We take a look at the fascinating world of record collecting…
As an (amateur) record collector I’m always on the look out for that special treat – finding a record buried away in an independent shop that I’ve been searching for years. A pristine copy of Vincebus Eruptum by Blue Cheer in Snoopers Paradise, Brighton… The Crazy World of Arthur Brown self titled 1968 debut album from The Book and Record Bar in West Norwood, London. These have been a couple of my personal favourite finds. Most collectors will have stories of their own. Today we look at some of the most collectible and valuable records out there. Ones that are sure to fulfil anyone’s vinyl fix.
The first record nearly gave me a heart attack a year ago, when I came across an interesting article talking about rare and collectible records. The LP that instantly caught my eye was Elvis’ Christmas Album by Elvis Presley. This was the first of two seasonal LP’s released by ‘The King’ in 1957. I knew my housemate at the time owned this. It had become somewhat of a household tradition to play this when decorating the tree each year, sipping the finest of single malt whiskeys. What made me stop in my tracks was the valuation of this record – somewhere in the region of £12,000… as long as it was in good condition and in the limited edition red vinyl. I quickly called my housemate to ask him to have a look at it, to see what colour it was. It was with great disappointment he told me “black.” Great record though, and still worth about £15.
Sticking with Elvis, there are a few collectibles out there. You will have to filter through a lot however, as there are an almost infinite amount of Elvis records in circulation. If you have a release on the HMV label, especially with gold print, it could be worth a packet. Elvis Presley, Rock n Roll No.2 and Greatest Hits (on 10″ vinyl) are the ones of considerable note. If you have a copy of Elvis Presley’s Good Luck Charm single then keep it in good condition. This was one of the last mono recordings released, making it especially collectible. The picture-sleeve housed 33-rpm single (backed with B-side Anything That’s Part of You) is valued at £15,500
More recently Jack White – formerly of The White Stripes, who featured in The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs alongside other projects, paid a staggering £200,000 for Elvis’ first recording My Happiness and That’s When Your Heartaches Begin. This is the only copy known to exist, making it a true one of a kind. The origins of this recording are a little hazy, however one commonly held belief is the 18 year old Elvis recorded the songs for his Mother. Jack White, owner of Third Man Records, has since re-issued a repressing of the 7″ so we can all enjoy this incredible part of rock n roll history.
The Five Sharps’ Stormy Weather (a 78-rpm single from 1952) was produced as a limited edition run. The single didn’t achieve great success, however it rose to great notoriety in 1961 after Irv “Slim” Rose borrowed a copy to play on his Sink Or Swim With Swingin’ Slim radio show on WBNX. There are many rumours as to what actually happened to the vinyl, including stories of his destructive pet raccoon Teddy accidentally smashing the single. Wanting to replace the piece, Irv placed an advert offering $25 for a 45-rpm of the single. As time went by no copies were found. He raised his offer on a regular basis, increasing the valuation of the recording. Only three copies turned up; one cracked, one chipped and one in very good condition. The last of these was sold in 1977 and is now valued at approximately £16,500. Keep searching through those bargain bins, and you may find gold!
One such lucky collector was Warren Hill of New York. He bought an acetate version LP by Velvet Underground and Nico, along with two other records for the total of $0.75. Only one copy is known to exist, helping this version sell for £16,500 in 2006. It turned out to be an early demo version of the band’s debut album, made by Andy Warhol in an attempt to get the band signed to a record label.
The next album is definitely not one you will get to find in a record store bargain bin. On December 8, 1980 Mark David Chapman took his copy of Double Fantasy by John Lennon and Yoko Ono to be autographed by the famous ex-Beatle outside his New York apartment, The Dakota. Later that day Chapman returned to fatally shoot Lennon. The album was used in court as evidence, containing Chapman’s fingerprints and Lennon’s signature. The notorious album reportedly sold for more than £260,000 in 1999.
The late Lennon, along side his childhood friends Paul McCartney and George Harrison, with Colin Hanton and John Duff Lowe, recorded their first session as The Quarrymen in 1958. One known copy of it exists, owned by Sir McCartney himself. In 1981 McCartney restored the audio of the recording, pressing 50 copies for friends and family. It is estimated only about 25 of these rare copies remain. Occasionally they come up for auction, but don’t expect to get much change from £10,000. The original still remains in Sir McCartney’s possession, so we are unlikely to see it go for sale any time soon. Still, it has been estimated to be worth in excess of £130,000.
The final record is difficult to value. Given the rarity of the piece, it is likely to be classed as ‘priceless’. The item known as Voyager Golden Record is an edition of two copies. These sit on NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Created as a time capsule to share a glimpse of life on Earth with far away aliens, they contain recordings of sounds from nature as well as greetings from many languages. There’s even tracks including “Johnny B Goode” and Beethoven’s “Symphony No.5, First Movement”. The B-side contains images encoded for any lifeforms that find the record. The case contains etched images as instruction to playback the disk (marked in binary, with the lowest state of a hydrogen atom used as a reference point). The location of the Sun is also marked out with pulsars, pin-pointing our location. The Voyager crafts were launched in 1977 to explore the outer Solar System. Travelling at a speed near 40,000 miles an hour, Voyager 1 has now entered interstellar space. The probability of this record ever returning to Earth any time soon is nearing zero – however if it is picked up by any extra-terrestrial life then there is a chance this special 12″ could hold the key to first contact. If this has your interest piqued, space cadets and vinyl junkies alike will be thrilled to find out that Ozma Records has released a very cool vinyl box set featuring 3 12″ translucent gold LPs, a massive book and some other spacey ephemera!