Who’s ready for garage sale season to start up again? For audio enthusiasts in the US, nice weather means waking up at dawn on Saturday mornings to prepare for a few hours of stopping by garage and estate sales in hopes of finding gently used vinyl. Most of the time, there will be worn copies of “She’s So Unusual” by Cyndi Lauper. Sometimes, though luck strikes, and there’s a diamond in the rough, like a mint copy of “The Captain and Me” by the Doobie Brothers. It’s that luck that keeps us going every weekend, that thrill of the hunt, the possibility of a pearl hiding in muck.
So, next time you’re on the hunt, keep in mind this list of the Top Ten Most Valuable Records.
10. Elvis Presley’s “Good Luck Charm” single (1962)
Jubliee produced The Five Sharps’ first and only record as a limited release. Irv Rose had a used copy on commission in his New York City record store in 1961. He borrowed the record to play on his radio program, broke it, and offered a reward for a replacement. That set off a nationwide search that made “Stormy Weather” the most sought-after doo-wop record.
Over the next 15 years, only three copies turned up — one chipped, one cracked, and one in very good condition. The third was sold in 1977 and is now valued at approximately $25,000. A fourth was to be auctioned off in June 2008 at Christie’s [sources: Christie’s and Doo-Wop Society of Southern California].
8. Elvis Presley’s “Stay Away, Joe” promotional album (1967)
This one-sided LP was one of a kind, pressed to be played November 5, 1967, at a Cottonwood, Arizona, radio station. Because of its rarity, the 12-inch LP is valued at $25,000 or more. It contains a 30-minute radio program that includes nine Elvis gospel songs and promotes the Presley movie, “Stay Away, Joe,” and two gospel albums. A note on the inner sleeve asks that the album be returned to Col. Parker’s office after airing — and the record was discovered in his estate in 1999 [source:Jerry Osborne].
7. Acetate LP by Velvet Underground and Nico (1966)
Only one copy exists, found at a New York City stoop sale and bought with two other records for 75 cents. Its owner, Warren Hill, sold the record for $25,200 in 2006. The LP is an early version of Velvet Underground’s debut album. Acting as the group’s agent, pop artist Andy Warhol had assembled the acetate to shop to record labels. Tracks are in a different order than on the debut album, and “European Son” has more of a blues feel [sources: Rolling Stone and The Q Daily].
6. Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” single (1977)
The Sex Pistols signed with A&M Records in 1977, but were fired a week later because of their outrageous behavior. During their brief stay, they recorded “God Save the Queen” as a promotional single to be released during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee that year. Never released, mint-condition singles were given as farewell gifts to about a dozen top executives when A&M’s London office closed in 1998. The punk rock records now fetch $20,000 or more each. A copy with its original mailer sold for 12,675 pounds (about $25,300) in 2006 [sources: Popsike.com and Rolling Stone].
5. Frank Wilson’s “Do I Love You?” (1965)
This seven-inch Motown single was never released to the public, but it sold to a Scottish collector for 15,000 pounds (now about $30,000) in 1999. That’s the most ever paid for a seven-inch single. Soul music is alive and well in the UK, where it’s known as Northern Soul and is as popular as dance music in clubs. Wilson’s song did reach the public on reissues and CDs [sources: Jahsonic and Northern Soul].
4. Bob Dylan’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album (1963)
A copy of this album, in mint condition and with the original track listing, sold for $35,000. Dylan initially included four songs that he later thought were too old-fashioned. Although the songs were quickly replaced, some copies of the original album were released. If you hope to find one of these, look for a cover that has a “Stereo/360° Sound” logo and a sticker that reads “Singing His Sensational Hit, Blowin’ in the Wind” [sources: Audioracle and The Guardian].
3. Beatles’ “Yesterday and Today” album (1966)
A copy of this album sold for $38,800 in 1996, all because of its so-called butcher cover and pristine condition. The Beatles had posed in white butcher smocks, draped with pieces of meat and parts of plastic dolls. John Lennon insisted that this photo be used for the U.S. album cover. The record was on sale for only one day in limited areas — and everyone hated the cover. Capitol Records pulled the albums and glued on a more acceptable cover. Usually albums with the butcher cover sell for $150 to $7,500. This one went for much more because it was monaural, sealed, and in mint condition [sources: The Guardian andJahsonic].
2. Acetate disk by the Quarrymen (1958)
With “That’ll Be the Day” on one side and “In Spite of All the Danger” on the other, this disk is worth an estimated $180,000 to $200,000, but it’s in Paul McCartney’s private collection, so don’t expect it to be sold. The sole result of the group’s first recording session remained in the hands of pianist John Duff Lowe until he sold it to McCartney in 1981. Two Quarrymen, Lowe and drummer Colin Hanton, left the group, but McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon found fame as the Beatles. McCartney had the songs on the disk digitally remastered and copies pressed for friends. Each of those records is worth $20,000 [source:BeatlesSource.com].
1. John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Double Fantasy” album (1980)
This album reportedly sold for more than $400,000 in 1999, but if you have a copy, don’t consider it gold. Only one is worth this much. Mark David Chapman asked John Lennon to autograph it on December 8, 1980, outside the Dakota, Lennon’s New York apartment building. Five hours later, Chapman returned to shoot Lennon fatally. The album was used in the court case and has Chapman’s fingerprints on the cover as well as Lennon’s signature. The album was on sale again in 2008 [sources: New York Times, Moments in Time].
Of course, those albums are the most valuable at the moment. With new collectors and auctions showing up every day, this is definitely an evolving list!
Have you made any unbelievable finds at a garage or estate sale? What were they? Have any tips for other audiophiles? Let us know in the comments section below!