Frank Daniels, contributing editor of Goldmine magazine, which has been the world’s leading publication for music collectibles since 1974. He writes Goldmine’s monthly “Market Watch” and “Ask the Expert” columns and is coauthor of Price & Reference Guide for The Beach Boys American Records. GoldmineMag.com
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Sales of vinyl records have increased every year for more than a decade and now outsell CDs, although streaming far surpasses all other formats. Some audiophiles prefer the warm sound of a turntable to the soulless perfection of digital music. Others enjoy the tactile experience of holding a record cover in their hands or are motivated by nostalgia. Regardless of the reason, records’ rebound means that old albums gathering dust in your closet may be worth big bucks.
Hot genres include obscure soul and funk records released by local labels in the 1960s and early 1970s…certain classical recordings in stereo from the late 1950s and early 1960s…and pre-World War II blues “78s,” a speed many modern record players don’t even offer.
Records can be sold on eBay, but because of shipping and buyers’ concerns about condition, this often is not the best place to sell them. Extremely valuable records can be sold through auction houses. Or you can…
Sell to local record stores—obtain quotes from a few stores before selling to decrease the odds of low-ball bids.
Sell at a garage sale—you might have multiple collectors lined up waiting for your sale before it officially begins.
Sell to local buyers through listings on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
Important: Get some sense of the record’s value before selling from my company’s Goldmine Record Album Price Guide, a printed guidebook, or by using online record-value-tracking sites such as Popsike.com or Discogs.com.
Among the records commanding the highest prices…
Rock and Pop
Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. (1963, Columbia CS-8786.) The rare and valuable version of this album includes four songs that were later removed—“Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues,” “Let Me Die in My Footsteps,” “Rocks and Gravel” and “Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand.” Stereo copies of the album featuring these four songs are more valuable than mono copies—stereo copies include the phrase “360 Sound” in black on the label. Value: $40,000* for the ultra-rare copies featuring the removed songs. Up to $100 for near-mint copies of the far more common version of the first pressing, which lacks these four songs but still has “360 Sound” printed in black on the label—if this is printed in white, you have a later pressing with limited value.
The Beatles: Yesterday and Today. (1966, Capitol ST-2553.) This record can be worth a huge amount if it has the “first-state” cover, which features a picture of The Beatles wearing butcher smocks and holding raw meat and dismembered baby dolls. The record label recalled most of the copies of the album featuring this controversial image and pasted over it an image of The Beatles positioned in and around a steamer trunk. Collectors call this the “second state” of the album. Value: $25,000 for the so-called “Butcher Cover.” Up to $2,000 for a near-mint “second state” copy of the album, which has the trunk image added as a sticker, not printed directly on the album sleeve as with later pressings. If you have a copy with the butcher cover that’s badly damaged, someone probably peeled off the second state sticker—the value of this album will vary dramatically depending on condition but could easily be worth $100 or more. With all of these versions, stereo copies are likely to be more valuable than mono copies.
Stonewall—self-titled album. (1976, Tiger Lily TL-14013.) This heavy-metal rock album from a New York band is extremely rare not because so few copies were sold, but because the company intentionally limited sales in an effort to lose money in order to get a tax break. Value: $15,000.
Johnny Burnette: Johnny Burnette and the Rock ’n Roll Trio. (1956, Coral CRL-57080.) Burnette might not be the biggest name to emerge from 1950s rock and roll, but this rare album can bring big bucks. Value: $15,000.
And some singles…
The Rolling Stones: Street Fighting Man/No Expectations. (1968, London 45-909.) This single is valuable if it’s in the original “picture sleeve,” which featured black-and-white photos of police altercations. That sleeve was quickly withdrawn, likely because the single was headed to stores just as violent protests involving the police erupted at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Value: $18,000. Copies without the picture sleeve are not especially valuable—$10 to $20 in near-mint condition.
Sex Pistols: God Save the Queen/No Feeling. (1977, A&M (UK) AMS-7284.) This punk-rock single is rare because most copies were intentionally destroyed before reaching stores when label A&M dropped the controversial band. Value: $17,000.
Elvis Presley: That’s All Right/Blue Moon of Kentucky. (1954, Sun 209.) Take a close look at the label on the “Blue Moon” side of this iconic Elvis single—if the number “209” is upside down, you have a rarity. Value: $15,000. Copies without this misprint still could be worth $1,000. In fact, virtually any old 45 from Sun is likely to have some value, even if it’s not an Elvis classic—some collectors try to obtain copies of as many different Sun singles as possible.
Soul and R&B
The Midnighters—Their Greatest Hits. (1956, Federal 295-90.) This Detroit R&B band would eventually be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—but this early album didn’t sell well, so it’s rare and valuable today. Value: $12,000.
And some singles…
The Five Sharps: Stormy Weather/Sleepy Cowboy. (1952, Jubilee 5104.) This obscure New York R&B group’s recording of the classic song “Stormy Weather” is legendary among collectors—it sold poorly, and only a few copies are known to exist. Value: $35,000.
The Del-Larks: Job Opening Part 1/ Job Opening Part 2. (1967, Queen City 2004.) Only 500 copies of this soul single were originally produced—band member Sam Campbell released it on his own Queen City label rather than through a record company. Value: $25,000.
Junior McCants: Try Me for Your New Love/She Wrote It—I Read It. (1967, King 45-6106.) Copies of this soul single are extremely rare—the white-label 45s actually were created for promotional purposes, but the single they were meant to promote never reached stores because McCants died shortly after making the recording. Value: $20,600.
Classical and Soundtracks
Leonid Kogan and the Philharmonia Orchestra: Lalo-Symphonie Espagnole/Tchaikovsky-Sérénade Mélancolique. (1960, Columbia SAX-2329.) This album featuring Soviet violinist Kogan is among the rarest and most valuable classical LPs. Value: $10,000.
The Caine Mutiny Soundtrack. (1954, RCA Victor LOC-1013.) This soundtrack seems to never have been officially released. There are conflicting stories as to why, but a small number of copies did find their way onto the market and are highly sought after. Value: $10,000.
Jazz and Blues
Hank Mobley—self-titled album. (1957, Blue Note BLP-1568.) Tenor saxophonist Mobley’s self-titled album is among the most valuable jazz records. If you have a copy, check the address listed for Blue Note on both sides of the label—your copy is especially desirable if the number “23” follows “New York” on one side, which is generally believed to be a sign of an early copy. Value: $12,000.
And some singles…
Charlie Patton: Love My Stuff/Jersey Bull Blues. (1934, Vocalion 02782, 78 RPM.) Very few copies of this rare early single by the “Father of the Delta Blues” are known to have survived. Value: $40,000.
D.A. Hunt: Lonesome Old Jail/Greyhound Blues. (1953, Sun 183.) The 45-RPM version of this acoustic blues single is extremely rare—it wasn’t even known to exist until around a decade ago. The 78-RPM version is also collectible but not nearly as valuable. Value: $20,000 for the 45 RPM.
Robert Johnson: I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom/Dead Shrimp Blues. (1937, Conqueror 8871, 78 RPM.) Robert Johnson’s “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” is among the most iconic blues songs in history. This single was released on more than one label, but the Conqueror version is especially rare. Value: $30,000.
**All prices in this article are estimates for copies in near-mint condition including the record and its jacket. Even minor signs of use significantly lower a record’s value. Confirm that the record company and catalog number on your record match those listed here—if not, you might have a later reissue with little or no collector value. Catalog numbers are printed on the record label.