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A collector's guide to the most valuable American Christmas records

Goldmine contributor Frank Daniels compiles his research for a vinyl record Market Watch every month, and in this article he compiles some of the most valuable Christmas records out there.

By Frank Daniels

Whenever we write about evaluating records, we have to establish some ground rules for the discussion. Otherwise, we may wind up saying that the most valuable records consist of unique items, such as the red-vinyl copy of Elvis’ Christmas Album that was made in RCA Victor’s plant in Rockaway (NJ) in 1957 and which sold for $18,000. This listing contains no unique items, no items that are valuable mainly for autographs, and no acetates or test pressings. It contains no boxed-set compilations of previously-released material. It contains only records that came out originally in the United States. With those restrictions, here are some of the most valuable Christmas records.

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The Moonglows
“Just a Lonely Christmas”/ “Hey Santa Claus”
Chance CH-1150
Yellow/black label with Red Vinyl
Estimated Value of NM Copy: $5,000.00

It’s no surprise to see that the Moonglows on Chance appear on a list like this. Released in late November 1953, the record features the classic Moonglows sound and sports all the hallmarks of a great collectible, including red vinyl. Most copies of this single are well-played, so finding a NM exemplar will be difficult. Watch out for reissues and fakes, though.

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Dippers Quintet
“It’s Almost Christmas”/ “Look What I Found”
Flayr 45-500
White Label With Red Print
Estimated Value of NM Copy: $5,000.00

Theodore Gaffney��s Flayr label out of Washington, DC, put out this doo-wop Christmas single in 1955. Although it was available at the 78-RPM speed also, the 45 is the rare one, with fewer than half-dozen copies known to exist. Willie Hardman of the Chessmen was one of the Dippers.

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Elvis Presley
“Blue Christmas”/ “Blue Christmas”
RCA Victor H07W-0808
White label promotional copy
Estimated Value of NM Copy: $3,000.00

There have been many releases of Presley’s recording of “Blue Christmas.” This was its first appearance as a 45-RPM single. RCA Victor released it in order to promote the song’s inclusion on the King’s latest album, Elvis’ Christmas Album (RCA Victor LOC-1035). RCA pressed this single only at their plant in Rockaway, NJ.

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The Residents
Santa Dog
Ralph RR-1272
Double 45-RPM single with festive outer cover
Estimated Value of NM Copy: $3,000.00

Before the famous New Orleans group became famous, they put out this record – their first single – in December, 1972. The release consisted of two 45-RPM singles and was entitled after one of the songs. The sleeve features a Christmas-themed image of a dachshund wearing a Santa Claus outfit, and the song itself might be the most unusual Christmas song you ever heard … but it qualifies. “Santa Dog,” an anagram of “Satan God,” later appeared on their first album. As for this single, there were 400 copies available back then – 100 of those commercial copies.

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The Five Keys
“It’s Christmas Time”/ “Old Mac Donald”
Aladdin 45-3113
Blue Label
Estimated Value of NM Copy: $2,000.00

Starting with a strain from “Jingle Bells,” the A-side is a slow ballad from the R&B vocal group. Despite the holiday theme, this single comes from their classic (Aladdin) period and features some typical vocal harmonies from the group.

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The Qualities
“It’s Christmas Time”/ “Happy New Year to You”
Satur M08W-4053/2
Yellow Label
Estimated Value of NM Copy: $1,500.00

Experimental jazz musician Sun Ra was already well-known by the time this single came out, but it stands as one of his most unusual releases – unusual because it sounds more or less commercial. Many of Ra’s releases were on labels having the word “Saturn” in them somewhere – of which this is an example. RCA Custom records pressed the single in 1961; either the Qualities recorded it earlier, or it might have been an offshoot of one of his 1961 projects.

The reader will now observe that there are no albums on this list. The two highest-valued Christmas albums that meet our criteria are The Beatles Christmas Album (Apple SBC-100) and Elvis’ Christmas Album, each of which sells for less than $1,500 in NM condition. The Elvis album was rock and roll’s first LP of new Christmas recordings, while the Beatle album (from February 1971) collected their fan-club Christmas records – two of which had never been available in the United States.

The first Christmas album that was not a compilation of previously-released singles may have been the adaptation of A Christmas Carol that Ernest Chappell released on Victor Records in 1941 (Victor DG-29). In that production, a young teen Dick van Patten (credited as “Dickie”) portrayed Bob Cratchit’s son, Peter. Ten years later, Sammy Kaye’s Christmas Serenade appears to have been the first Christmas LP (Columbia CL-6196) whose selections were recorded “new” for an album with a holiday theme.

Everyone who enjoys Christmas music has a favorite Christmas record, whether it was the classic from Nat King Cole, or The Beach Boys’Christmas Album, or my dad’s favorite from Al Martino. Maybe you prefer “classic rock” albums like the one from Phil Spector’s label, or pop stylings like Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra, or maybe you’d rather hear something newer (Paula Abdul, Michael Bublé, Sarah McLachlan). Whoever you are, and wherever you are, Goldmine and I wish you all the best at this special time of the year.