Top 10 Most Expensive Vinyl Records

Vinyl records have been a popular way of listening to music since the early 1900s. They produce excellent sound and are treasured collectibles – some vinyl records are even worth thousands of dollars. If you’re a vinyl enthusiast, you’ve probably wondered how expensive they can get.

Here are the top 10 most expensive vinyl records: 

  1. Once Upon a Time in Shaolin – Wu-Tang Clan  
  2. Double Fantasy – John Lennon and Yoko Ono
  3. The White Album – The Beatles  
  4. My Happiness – Elvis Presley 
  5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
  6. Yesterday and Today – The Beatles 
  7. Till There Was You – The Beatles  
  8. Aphex Twin aka Caustic Window – Caustic Window  
  9. Alcohol and Jake Blues – Tommy Johnson
  10. Do I Love You Indeed (Indeed I Do) – Frank Wilson 

While you can buy a few of these records (for a hefty price), some are incredibly rare with only one or two copies in existence. This article takes a deeper look at the most expensive and valuable vinyl records of all time. 

1. Once Upon a Time in Shaolin – Wu-Tang Clan

Cost: $2 million 

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was released back in 2015 by the Wu-Tang Clan, a popular hip-hop group. 

The Wu-Tang Clan produced only one copy of this album to make a statement against the commercialization of the music industry. The vinyl is precious because there’s only one copy available and it represents the hard work and values that went into making the album. 

History of the Album 

‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ was born when Wu-Tang’s producer, Cilvaringz, decided to create the album as a work of art. The group agreed to produce only one copy as a statement against piracy, streaming, and the easy accessibility to music. 

The group took six years to record the album. Aside from members of the Wu-Tang Clan, the album features performances from Cher and Carice Van Houten.

The vinyl  was auctioned in 2015 on Paddle8 and was purchased for $2 million by Martin Shrekli. The album was then seized by the US Department of Justice when Shrekli was arrested for fraud.

In 2021, the US Department of Justice sold the album to a group called PleasrDao, which purchases digital assets that have been made by blockchain code. 

Only a few people can listen to the entire album as there’s a legal agreement that protects it. However, in November 2016, Shkreli played some excerpts of the album online. 

Type of music: The music in the album can be characterized as hardcore hip hop. The whole album is 110:12 minutes long and contains 26 tracks. 

Where to buy Once Upon a Time in Shaolin: You can’t buy ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ as the album isn’t for sale, and there’s only a single copy in existence. Lately, PleasrDao has been looking into sharing the album with fans across the world.

2. Double Fantasy – John Lennon and Yoko Ono 

Cost: $850,000

Double Fantasy was released in 1980, a few weeks before John Lenon was murdered. It was not met with success as critics noted that the album lacked substance and distinctive melodies. 

However, a signed copy of the record became one of the most expensive ever sold in 2010, with a price tag of a whopping $850,000! The reason for the high price? It was the last record John Lennon ever signed. 

History of the Album 

Double Fantasy, also known as A Heart Play, was conceptualized as an intimate musical dialogue between a husband and wife. Lennon and Ono began recording the album’s first songs in secret, paying for the sessions themselves. Eventually, the couple signed with Geffen Records. 

When released, the album received negative reviews from a collection of critics. However, when Lennon was murdered, the press stopped printing negative reviews, choosing to cover the singer’s assassination instead. 

In 2010, Ono and Jack Douglas, a producer the couple worked with, released a remix of the album titled Double Fantasy Stripped Down. This disc edition had the original album and a simpler version that focused on the vocals instead of the instrumentals. 

Initially, the most expensive version of the record sold was in 1999, for $150,000. A decade later, another copy (this one) was sold at $850,000 in 2010. This second record is rumored to have been signed for his killer, Mark Chapman, a few hours before Chapman shot Lennon. 

Type of music: This album features mainly rock music and is 45:01 minutes long.

Where to buy Double Fantasy: You can buy a copy of the ‘Double Fantasy’ vinyl online. While the signed copy is extremely rare and may as well be unavailable, you should be able to find the vinyl.

3. The White Album – The Beatles 

Cost: $790,000 

The White Album is one of The Beatles’ most prolific albums and was released in 1968. It features various genres and musical styles, including hard rock, blues, folk, and country. The most expensive copy of this album was sold for $790,000. 

History of the Album 

The Beatles began writing songs for The White Album during a transcendental meditation course in India. The group recorded the songs between the months of May and October in 1968. The album has thirty songs of which only sixteen feature all The Beatles together. 

Music history and industry experts claim that the tension and strife within the group can be heard in the songs in The White Album. Indeed, the group split up a few months after the album was released.

While there have been many copies of the album on vinyl, the ones with the lowest serial numbers are the most valuable. 

When the album was initially produced, each copy was stamped with a unique serial number. The lower numbers are considered more valuable as they were the records given to The Beatles and their producers. 

The first copy of the album numbered 0000001, belonged to Beatles member Ringo. In 2015, it broke the Guinness World Record for the most expensive commercially-available album — it was sold for $790,000. 

Type of music: The White Album has a wide range of music genres, including country, reggae, blues, and folk. Most of the songs heavily feature the acoustic guitar.

Where to buy the White Album: You can buy copies of the ‘White Album’ on websites like eBay or at record stores. These copies frequently come up for sale online, although the ones with the lower serial numbers are rare.

4. My Happiness – Elvis Presley 

Cost: $300,000

My Happiness is a vinyl record that features two songs — My Happiness and That’s Where Your Heartaches Begin. The original record is the first one Presley ever produced, making it extremely valuable, and it sold for $300,000 at an auction in 2015.

History of the Album 

In 1953, Elvis Presley rented a few minutes of Studio Time at Memphis Recording Studios for $4. He recorded two covers of ballads from the 1930s — ‘My Happiness’ and ‘That’s Where Your Heartaches Begin.’ 

Presley originally recorded the songs as a birthday present for his mother but gave the record to his friend Ed Leek. While he was recording, a Memphis Recording Studios Executive wrote his name down as an individual to remember.

In 2015, the record was on sale as part of a Graceland auction of Presley memorabilia. A musician by the name of Jack White bought the vinyl and used the record to produce a limited-edition facsimile that he sold through Third Man Records. 

Type of music: The songs on this record are sung in a ballad style.

Where to buy My Happiness: You can buy ‘My Happiness’ online from certain music websites. As Jack White produced some facsimiles of the album, you should be able to find copies for purchase, but they are relatively rare and expensive. 

5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles 

Cost: $290,500 

This album is The Beatles’ eighth studio album, released in 1967. It received a favorable response from fans and critics at the time and continues to receive accolades and recognition. 

There are many vinyl records of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but the most expensive one sold was auctioned for $290,500. The high value is because the Beatles personally signed this particular record. 

History of the Album 

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was conceptualized by Paul McCartney and the recording began in 1966. When it was released, the album spent 27 weeks on the British Top Hits of the week and stayed in the US Top 200 for 15 weeks.

Some of the most prolific songs in the album are Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, With a Little Help from My Friends, and Within You, Without You. The last song in the track — A Day in the Life — was banned in Britain after its original release. 

The album should also be recognized for its technical features, experimentation, and use of the four-track recording. Some songs even use reduction mixing and automatic double-tracking. 

In 2013, a copy of the record signed by The Beatles was sold to an anonymous buyer for $290,000. 

Type of music: Most of the songs in the album fall within the rock, pot, and art-rock genres. The entire album is only 39:36 minutes long.

Where to buy Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: You can buy a copy of the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ online from websites like eBay, or offline from record and vintage stores. While there are vinyl records, you won’t find a signed copy so easily.  

6. Yesterday and Today – The Beatles 

Cost: $234,000

‘Yesterday and Today’ is another invaluable vinyl record signed by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr. The record was sold to an anonymous buyer for $234,000 at a Beatles-themed auction. 

History of the Album 

Yesterday and Today was released in North America and had a mix of songs from The Beatles that hadn’t been featured on other albums. As a result, this album contains a delightful collage of different tunes.

There were several options for the album cover, the most famous one being where The Beatles wore white butcher’s coats and were shot holding plastic doll parts and trays of meat. This ‘butcher cover’ was said to be The Beatles’ statement against the war in Vietnam. 

Capital Records used this cover on promotional vinyls which they publicized through the media and at select record stores. But the cover received an immediate backlash and Capital Records had to recall most of the originals. 

However, some of these records had already been sold, and because of the recall, the butcher cover became invaluable. 

The most expensive copy of Yesterday and Today, with the butcher cover, was sold for $234,000. The buyer chose to remain anonymous but later revealed that they bought the record as an investment knowing that it would become more valuable in the coming years.

Type of music: This album features folk and country songs and includes several examples of musical and instrumental experimentation.

Where to buy Yesterday and Today: You can buy copies of ‘Yesterday and Today’ online and at record stores. You may have to search a while to find people willing to sell you the original version, and getting a copy with the ‘butcher cover’ will be pretty challenging.

7. Till There Was You – The Beatles 

Cost: $100,000

‘Till There Was You’, recorded in 1962, features the cover of a famous Broadway song with the same name. This broadway piece was written in 1950 by Meredith Wilson and performed in The Music Man (1957). The record was sold for $100,000 in 2015. 

History of the Album 

The Beatles recorded ‘Till There Was You’ during an unsuccessful audition for Decca Records in 1962. The album features Paul McCartney on the vocals, Ringo Star on bongo, and George Harrison and John Lennon on acoustic guitars.

In 2016, a private pressing of ‘Till There Was You’ was sold at an auction for $100,000 to an anonymous buyer. This pressing also has the song ‘Hello Little Girl’ on the flip side and features the handwriting of The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, which significantly adds to its value.

Type of music: Till There Was You falls within the pop genre and is a mere 2:10 minutes long.

Where to buy Till There Was You: You can buy ‘Till There Was You’ by The Beatles on vinyl from websites like eBay. You probably won’t be able to buy the original pressing though as it’s a treasured collector’s copy.

8. Aphex Twin aka Caustic Window – Caustic Window

Cost: $46,300 

This album was recorded by Richard D James, also known as the Aphex Twin. James began recording it in 1994 but produced only five copies of the album. As there are only a limited number of copies, the original vinyl records are pretty expensive — one copy was sold for $46,300. 

History of the Album 

Richard D James recorded songs for Caustic Window through the 1990s. However, the album’s official release was canceled, and only five copies were produced on vinyl. The most expensive sale of the album on record was in 2014, when it was sold to Markus Persson, creator of Minecraft.

Type of music: The album features ambient techno, acid techno, and acid house beats. Altogether, the songs are upto 69:25 minutes long. 

Where to buy Aphex Twin, aka Caustic Window: You can’t buy the vinyl version of ‘Aphex Twin, aka Caustic Window’, as there are such few copies in existence. But you can find some of the tracks on YouTube, including Astroblaster, Fingry, and the Garden of Linmiri.

9. Alcohol and Jake Blues – Tommy Johnson 

Cost: $37,100

Alcohol and Jake Blues was recorded by blues musician Tommy Johnson for Paramount Records in 1929. In 2013, a 1930 cut of the record was sold for $37,100 at an online auction. Only two copies of this record have been produced till date. 

History of the Album

Tommy Johnson recorded this album between 1929 and 1930 for Paramount Studios and it was one of the five records he created for the studio. 

Tommy left Paramount Records over a controversy with claims that he had lost the right to record with them. As Johnson recorded only a few cuts for Paramount Studios, a record with the studio logo became highly-coveted.

In 2013, Alcohol and Jakes Blues became the most expensive 78 rpm record sold when John Tefteller bought it. Tefteller is known for collecting rare vinyl records and described this purchase as the holy grail, well worth the $37,100 he paid. 

Type of music: As the title of the album suggests, the genre is primarily the blues, and Johnson displays an impressive vocal range through all the songs.

Where to buy Alcohol and Jake Blues: You can’t buy a vinyl version of ‘Alcohol and Jake Blues’ as there were very few records produced before Johnson decided to leave Paramount. Instead, you can listen to the songs on YouTube or Amazon Music.

10. Do I Love You Indeed (Indeed I Do) – Frank Wilson 

Cost: $37,000

This record includes a single song by Frank Wilson for Motown. Wilson pressed only two hundred and fifty demos for Motown, making each vinyl highly-coveted. The last recorded sale of this single was in 2009, at a price of $37,000.

History of the Album 

Frank Wilson was a prolific soul producer and singer who worked for Motown Records. However, Do I Love You Indeed (Indeed I Do) is the only single that Wilson recorded for the studio. 

While he produced a significant number of demos, most were destroyed. Only a few survived and have been put up for sale on the open market. 

In 2009, one copy was sold to an anonymous buyer for $37,000.

Type of music: The music on this record can be classified as ‘American Soul.’ 

Where to buy Do I Love You Indeed (Indeed I Do): You can’t buy ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’ as the originals are extremely rare and hard to find on the market. However, you can listen to the songs online, on YouTube and other streaming portals.

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