With vinyl’s comeback seemingly here to stay, the cost of the world’s rarest vinyl just keeps skyrocketing. The more popular the artist, the heftier the price tag, and first pressings of classic albums by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd now sell for astronomical prices; if there’s a controversial album cover, or the pressing is limited to minute quantities, that can make it even more expensive.
Starting to wish you’d never thrown all those old records out years ago? Here are ten of the world’s rarest vinyl collectables (though please note: our prices are just a guide and this list is just an illustration of some of the rarest vinyl out there; it’s not meant to be exhaustive).
10: Q Lazzarus: Goodbye Horses/Goodbye Horses (7” Version)/White Lines (12” single, 1988 (US)/1991 (UK))
This cult classic, famous for soundtracking the infamous Buffalo Bill scene in Silence Of The Lambs, is highly sought after, with the mystery surrounding the life of Q Lazzarus heightening the rarity factor.
9: Various Artists: ‘Battle Of The Bands: Hollywood Bowl 1966’ (LP, 1966)
A private pressing of this iconic event captures sibling duo Richard and Karen Carpenter before finding fame as Carpenters. Then performing as The Richard Carpenter Trio, Richard played piano alongside Karen on the drums and Wes Jacob on the tuba, and their renditions of Iced Tea (an original song) alongside the bossa nova classic Girl From Ipanema won the group the competition and a recording contract with RCA. Finding themselves dropped from the label for having no “commercial potential”, Richard and Karen went on to become one of the most celebrated duos of the 70s. Having been spotted for sale on just two occasions, Battle Of The Bands: Hollywood Bowl 1966 has become one of the rarest vinyl must-haves for Carpenters collectors.
8: The Beatles: ‘Yesterday And Today’ (LP, 1966)
No list of the world’s rarest vinyl is complete without a mention of The Beatles’ compilation Yesterday And Today and its infamous “butcher cover”. After being released in the US and Canada, the group’s stateside label, Capitol Records, quickly recalled the album, whose controversial cover featured the smiling Liverpudlian foursome draped in an array of meat and dismembered dolls. Subsequently sent back out into the world with a more suitable image pasted on top, mint-condition copies of the original sleeve are notoriously difficult to find.
7: Kate Bush: Eat The Music/Big Stripey Lie (7” single, 1993)
Taken from The Red Shoes – Kate Bush’s final album before a 12-year hiatus – Eat The Music was initially released as the album’s first single before being hastily withdrawn and replaced with Rubberband Girl. Rumour has it that all but 17 copies were destroyed.
6: Joy Division: ‘An Ideal For Living’ (7” EP, 1978)
With only 1,000 copies pressed, Joy Division’s debut EP sleeve featured a contentious black-and-white image of a Hitler Youth figure beating a drum. It was quickly pulled by the band and not replaced.
5: David Bowie: ‘The Next Day’ (blue vinyl LP, 2019)
There are no shortage of David Bowie albums vying for their place among the rarest vinyl of all time, but David Bowie’s 2013 album, The Next Day, is an unlikely entry. Reissued on blue wax, alongside 15 other albums, in 2019 as part of the Unicef Blue Vinyl series, this pressing was limited to 50 copies. In true resale fashion, a number of these hit the open market, with asking prices having ranged from £5,000 to an eye-watering £35,000.
4: Prince: ‘The Black Album’ (LP, 1987)
Following the release of his iconic 1987 album, Sign O’ The Times, The Black Album was swiftly recalled by Prince himself, who, after deciding it was “evil”, ordered for all 500,000 copies to be destroyed. Some slipped the net, however, with one bold seller asking £30,000 for a sealed copy.
3: The Beatles: ‘The Beatles’ (2LP, 1969)
After the feast for the eyes that was The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, the group went minimalist to the extreme for The Beatles, whose all-white sleeve earned it the nickname “The White Album”. Each sleeve was individually numbered in order to create a sense of rarity, with the lowest numbers now fetching the highest prices. Ringo Starr’s personal copy, 0000001, fetched £522,438 in 2015, making it the most expensive record ever sold; the lower-number copies more often found on the market can easily command five-figure sums.
2: Sex Pistols: God Save The Queen (7” single, 1977)
A contentious record – not just for what it said at the time, but for the number of counterfeits that buyers now have to be mindful of. Before signing to Virgin, Sex Pistols were on A&M Records, and it’s that pressing of the 7” you want to find. Whole websites have been dedicated to guiding collectors through the minefield of bootleg versions that have cropped up in the years since the original 25,000 copies were destroyed (only nine allegedly made it out as promos). Having sold for £15,000 at auction in 2019, God Save The Queen is the crown jewel of the punk era’s rarest vinyl collectables.
1: The Quarrymen: That’ll Be The Day/In Spite Of All The Danger (10” acetate, 1958)
Before forming The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison were part of a five-piece skiffle group named The Quarrymen. With a Buddy Holly cover on the A-side, and a Quarrymen original (effectively, The Beatles’ first ever song) on the flip, this one-off 10” acetate has been valued at £200,000. Word is that Paul McCartney acquired it in 1981, running off around 50 replica 10”s and 25 7” versions in order to give them away to friends and family. Good luck finding either.
Cost: £200,000 (original 10” acetate)/£10,000 (7” private press)