By Susan Sliwicki
The Beatles are admittedly a Market Watch staple, but securing four fab spots in this edition’s countdown — including the No. 1 and 2 spots with different pressings of the White Album — is the kind of feat that only the lads from Liverpool could achieve.
1.$4,956.29 — The Beatles, “The Beatles” (White Album), LP. This ultra rare, low-numbered, 1968 U.K. mono first pressing — complete with poster, photos, spacer and black inner liners — turned a few heads at auction, with 21 bids getting swapped before it found a new home.
The seller shared the story of how the art for the album — which originally was going to be called “A Doll’s House” — came to be the familiar stark, white cover, thanks to the suggestion of artist Richard Hamilton.
“He suggested that rather than adding to the number of garish sleeves already in existence at that time that they should make the cover look distinctive by putting nothing on it at all except the title “The Beatles” and to give each issue its own number,” the seller wrote. “Also, the sleeve was given its openings at the top instead of the side, again another first for its time.”
The seller declined to give technical grades for the records or its contents, instead indicating that the labels on the records are in “superb” condition, the glossy vinyl displays a stunning “mint appearance” in normal daylight, and the audio play is “flawless.”
“Copies numbered this low do not surface for sale that often, and one numbered below 100 will without doubt be a real jewel in any Beatles collection,” the seller wrote.
2. $4,945.14 — The Beatles, “The Beatles” (White Album), LP. Coming in just a few dollars shy of our countdown leader is a second copy of the White Album, this time the U.K. Parlophone/Decca stereo pressing issued by EMI for export purposes only.
According to the seller, the export copies were the same as the U.K. issues, featuring gatefold numbered sleeves, black inners, and a poster, except these pressings had the well-known black and yellow Parlophone label (P-PCS 7067) instead of the new Apple labels.
“There seems to be some uncertainty as to just how many copies were pressed by Decca, but what is certain is that the numbers were very few and very limited,” the seller wrote. “It has been suggested that fewer of these Decca pressings exist than the infamous ‘black and gold’ stereo, (reputed to be just 900?) and whilst that suggestion is open to debate, what can’t be disputed is the fact that this particular contract pressing appears for sale on the open market far less often than the “black and gold” stereo, and both of these albums are not considered amongst the all-time rarest U.K. records of all time and of any artist.”
Again, the seller offered no specific technical grades for the record, labels, cover or sleeves, other than “overall super condition throughout,” according to the buyer.
3. $4,000 — Paul Makanowitzky-Noel Lee, Beethoven sonatas 4-LP box set. Roll over, Beethoven. The Beatles may be before you in the countdown, but you beat out the Fab Four for the No. 3 spot, this time with a lovely mono box set on the Lumen label. The seller had little to share about this offering except for numbers (LD-3-416, LD-3-417, LD-3-418 and LD-3-419) and the condition, giving the cover and box a grade of Mint and the records a Near Mint Minus.
4. $3,668.96 — The Beatles, “Please Please Me,” LP. The U.K. stereo pressing of this record (PCS 3042) has become a regular in our countdown, appearing about a dozen times since January. The seller touts that the record has an A stamper for Side 1, the rarest stamper of all, and an R stamper for Side Two. The vinyl earned a visual grade of VG++, but a play grade of NM.
“This album has had one very careful owner,” the seller wrote. “All in all, a fantastic copy of this very, very rare record.”
5. $3,050 – Imperial C’s, “Someone Tell Her” / “I’ll Live On,” 45. Twenty-two bids were swapped before this gorgeous Northern Soul 45 on the Phil-L.A. of Soul label found a new home. We were won over by record's clever label name and fun fishbone logo.
“We don’t use the grade “Mint,” but this thing looks Mint!!” the seller wrote. The flip side, “Someone Tell Her’ is a white label D.J. copy, with a black marker X on that label, while “I’ll Live On” bears a yellow label.
6. $2,950.08 — Robert Johnson, “Kind Hearted Woman Blues” / “Terraplane Blues” 78. This Robert Johnson 78 on the Vocalion label (03416 ) makes a second Market Watch appearance in four months. This copy is in VG to VG+ condition, with a sticker “Master 2” appearing on the “Kind Hearted” side’s label.
“This man’s original discs are so scarce that even the most diehard record collectors may have never seen something as rare as this,” the seller said.
Does anyone else sense an imminent “holy grail”-related description coming up?
“‘Impossibly rare’ and ‘incredibly rare opportunity’ are the kind of phrases that seem to bounce around eBay attached to the most ordinary records, but this kind of disc justifies the hype! It rarely turns up for sale as a first-issue pressing in brilliant playable condition like this, so seriously, don’t miss out.”
Despite the seller’s enthusiastic pitch, the record’s final sale price didn’t hold a candle to the last time it appeared on the countdown for $3,428.92. This copy also bears a label or sticker of some sort a previous owner had applied to the “Kind Hearted” side of the disc. Could it be the same record, sold at a loss? It’s too hard to tell for sure from the photos, but we suspect it might be.
7. $2,831.18 — The Cure, “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” acetate. Regardless if you like The Cure’s music, anytime you can get a rare U.K. acetate in a custom picture sleeve, it’s a collecting win-win in our book.
Issued in the U.K. with a Strawberry Mastering label in 1979, this record is a “serious rarity” that grades in NM condition, and the cover pulls in an Excellent rating, the seller said.
“This acetate was sent out to a reviewer in a custom sleeve which is actually one big piece of paper that’s folded over and cellotaped on the rear. There would have been a mere handful of these, and how many have survived is anybody’s guess,” the seller wrote. “The disc is in superb condition and appears unplayed, while the makeshift sleeve has two tiny splits on each side, caused by the tightness of the wrap around.”
The sleeve is a proof from the printers, and the piece comes from the collection of a reviewer who worked for Music Week and Record Mirror in the 1960s to the early 1980s, the seller said.
8. $2,810 — The Beatles, “That’ll Be The Day” / “In Spite of All the Danger,” 78. Here’s one you don’t see every day: a 1958 recording of the band that evolved into The Beatles. Technically, The Quarrymen were the musicians who made the recording, with John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lowe and Collin Hanton, credited on the record, the seller said. (We won’t quibble too hard with the seller labeling it as ‘The Beatles’ to draw in bidders, which it did quite handily with 30 bids being swapped).
“This recording wasn’t available until it was released on The Beatles Anthology Volume 1 in 1995, and ‘In Spite of All The Danger’ was edited a little,” the seller said. This copy has a 2 minute, 48 second version, which is shorter than the more familiar 3 minute, 44 second one, the seller said.
When inspecting the recording with backlighting, the seller also noticed three extra holes in the record that are hidden by the label. Sounds like a magical mystery in the making!
9. $2,771 — Stross Quartet, “Haydn’s Quintet for Strings,” three 78s. This pressing on the German Polydor label is another example of classical music making serious inroads in Market Watch. All of the records (LM 68259-LM 68261) were pressed in the 1940s and grade in EX condition. They feature the green and gold Polydor label. It comes from the seller’s private collection.
10. $2,749.99 — Dobby Bragg, “Fire Detective Blues” b/w “Single Tree Blues,” 78. The seller says this E+ copy on the Paramount label (12827) is one of his favorites. “A Roosevelt Sykes masterpiece,” the seller writes. “What an extraordinarily beautiful copy of an extraordinarily rare Paramount. This may well be as fine a copy as there is.”