The most prized vinyl record in the world – Far Out Magazine

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Vinyl is back with a bang. In 2022, UK sales figures grew for the 15th consecutive year. This rapid growth sets the format up to become the pinnacle of physical record sales. And it’s big business internationally too. In the US, vinyl smashed through the $1 billion mark in 2021, and it continues to rise. Therefore, it’s no surprise that traders are looking to shoulder their niche in the market and hunt out the most prized records. 
The cultural takeover by streaming platforms has left the music industry in a precarious situation, but vinyl has helped soften the blow. On the one hand, it has allowed us all to have unlimited music at our fingertips and helped millions easily discover new artists. Unfortunately, the artists are paid inadequately per stream by the platforms. However, the growing trend of fans buying vinyl is helping to ensure artists make a fair living.
On paper, that title goes to the Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. The album resides as the most expensive record ever sold by far. In 2015, it was bought for $2 million by the disgraced pharmaceutical mogul Martin Shkreli. However, that wasn’t because it was a mystic rarity. In fact, the price was manipulated because the hip-hop collective only produced one single copy and enshrined it in a glitzy box, along with a contract that stipulated that the owner cannot sell or attempt to make money from the album for 88 years. 
Wu-Tang Clan also applied one extra-contractual stipulation. “The buying party also agrees that at any time during the stipulated 88 year period”, it reads,” the seller may legally plan and attempt to execute one (1) heist or caper to steal back Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, which, if successful, would return all ownership rights to the seller. Said heist or caper can only be undertaken by currently active members of the Wu-Tang Clan and/or actor Bill Murray, with no legal repercussions.”
After Shkreli was imprisoned in 2018 for fraud, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was seized by the US Department Of Justice. In an attempt to recoup his debts, they sold the item for $4m to NFT collectors, PleasrDAO, whose identity has never been revealed. According to their website, they are “a collective of DeFi leaders, early NFT collectors and digital artists who have built a formidable yet benevolent reputation for acquiring culturally significant pieces with a charitable twist”.
So, unless the hip hop collective pulls off their heist, and reclaim the album from the unnamed NFT collective who now owns it, then the album is prosed no longer. However, there is one album out there in circulation that could hit the market at any time, and it used to belong to none other than Ringo Starr. 
The Beatles drummer was once the proud owner of the very first copy of The White Album. The famed double album was printed in coded sequence and Ringo grabbed himself 0000001. Since then, the album has sold over 24 million copies, not to mention its huge cultural impact. Thus, having the definitive first one off the press is quite the claim. Ringo hung onto the record for quite some time before selling at auction for $790,000 in 2015. Unlike Wu-Tang Clan, this sale came without any resale of heist stipulations. 
Ringo’s copy of The White Album isn’t the only record by The Beatles to be sold for an unfathomable amount of money. In 2016, the demo of ‘Til There Was You’ and ‘Hello Little Girl’ which convinced Brian Epstein to sign the band fetched £77,000 at auction. “This is one of those Holy Grail items, like the original Quarrymen acetate that the band recorded themselves,” record collecting expert Ian Shirley said (via The Beatles Story).
However, it is worth noting that not all prized vinyl comes from huge names or lavish schemes. For instance, one of the most sought-after discs among collectors comes from the lesser-known name of Frank Wilson and his track ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’. The collectability, in this case, comes from the fact that only 250 demo copies were pressed. Then that total was dwindled down to five after Motown boss Berry Gordy destroyed most of them in a fit of rage following a fallout with the soul sensation. 
This makes the album not only ultra-rare but also a part of musical history. Since then, the song itself has been lauded as an anthem despite never garnering Gordy’s approval. The best thing of all is that these records are simply out there in circulation, perhaps unbeknownst to the owner themselves. When the last one knowingly went on sale as a value item, it fetched £25,742 in the UK, where the Northern Soul scene proves to be the mecca of expensive vinyl relics.
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