The 7 Most Valuable Record Albums

Vintage Vinyl Worth a Small Fortune

Man holding record album
Roman Kraft / Unsplash

Growing a collection of vintage albums goes along with the music purist's passion for vinyl. Most of those can be played without another thought, since the price per disc is relatively reasonable at $5 to $25 or so. But as with other types of collectibles, there are exceptions and some LPs can be very valuable.

Many records with covers autographed by the artists are worth quite a good sum, and average everyday people owned these, so you will run across them at thrift stores or estate sales from time to time. Others with cover art that changed very quickly after the original album was released can be quite pricey. Then there are the true rarities that were never released commercially that vinyl collectors relish adding to a collection. 

  • 01 of 07

    Chet Atkins My Brother Sings 1959 Version

    Chet Atkins My Brother Sings Cover Art
    Cover art for 2015 reissue of Chet Atkins' My Brother Sings. craigmoerer /

    This album by legendary guitarist Chet Atkins was originally released in the late 1950s but the albums were apparently pulled from stores shortly thereafter. As one of the rarest LPs in this genre, early versions can sell in the $2,500 to $5,000 range when found in near mint condition.

    Before you get too excited when you find one of these albums at a thrift store, keep in mind that it was reissued in 2015. Those newer versions of the LP usually sell in the $25 range as used records.

  • 02 of 07

    David Bowie's Diamond Dogs Pulled Album Art

    Diamond Dogs by David Bowie Album Cover
    sss1301 /

    Glam rocker David Bowie was known for pushing the envelope with his awesome look, so it's no surprise that his album cover art would shock and awe as well. That was certainly the case with the original release of his Diamond Dogs LP.

    His record label, RCA, pulled the first version of the cover, which depicted a cartoonish rendition of Bowie with "dog genitals" on the opposite side of the gatefold. Only a few of these worrisome issues of the album cover were released. Most later versions have the artwork doctored with airbrushing to remove the offending areas.

    If you can't clearly see the dog naughty bits on the lower half of Bowie's body on your cover, it won't be worth anywhere near $2,500 to $7,500 like the rare version.

  • 03 of 07

    Led Zeppelin's First Album Rare Cover Art

    Led Zeppelin Rare Cover Art with Blue Lettering
    bimmergirl67 /

    As one of the most popular rock bands of all time, the group's self-titled album Led Zeppelin released in 1969 easily reached platinum status. But if you run across the rare first issue variation of the cover art, it will be worth many times what later releases bring.

    What you're looking for in this case is turquoise blue lettering spelling out Led Zeppelin in the upper left corner of the cover. This takes the value from an ordinary price to several thousand, and as much as $5,000 to $7,500 in near mint condition. Other less valuable versions have red lettering. 

  • 04 of 07

    Please Please Me by The Beatles Rare Edition

    The Beatles Please Please Me Album Cover
    Less pricey version of The Beatles album cover. get-importcds /

    There are actually a number of early albums by The Beatles that are worth five figures now to avid collectors. One of these is Please Please Me. Not all versions of this LP are worth big bucks though, so don't get too excited until you locate the magic words on your copy.

    In order to qualify as a rarity worth $4,000 to $10,000, your copy of this record should be by Parlophone with gold and black "STEREO" on the label and "Dick James Mus. Co." credits. Without those attributes, according to Rate Your Music, this title won't hold nearly as much value.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Recordings by Long 'Cleve' Reed & Harvey Hull

    Original Stack O' Lee Blues Record Label
    Rate Your Music

    While Long 'Cleve' Reed and Harvey Hull–also known as the Down Home Boys–might not be household names today, they are indeed well known among the fans of early blues music. Two of their 78s on the Black Patti label are worthy of a spot on this list.

    Only one copy of "Original Stack O' Lee Blues / Mama you Don't Know How" is known to exist, making this 1927 recording worth $30,000 to $60,000, according to Rate Your Music. "Gang of Brown Skin Women / Don't You Leave Me Here," also with one copy known to exist, might sell in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.

    Time to check great-grandpa's stack of 78s to make sure he wasn't a blues fan. There could be another copy of either of these recordings out in the wild waiting to be discovered.

  • 06 of 07

    Rare Issue of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

    The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan Album with Cover
    bird-dogmusic /

    This is another album, Bob Dylan's second studio production, that was widely distributed commercially back in the day. But if you happen to have one of the first 300 pressed, consider yourself lucky. How do you know if you have a rare version? Look at the song list on the album.

    See if your copy of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan contains these four songs: "Rocks and Gravel," "Let Me Die in My Footsteps," "Gamblin' Willie's Dead Man's Hand," and "Talkin' John Birch Blues." Those tunes were left off of subsequent releases, so a copy featuring them can be worth $20,000 to $30,000 if it is in near mint condition. Other issues of this LP usually sell for less than $50. 

  • 07 of 07

    A $790,000 Copy of The White Album

    Serial number on the first copy of The White Album
    Serial number on the first copy of The White Album owned by Ringo Starr. Julie's Auctions

    If you've ever heard "Birthday," "Helter Skelter," or "Back in the U.S.S.R.," then you've listened to a sampling of The White Album by The Beatles. By the end of 1970, this album had sales in excess of 6.5 million copies. So what makes a single copy worth more than $700,000? It's called provenance.

    In this case, the album was in the collection of Ringo Starr, who famously pounded percussion for The Beatles, since it was introduced in 1968. As reported by Rolling Stone, Starr said, "We didn't think, 'We'll keep it for 50 years and it will be in pristine condition.' Whoever gets it, it will have my fingerprints on it."

    To further support that claim, it was numbered No. 0000001, indicating it was the first pressing ever of The White Album. The LP sold for $790,000 at Julien's Auctions in 2015. There are other pricey variations of The White Album around, but none will likely match this chart-topping auction record.