Q: I have two near mint jackets of Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints.
It’s the first version that was never released. I believe these are the only two known to exist. Any value?
— Steven R., via email
A: On the surface, it is possible that you own one (two!) of what could be one of the greatest rarities in Paul Simon collecting. One that many collectors are not even aware of — a full sleeve featuring the original, abandoned, running order for 1990’s much-anticipated follow-up to Graceland.
The story behind the switched track listing is familiar to many. In the simplest terms, Simon’s original running order was changed (possibly at the behest of the record label, but more likely by his own choice) shortly before release, and certainly before copies of the album were pressed. (None have thus far appeared, anyway.) The familiar running order was substituted and The Rhythm of the Saints was released accordingly.
As for your belief that you own the only two in existence, that is harder to establish. It is possible that the sleeves you possess are either dummies knocked up as examples of what the final release would look like, or proofs, made a little later in the process. In those instances, a very limited number of copies would be understandable. However, your description of them as “near mint jackets” would suggest they are otherwise indistinguishable from a regular sleeve. This would suggest they were either a part of a run of promo sleeves; or, somebody at the label decided to get started early preparing for the release. In which case it is highly unlikely that just two would have been printed before the presses were stopped. It is indeed a mystery.
There is a third possibility, and that is that they are very clever forgeries — in the world of rare sleeves, it would not be an unprecedented occurrence. This would certainly need to be ruled out, and other questions regarding the provenance of the jackets would need to be answered, before a value could be assigned...
— Dave Thompson
Author of the 45 RPM Records Price Guide, 8th Ed.