By Susan Sliwicki
What Beatles records are best-loved by collectors? Well, it depends on who you ask. But if you let their money do the talking from recent online auctions, we get an interesting picture. Here's a Top 10 Market Watch countdown that's all about the Fab Four.
10. $1,125.50 — The Beatles, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs box set. Kicking off this countdown is the first of two Beatles MFSL box sets. This 14-disc box set that has been long out of print was pressed in Japan on virgin vinyl. “You won’t find better,” the seller promises as he extols the virtues of this set. “A great Beatles collectible for any fan of their music or true audiophile music lover in general and sure to increase in value as the years go by. From the original rice paper inner sleeves, cardboard stiffeners, inserts and booklets to the full set of records and box, everything is in Mint Minus shape except for the spine of the paper sleeve for “With The Beatles,” which shows some wear, the seller wrote. Numbered 4,231 of 10,000, this set was played once. Seven bids were made before the auction closed.
9. $1,270 — The Beatles, photograph, signed by Robert Freeman. “This is super rare and one-of-a-kind art,” the seller promises. This Excellent condition print is No. 83 of 500 made, and it features Robert Freeman’s signature.
8. $1,325 — The Beatles, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs box set. This 14-disc set pressed in 1982 and numbered 2032 has never been played, the seller promises. “The records have never been taken out of their sleeves. No fingerprints, no nothing. The book has only been opened to the first page to get the serial number of the set,” the seller wrote. “No disappointments here.” Nineteen bids were exchanged before the auction closed.
7. $1,549.88 — The Beatles, “A Hard Day’s Night”/“Things We Said Today,” 45 RPM promo. This double-sided, Red A, 45 RPM pressing of Parlophone R5160 was meant for deejays’ hands before the single was issued in July 1964. “Rarely seen, highly collectible investment piece,” the seller wrote. “Beatles demos in this condition are becoming impossible to find in terms of collecting. Not to be underestimated, this rare Beatles demonstration record can only increase in value over the coming years.” The seller gave both the vinyl and record grades of Excellent Plus. The green Parlophone company sleeve earned a grade of EX due to light creasing. Twenty bids were made before the auction closed.
6. $2,452 — The Beatles, “Please Please Me,” LP. Buyers were willing to overlook some serious wear and tear to the cover and inner sleeve for this pressing of PCS 3042, which the seller declared were “very, very badly damaged” and promised to send a replacement generic sleeve. One thing the seller didn’t give was a firm grade for the record, stating instead that, “It is clear that this album has not been played to death. Just a few random, wispy hairlines from removal.” Seventeen bids were placed before the auction closed.
5. $3,760.16 — The Beatles, “Please Please Me” LP. This first U.K. pressing of PCS 3042 was originally bought by a teenaged Londoner who enjoyed it, but didn’t completely trash it, according to the seller’s description. Although the seller declined to give standard grades for anything, he noted that the labels are in “lovely” condition, the cover is in very good condition, and the audio from the disc is “superb,” although light pops and ticks are audible on tracks 3 and 4 of Side 2. “As a true first issue, this is the only label variant of this album that carries the incorrect publishing credits for certain tracks (1 and 2 on Side 1 and 4 and 6 on Side 2) as Dick James Music, later corrected to Northern Songs,” the seller wrote. Thirty-five bids were placed before the auction closed.
4. $3,900 — The Beatles, “Yesterday And Today,” LP. Only one small thing in the seller’s description of this copy of Capitol T 2553 has us scratching our heads. “Factory sealed, stone cold mint 1966 Rainbow label original mono butcher cover (second state, paste over,” the seller wrote. “To find this LP sealed is a special event, but to find it in such pristine condition (crisp corners, no cuts, no seam splits), like it just came off the factory shelf almost beggars (sic) belief.” Surely we aren’t the only ones wondering how the seller can be so authoritative as to which labels are on the record (let alone sure it is even the right record included) if it is still “factory sealed?” This lot was sold to a single bidder who paid the buy-it-now price.
3. $5,529.67 — The Beatles, “Please Please Me” LP. Yep, The Beatles manage a hat trick for this record in the countdown, but this time it’s a mono pressing (PMC 1202). The vinyl earns a visual grade of NM and plays without skips, jumps, “bad crackling” or distortion. The sleeve checks out in Excellent condition, due to some “knocks and bruising” on all four corners. Nineteen bids were placed before the auction ended.
2. $12,000 — The Beatles, “Hear The Beatles Tell All” promo LP. This hard-to-find gem is on want-lists of many serious Beatles collectors, including Stanley Panenka, who is profiled on page 18. However, we suspect the disc’s VG grade (for some hairline marks) or the cover and insert grades of VG++ fail to meet Stan’s personal criteria. “Cover is a stock commercial cover with no promo markings. Also included as a bonus is a set of the original Vee Jay Records invoices and carbon copies of checks (dated September and October 1964) that were made out to Dayton Burr Howe for engineering services on this album (he was uncredited). Howe later became known as Bones Howe and was very successful as a recording engineer, producer, music supervisor and musician who worked with Elvis Presley, Mama’s and Papas, Association, Fifth Dimension, Johnny Rivers, Frank Sinatra, Jan & Dean, Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Turtles, Tom Waits and Others,” the seller wrote. “A fantastic historical addition to an extremely rare Beatles album, making it arguably the best copy that exists.”
1. $12,955.18 — The Beatles, “Love Me Do”/“P.S. I Love You,” 45 promo. Featuring the Top Pop sleeve and the misspelling of McArtney, this is one of just 250 copies known to be pressed of Parlophone’s R4949. The record, its labels and the sleeve all earned grades of EX+ and praise from the seller as “the most important Beatles vinyl in the world.” “This has got to be one of the best out there; you might never see another copy as good,” the seller wrote. “Most nice conditioned Beatles records are disappearing into private collections and staying put, so don’t miss out.”