What goes around comes around, and we don’t just mean records on a turntable. Audiophiles swear by the sound quality of vinyl over CDs, MP3s, and other files, and now younger generations are starting to see the light. Vinyl sales continue to increase each year, which means that more and more young people are borrowing albums from their parents or buying their own, while those who grew up with them are perhaps dusting off their cherished collections.
New records are typically more expensive than other formats, but fans would argue that the listening experience and ability to hold the music in your hands is worth the premium. There is also a culture of collecting that comes with switching to vinyl that could pay off big time, if you know what you have or what to look for. First pressings by big acts like The Beatles or Bruce Springsteen and finds like misprints and pressings with alternate covers can greatly increase the value of vinyl if the copies are kept in pristine condition. Before you dig through those crates to listen to your favorite throwback LP or 45-RPM single, make sure that what you’re holding isn’t worth a full semester of college. Here are some records that you may have (or used to have) that are worth way more than their original sticker price.
1. Bob Dylan // The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)
Bob Dylan’s second album changed a bit just before it was supposed to be released in 1963, and those track changes can mean a difference of tens of thousands of dollars if your copy falls on the right side of the fence. According to Record Mecca, four songs were replaced with newly recorded tracks, but somehow, someone at the pressing plant used the old version instead of the new masters to press an unknown number of albums. Since the album’s release, only a couple stereo copies of the mistake pressings have surfaced, and fewer than two dozen of the mono copies are known to exist. Thought to be one of the most valuable records in the world, a mint copy of the former sold in 2022 for $150,000.
2. The Beatles // The White Album (1968)
The Beatles’s self-titled double album (which later became known as the White Album) was originally released in 1968, but not all copies were created equal. The members of the band and executives at the studio were given copies stamped with serial numbers that began with A00000, each in consecutive order (A000001, A000002, etc.). The very first U.S. copy, which Clifford J. Yamasaki of Let It Be Records purchased from an executive at Capitol Records in the 1970s, sold in 2013 for $35,000, a year after the copy with serial number A0000023 sold at auction for $13,750. In 2015, Ringo Starr sold his copy (the first UK pressing) for $790,000. The odds that you once owned a copy of the album that had a low serial number are slim to none, but not impossible.
3. David Bowie // Diamond Dogs (1974)
The original version of this David Bowie album was withdrawn because the cover artwork featured a dog’s genitals. The label, RCA, reportedly “got nervous” and decided to airbrush the area out for the final version, but some employees were smart enough to keep the originals. Back in 2003, a copy sold on eBay for $3550. In 2018, another sold at Bonhams for nearly $8000. And in 2022, it set a new record: $16,000.
4. Sex Pistols // “God Save the Queen” / “No Feelings” 7-inch (1977)
As the story goes, English punk rock band the Sex Pistols were signed in early March 1977 by A&M Records, and then famously dropped from the label only six days later because of their behavior. When it decided to cut ties with the band, the record company had already pressed 25,000 copies of their single “God Save the Queen.” The order was given for the records to be destroyed, but over the past 39 years, several copies have surfaced. One sold in 2019 for nearly $17,000.
5. Hank Mobley // Blue Note 1568 (1957)
Between 300 and 1000 copies of this Hank Mobley jazz record (known as Blue Note 1568 by collectors) were released in 1957, and there is one small change that makes them more valuable than other records from the label. According to The Vinyl Factory, the rumor is that Blue Note ran out of labels halfway through the first pressing of the album. The standard address for the record label is 47 West 63rd NYC, but some of the records have labels that say 47 West 63rd New York 23 on one side. There is some debate about the value though, as one record that did not have the special label still sold for over $11,000 on eBay.
6. The Beatles // Please Please Me (1963)
According to the Beatles Collecting Guide, the album Please Please Me was released in a hurry on March 22, 1963 in Great Britain. There were multiple pressings of the album in the first year, but collectors pay attention to the labels to tell which is the rarest of them all. The very first pressing features gold lettering on a black label and is considered the “holy grail” for Beatles fans. The mono version in mint condition is worth a few hundred bucks, while the stereo version sold for over $10,000 in 2018. If you or your parents were riding the wave with Paul and the boys from the beginning, hopefully someone had the foresight not to open the copy.
7. The Beatles // Yesterday and Today (1966)
The original “butcher” cover of this record and its gruesome portrait of the Fab Four with some dismembered dolls was not well received, so Capitol Records spent $200,000 recalling the copies that had already been shipped to stores. The covers were changed, but as with most recalls, some of the original copies remained out in the world. In 2022, one still sealed in plastic sold for $112,500. If you unknowingly inherited one of those strays, it’s time to cash in.
8. Bruce Springsteen // “Spirit in the Night” 7-inch (1973)
Collector John Marshall of moneymusic.com told radio station KCLO that Springsteen’s first release with Columbia Records can fetch as much as $4000.
9. The Rolling Stones // “Street Fighting Man” / “No Expectations” (1968)
According to the 2011 listing for a record that Bonhams sold for $17,000, the original picture sleeve for the American release of The Rolling Stones’ single “Street Fighting Man” (with “No Expectations” on the b-side) featured a photograph of police brutality during riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention. The record label decided it was too controversial and withdrew the sleeves. Bonhams estimates that there are between 10 and 18 copies out in the world. In 2022, one sold on eBay for over $22,000.
10. Nirvana // Bleach Re-Release (1992)
When Nirvana’s Bleach was initially released in 1989, the first printing was limited to 1000 copies, which were sold to music fans at Lamefest in Seattle. Those copies are now worth a couple hundred dollars, but they are not the most valuable. The label Sub Pop experimented with different marbling techniques for the subsequent pressings, and one in particular could now worth around $2000. More of a bundle than a singular record, the red-and-white-marbled LP was shrink-wrapped with a blue 7-inch, and there were only 500 numbered sets made.
A version of this story ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2023.