. pressings of this 1970 album featured a cartoon cover, but were quickly deleted due to poor sales. Counterfeit pressings have handwritten matrix numbers in the dead wax; originals have stamped numbers. The labels on original pressings are smooth in texture, while the fakes tend to be pitted.
  • Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio – Originals of this album sell for thousands, and were pressed on thick, brittle vinyl and had the title of the album printed on the spine. Fakes have thin, flexible vinyl and no spine printing.
  • Elvis Costello – Live at the El Mocambo – This late 1970s LP was originally issued only to radio stations in Canada. Most counterfeit copies have flimsy posterboard covers and labels with tears around the spindle hole. Many fakes of this album have completely different labels altogether.
  • Emmylou Harris – Gliding Bird – This was Emmylou Harris’ first album originally had a color cover and label. Copies that have black and white printing are fakes.
  • Buddy Holly – That’ll Be the Day – Like the album above, originals of this album sell for thousands, and were pressed on thick, brittle vinyl and had the title of the album printed on the spine. Fakes have thin, flexible vinyl and no spine printing.
  • Phil Lesh/Ned Lagin – Seastones – Fake copies of this odd electronic album have posterboard covers; the originals used paper slicks glued to a cardboard cover.
  • Madonna – Erotica – This 12” single picture disc is one of the few picture discs to have been counterfeited. Originally pressed as a legitimate release but withdrawn before being distributed, the original pressings are quite rare and sell for thousands of dollars. Genuine copies have stamped matrix numbers; counterfeit copies do not.
  • Todd Rundgren – Runt – Todd Rundgren’s 1970 solo album was counterfeited several times in the late 1970s and include versions on both the Ampex and Bearsville labels. On all copies, the words “Queens Litho in U.S.A.” are clearly legible on original covers but not on the fakes.The fake Ampex copies usually have a red printed box on the cover that mentions “We Gotta Get You a Woman.” Originals do not have this, as the “box” was actually a sticker that was attached to the copy used to make the counterfeit pressings. Oddly enough, the rare variation of Runt that includes alternate takes and mixes has not been counterfeited.
  • The City – Now That Everything’s Been Said – This 1968 LP featuring Carole King originally had a color cover and label; the fakes have black and white covers.
  • The Yardbirds – Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page – This album by the Yardbirds was released by the band’s former label to take advantage of the success of Jimmy Page’s new band, Led Zeppelin. Page sued and the album was withdrawn from sale but was quickly counterfeited to meet collector demand.

    Counterfeit copies of this album exist on both the Epic and Columbia Special Products labels. Look for pitted labels and tears around the spindle hole on the fake copies, which may have stamped matrix numbers in the dead wax just like the originals.The most common counterfeit pressing of this album features a black and white cover and a black and white label.

    You would think that this would immediately suggest to anyone that this album is a counterfeit, as all original pressings had color covers and yellow labels, but we’ve seen a lot of people over the years selling these as “white label promo” copies.

    There are no legitimate white label promotional copies of this album; even the copies sent to radio stations had yellow labels. Not that it matters, since the white labels on the counterfeit copies do not indicate that they are promotional pressings.

    All copies of this album that have either black and white covers or white labels are counterfeits.

live yardbirds real and counterfeit

Other albums we’ve seen over the years as counterfeit pressings include:

  • The Banana Splits – The Banana Splits – The soundtrack to this 1970s children’s show was once quite collectible, counterfeit copies of a white label promo copy exist.
  • David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World (German pressing with the “round” cover)
  • David Bowie – An Evening With David Bowie – promotional interview album; the counterfeit copies are quite convincing.
  • Chocolate Watch Band – One Step Beyond – white label promotional copies of this album have been counterfeited
  • Chocolate Watch Band – The Inner Mystique – Counterfeit copies of this album have white labels; the originals were brown.
  • Gandalf – Gandalf 1969 psych LP on Capitol.
  • David Gilmour – David Gilmour (1978) – We inadvertently bought a counterfeit pressing of this album brand new from a major record store chain within a month of the album’s initial release.
  • The Kinks – Face to Face (U.S. copies on Reprise)
  • Mad River – both Capitol albums by this late 1960s band have been counterfeited.
  • The Nice – Ars Longa Vita Brevis (Columbia Special Products pressings)
  • The Nice – The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack (Columbia Special Products pressings)
  • Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (U.S. pressings)
  • Leslie West – Mountain – Fake copies of the debut LP by Leslie West have poorly printed covers and labels.
  • The Yardbirds – For Your Love – The counterfeit pressings of this LP are quite good, though the quality of the photos on the front cover is not as good as the original pressings.
  • The Yardbirds – Little Games

This list is far from complete; there are hundreds of examples of counterfeit albums.

Examples of Pirate Pressings

pirate pressings on melody recordingsPirate pressings are records containing material that is legitimately available elsewhere, but is packaged differently.

The purpose of these pressings, unlike counterfeits, is not to fool the buyer into thinking that they’re buying something rare and valuable, but to simply get the buyer to pay for it.

In the 1970s, pirate 8 track tapes were quite common and were often sold at truck stops and convenience stores. Titles would be identical to those sold in record stores but the labels usually lacked artwork and the names of the companies producing the products were different from legitimate issues.

Pirate records, by comparison, are less common. A company called Melody Recordings issued a number of titles in the early 1970s, all of which had the same cover, depicting two crowns and two scepters.

Artists and titles in this series included:

  • Cheech and Chong – Cheech and Chong
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Pictures at an Exhibition
  • Grand Funk – E Pluribus Funk
  • George Harrison and Others – The Concert for Bangladesh (custom cover)
  • Michael Jackson – Got to Be There
  • Carole King – Music
  • Carole King – Tapestry
  • Led Zeppelin – IV
  • Don McLean – American Pie
  • Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson
  • Charley Pride – Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs
  • Paul Simon – Paul Simon
  • Sonny & Cher – All I Ever Need is You
  • Neil Young – Harvest

There were other labels that released such albums in the early 1970s, but they were largely out of business by 1975, due to increased enforcement of U.S. copyright laws.

In the mid-1980s, a label called Koala popped up that issued a number of albums by well-known artists, all without liner notes or photos of the artists themselves. Little is known about this label, which the covers claimed was based in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Many of the Koala covers featured generic images or photos and carried this disclaimer:

“Notice – The illustrations are a commercial concept for this album. Therefore we are unable to say that the illustrations represent a completely accurate presentation of the recording artist as he has or does now appear. This album may contain previously released material.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artists included:

Paul Anka – She’s a Lady
The Monkees – She Hangs Out
The Fendermen – Poison Ivy
…along with dozens of others.

Modern pirate pressings

Led Zeppelin pirate picture disc
Led Zeppelin pirate picture disc

Most contemporary pirate pressings fall into a gray area that resides somewhere between pirate pressings and counterfeit records. The most common examples would be records which appear, at first glance, to be official record company issues, but which are pressed as either colored vinyl records or picture discs, even though no official release of those album exists in those formats.

All five Elvis Presley 78 RPM discs on the Sun label have been pressed on colored vinyl, for example. The pressings are thin, flexible vinyl, when the originals were made from rigid shellac, and were, of course, all black.

We have seen numerous albums by such artists as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, or Metallica, to name a few, that appear to be genuine record company releases, except for the fact that they’ve been pressed on colored vinyl or as picture discs. These records are often sold as “limited editions” or as “promotional copies.”

On the colored vinyl issues, the covers usually look identical to the original issues. The labels may or may not look the same, and are often older label designs that mimic the designs used on the original issues of the albums, rather than the labels currently in use.

Counterfeit Stickers and Resealed Records

fake album stickers
This Dylan album has three stickers, and they’re likely all fakes. Click image for larger version.

While counterfeit records remain a problem and will likely continue to be one for as long as records are sold, a relatively new problem has popped up in recent years, largely involving records sold on eBay by a relatively small number of sellers.

That problem involves counterfeit stickers and records that have been resealed in shrink wrap in order to fool buyers into believing that used records are new ones.

These records are sealed examples of albums that are rarely found in sealed condition, and these sealed examples usually have rare and/or previously unseen stickers attached to the shrink wrap.

To be clear, there’s nothing unusual about finding still sealed examples of older or rare records. We have plenty of sealed records for sale in our store. Nor is there anything particularly unusual about finding sealed records for sale that have stickers on the wrap.

Older sealed records are often found with price stickers still attached, and some older albums had “hype” stickers attached that were intended to make potential buyers aware that the album contained a particular song, or that it contained a bonus of some kind, such as a poster.

The problem is that it appears that there are a few sellers on eBay and elsewhere who are finding nice used examples of rare records, re-sealing them in shrink wrap, and then attaching newly-printed stickers to the wrap.

In some cases, the stickers are common ones that were often seen on those titles when they were new. In other cases, the stickers are unusual to the extent that people who have been selling rare records for 30-40 years do not recall ever having seen them before.

Not surprisingly, these records, which are almost always titles by collectible artists, such as the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin or the Velvet Underground, end up selling for large, and sometimes, record-breaking, prices.

pet sounds fake sticker
The previously-unknown “promo” sticker. Click image for larger version.

With modern graphics programs like Photoshop and affordable laser and inkjet printers, it’s quite easy to scan and print convincing replicas of stickers, especially since many of them consisted only of white text on black paper or black text on white paper.

The problem is that the stickers are fake, the shrink wrap is not original, the “new” record is almost certainly a used one, and most importantly, the seller makes no effort to make any of those things known to potential buyers. The records are presented as rare, sealed examples of original pressings with rare, previously-unknown stickers.

Obviously, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine if a sticker or shrink wrap is original or not via photographs online.

On the other hand, there are a few things that potential buyers should consider when examining such items.

    • Look at all of the items the seller has for sale to see if there’s anything suspicious about the group of records as a whole. We’ve noticed that the sellers who offer such records tend to have groups of records for sale at any given time that have a number of things in common:
      • They only have records by top-tier artists for sale and they’re all valuable items. It’s all Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Velvet Underground, etc.
      • Every album has one or more stickers on the shrink wrap.
      • Every album (or nearly all) are still sealed, or are opened copies that still have shrink wrap on the cover.
    • Look for common stickers.  We’ve noticed that a lot of these records tend to have price stickers from either Sears or Kmart.  While both stores sold records in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s unusual to see a seller offering 20 records for sale from a broad period of time that all have Sears or Kmart stickers on them.If you see that ten of the albums for sale also have the same price sticker on them, that’s likely a giveaway that something isn’t what it seems to be.
    • butcher cover archive sticker
      The Capitol Records “archive” sticker found on a Beatles Butcher Cover.
      This Beach Boys album had both stereo and Duophonic banners as well as a never-before-seen Duophonic sticker at the bottom. Click on image for larger version.

      Look for rare or unusual stickers. Stickers with song titles are common. Check other auction listings to see if other sellers also have albums with similar stickers.

      Check completed auction listings on eBay and at popsike.com to look for other examples of such stickers to see how common or rare they might be.It would be quite unusual for someone to find a sticker on a cover of an album that is 50 years old that no one has ever seen before.

      Yet one of these eBay sellers recently had a copy of the Beatles Yesterday and Today album for sale with a sticker that suggested that the album was part of Capitol Records’ archive.

      The sticker had a typed date and noted that the record was a “second state” Butcher cover. And yes, the cover was still in the shrink wrap.

      Another oddity from the same seller was a sealed copy of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, complete with a never-before-seen sticker that indicated that the album was a promotional copy.

      The sticker looked very professional, and the album sold for thousands of dollars.

      Unfortunately, the sticker (and probably the shrink wrap) was a fake, as Capitol designated promotional copies at that time by punching the word “free” or “promo” in the cover, rather than using stickers.

      Another Beach Boys oddity turned up not long ago. Their first album, Surfin’ Safari, was originally issued with a cover that indicated that the album was stereo. This was an error; the album was not true stereo. Later pressings corrected this by changing the banner to read “Duophonic”, which was Capitols name for their rechanneled stereo process.

      This particular copy of Surfin’ Safari featured both a stereo and a Duophonic banner, as well as a never-before-seen sticker touting the alleged “benefits” of Duophonic. That album sold for a lot of money, but the entire thing was almost certainly fabricated by an unscrupulous seller.

    • Look for stickers that don’t seem quite right. We recently saw a first pressing stereo copy of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited (see image above or click here) that had a hype sticker for the song “Like a Rolling Stone”, a hype sticker for the (very rare) photo that came enclosed in the first few copies pressed and a discount sticker indicating that the record had been reduced in price to only $1.27.

      That’s a first pressing of what was, in 1965, a brand-new record. While all three stickers may be reproductions, the $1.27 sticker is the one that stands out for being wrong, as that album, especially in stereo, would never have been discounted to such a price as a brand-new release.

    • We’ve also seen stereo copies of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles with similar stickers. While mono copies might have been found in discount bins when Capitol stopped pressing mono records, there would have been no reason to discount the stereo version, which remained in print for decades and which remained a big seller for the entire time it was in print.
    • Velvet Underground & Nico
      A typical example of a copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico

      Be suspicious of stickers that are nicer than they should be. Most genuine stickers are wrinkled, or may have wear or fading, especially after 30-50 years. Newly-printed stickers, of course, will always appear perfect.

      As an example, consider the first album by the Velvet Underground & Nico, which came with a sticker on the cover that looked like a banana. The cover had a tease printed on it – “Peel slowly and see.” Pretty much everyone who bought that album did try to peel it.

      Unfortunately, the stickers usually became torn during attempts to peel it, and many people gave up. Most copies seen for sale have a banana that has been completely peeled, one that has been partially peeled, or one where someone tried to peel it, gave up, and then put the now-torn sticker back in place.

      What is almost never seen is a copy of that album where the banana is 100% intact. Yet one eBay seller often has 2-3 copies for auction per week, and each of them has a banana sticker that is absolutely perfect. How unusual is that? There is probably one copy of that album in 1000 that has a sticker that no one has ever attempted to peel. (Full disclosure: We have a copy for sale in our store with a reproduction sticker, which we have clearly identified as such.)

    • …and a seemingly perfect unpeeled one, complete with another sticker that no one has ever seen before.

      Look for listings that have only sealed records or listings where nearly all of the records are either sealed or are still in the shrink wrap. Shrink wrap machines are fairly inexpensive, but finding perfect copies of 50 year old records to reseal is hard.

      Close examination to check for wear under the shrink wrap may be difficult to do online, but we’ve seen records from some of these sellers where the wear on the cover under the shrink wrap was noticeable even in the photos they used in their auction listing. Ring wear on the cover or wear near the mouth of the cover are often giveaways.

How can you protect yourself against resealed records or albums with fake or counterfeit stickers? There is no surefire way to protect yourself, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Look out for any of the unusual or suspicious things listed above. If everything is rare, perfect, sealed, and has stickers, you’re likely looking at a bunch of fraudulent listings.
  • Don’t do business with sellers that do not offer refunds if you aren’t satisfied.
  • Do your research. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to know what you’re buying.

How to Identify Counterfeit Records

david bowie - man who sold the world
David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World. Original labels are flat; fakes are shiny and pitted.

It can be difficult to identify any particular record as a counterfeit, especially if you do not have a known original pressing at hand with which to make a comparison, or if you have never seen an original pressing before.

There are certain traits that are often seen on counterfeit records:

      • Labels that are pitted, off-center, or have tears near the spindle hole.
      • Vinyl that has streaks, bumps or other marks that may suggest that it’s of poor quality.
      • Thin vinyl – Records from the 1950s and early 1960s were usually pressed from heavy, relatively rigid vinyl. Counterfeit pressings of those titles are usually pressed on lightweight, flexible vinyl.
      • Incorrect cover construction – Older album covers were usually printed on paper slicks that were then glued to gray or brown cardboard. Many counterfeit records have covers that are printed directly on white posterboard, making the covers thinner and lighter.
      • Poor cover detail – Printing and detail on both the album cover and the label may be of poor quality or be somewhat blurry. Make sure that the smallest text on the cover is completely legible.
      • Incorrectly formatted matrix numbers – Many original pressings from major labels have machine stamped numbers in the dead wax area. Most, but not all, counterfeit records have hand etched numbers. There are exceptions to this, however, and some fakes do have stamped numbers.

Buyers should always be suspicious of any unusually rare record offered for sale in exceptional condition at a price that seems too good to be true.

One thing that almost all counterfeit records have in common is that they’re always in mint condition. Why wouldn’t they be? They’re likely new. Original copies of albums that are 30-50 years old, on the other hand, rarely turn up in new, unplayed condition, so buyers should take that into consideration if you’re unsure.

Counterfeit Records Conclusion

It’s unfortunate that people want to take advantage of record collectors, but if there’s a record that people want to buy and it’s rare, chances are good that someone has reproduced it for profit. Your best advice when considering a purchase is to buy from reputable dealers, or find someone who may be familiar with an original pressing and get their opinion before buying.

While most counterfeit records can be spotted by an experienced eye, a few are exceptionally good copies. Be careful when buying, especially if the condition and the price seem too good to be true.