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Collector’s Corner: “The Beatles” (aka The White Album)

Happy Nat holds up one of his copies of The Beatles White Album

Happy Nat holds up one of his copies of The Beatles White Album

This time around on Collector’s Corner, I’m discussing the 1968 double album set The Beatles known more commonly as The White Album because of it’s plain white cover. The number 9 seems to loom large within the subject matter as it is not only the ninth studio album by The Beatles (U.K. catalog and not including the hits compilation A Collection Of Beatles Oldies) but it is also the ninth Collectors Corner article I’ve written. Considering that I am putting this together in September (the ninth month), I feel I should break the album out now, listen to “Revolution 9″ and take all of this in. After all, wasn’t “nine” both John Lennon’s and George Harrison’s favorite number? But I should get back on track here…

 

General info

The White Album was released on November 22, 1968 in the U.K. and three days later in the U.S. It was the first Beatles album to be released on the band’s own Apple label and also the first album they released in the U.K. following the death of their manager Brian Epstein. This differed in the U.S. since Magical Mystery Tour was issued as an album after Brian’s death, whereas it was issued as a double EP in the U.K.

The songs and the sessions

The majority of the songs featured were written during the time of their sojourn to Rishikesh, India while they were at the ashram studying Transcendental Meditation (TM). Afterwards, the album was recorded over a five month period from May 30, 1968 (beginning with “Revolution 1″) through October 14, 1968 when the final overdubs for “Savoy Truffle” were added. Final mixing was completed three days later. They ended up with an impressive 32 candidate songs and all but two were included on the double album. George Harrison’s “Not Guilty,” and John Lennon’s “What’s The New Mary Jane” were both dropped. “Hey Jude” and the electric version of “Revolution” were also recorded during the sessions but issued three months earlier as the first Apple single. A few others written in India (e.g. Paul McCartney’s “Jubilee” or John Lennon’s “Mean Mr. Mustard”) were considered but put off till later.

The finalized track listing provides nearly 94 minutes of music and goes like this:
Side 1: “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “Dear Prudence,” “Glass Onion,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Wild Honey Pie,” “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”
Side 2: “Martha My Dear,” “I’m So Tired,” “Blackbird,” “Piggies,” “Rocky Raccoon,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road,” “I Will,” “Julia”
Side 3: “Birthday,” “Yer Blues,” “Mother Nature’s Son,” “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey,” “Sexy Sadie,” “Helter Skeler,” “Long, Long, Long”
Side 4: “Revolution 1,” “Honey Pie,” “Savoy Truffle,” “Cry Baby Cry,” “Revolution 9,” “Good Night”

The sessions were not entirely happy ones due to some tensions arising within the group. At one point after a criticism from Paul, Ringo Starr walked out and didn’t return for a couple weeks. John had become disillusioned with the group and wanted to leave. Many of the songs were “pseudo-solo” or at least by less than the full group. This was a consequence of how they were starting to be more interested in their own individual talent. During Ringo’s absence, drums were handled by Paul on “Dear Prudence” and all three remaining Beatles on “Back In The U.S.S.R.”

Release

In the U.K., The White Album was released in mono with catalog number PMC 7067/7068 and in stereo with catalog number PCS 7067/7068. The release date was November 22, 1968. In the U.S., it was released in stereo only on November 25, 1968 with catalog number SWBO 101. A white-vinyl Capitol re-issue was released in 1978 with catalog number SEBX 11841. Numerous reissues have been released over the years including the first CD (1987), a 30-year anniversary 2-CD set and the 2009 remastered version.

 

U.K. mono White Album disc, first pressing (click to enlarge)

U.K. mono White Album disc, first pressing (click to enlarge)

U.S. stereo white vinyl White Album disc (click to enlarge)

U.S. stereo white vinyl White Album disc (click to enlarge)

2009 2-CD remastered White Album (click to enlarge)

2009 2-CD remastered White Album (click to enlarge)

 

The success

Despite the discord at the sessions, The White Album was extremely well received on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.K. it entered the Melody Maker charts on Nov. 30, 1968 at #3 and the following week topped the charts where it remained for the next 10 weeks before dropping to #2. It was in the top 10 for 17 consecutive weeks.

In the U.S. it entered the Billboard Top 200 album chart at #11 on Dec. 14, 1968 and went up to #2 the following week. By Dec. 28., it was at #1 where it stayed until Feb. 8, 1969, when it dropped to #2 (replaced by the Diana Ross & The Supremes release TCB). The following week it returned to #1 for three more weeks before falling to #2 on Mar. 8. It was in the top 10 for 15 consecutive weeks.

It remained the highest selling double album in the U.K. and U.S. for a number of years. Currently in the U.S. it is recognized as the tenth best selling album (within any genre) of all time and the fourth best selling double album, having gone to Platinum status (RIAA) 19 times over.

The packaging

The idea for the all-white jacket, while thought by many to be a concept of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, came from pop artist Richard Hamilton. Richard’s idea was to do something completely opposite of the elaborate nature of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover. The simplicity approach was extended to the album’s name as well, going from a the long name of the “Sgt. Pepper” band to merely The Beatles. Beforehand, the band was considering naming the album A Doll’s House after the Henrik Ibsen play. Paul McCartney wasn’t initially keen on the plain white jacket idea but when Richard suggested embossing “The BEATLES” on the cover along with making each copy a numbered edition with it’s own unique serial number on the front of the jacket, he and the rest of the group were sold on it. Richard, then feeling sort of guilty issuing the next Beatles album adorned only in white, came up with the idea of inserts that would make up for this lack of photography. Paul was recruited to gather up various Beatles photos to be used to fashion a collage that would be made into a 23″ x 34″ poster. The lyrics were included on the back of the poster. Additionally a portrait-sized (7 3/4″ x 10 3/4″) glossy color photo of each of The Beatles by John Kelly was included.

 

White Album unique serial number on front of jacket

White Album unique serial number on front of jacket

Embossed White Album title (above)

Embossed White Album title (above)

1975 and later covers had printed titles instead of embossed titles (above)

1975 and later covers had printed titles instead of embossed titles (above)

 

Sometime in 1970 the sequential numbering of the covers was discontinued. The highest numbered copy that the author is aware of is 3116706 (prefixed with an “A”). By 1975, aside from some special commemorative issues, the covers were no longer embossed and “The BEATLES” was printed on them in black or dark gray (see above photos at right).

 

Poster insert of photo collage issued with White Album

23″ x 34″ poster insert of photo collage issued with White Album. Lyrics were printed on reverse (click to enlarge).

Portrait inserts of each of The Beatles packaged with The White Album (click to enlarge)

Portrait inserts of each of The Beatles packaged with The White Album (click to enlarge).

 

In England the albums had black inner sleeves and the outer jackets had top openings instead of side openings. In America, the albums had white inner sleeves and side opening jackets. The White Album was the first to not contain a listing of the songs on the jackets and in the U.K. it was reasoned that the Beatles name and general hype about the record would be enough to make it sell anyway. In America, they weren’t so sure about this, so many albums included a sticker on the front listing the song titles. There are four variations on the stickers (see Worth section below for more details on sticker variations). Song titles and black and white miniature versions of the portraits were printed inside the gatefold of the jacket.

 

One of four valuable sticker variations on front of U.S. White Albums (black).

One of four valuable sticker variations on front of U.S. White Albums (black) (Click to enlarge).

One of four valuable sticker variations on the front of U.S. White Albums (orange).

One of four valuable sticker variations on the front of U.S. White Albums (orange) (Click to enlarge).

 

Many of the American record labels contain a mis-spelling of “Rocky Raccoon” as “Rocky Racoon” (missing a “c”). Other later corrected mistakes on the first run of American record labels include the titles “Goodnight” (instead of “Good Night”), “Obladi Oblada” (instead of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”), “Bungalow Bill” (instead of “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”), “Revolution No. 1″ (instead of “Revolution 1″) and “Revolution No. 9″ (instead of “Revolution 9″).

 

Side 1 label of some first pressing U.S. White Albums have Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da misspelled as Obladi Oblada and The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill listed only as Bungalow Bill (click to enlarge).

Side 1 label of some first pressing U.S. White Albums have Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da misspelled as Obladi Oblada and The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill listed only as Bungalow Bill (click to enlarge).

Side 2 label of U.S. first pressings and some later pressings of The White Album have Rocky Raccoon misspelled as Rocky Racoon (click to enlarge).

Side 2 label of U.S. first pressings and some later pressings of The White Album have Rocky Raccoon misspelled as Rocky Racoon (click to enlarge).

 

Drill stamp in corner of promotional copies of U.S. White Albums.

Drill stamp in corner of promotional copies of U.S. White Albums.

 

As seen in the photo above, some promotional copies of the White Album have “FREE” drill-stamped into the upper right corner of the cover.

More details on the sequential numbering

Sample serial numbers for White Albums with various prefixes (described below)

Sample serial numbers for White Albums with various prefixes (described below). Illustration from Bruce Spizer’s The Beatles On Apple Records.

About 12 White Albums with the number 2,000,000 were printed to commemorate the milestone of 2,000,000 sold. These ended up in the hands of Capitol executives. Additionally about 12 were printed with the number A0000001 by the printer (Queens Litho) as souvenirs. All other numbers were only printed once.

If you have a “numbered” White Album or are just curious about variations in how the numbers appear on the jackets, then read below (refer to illustration to the left for sample serial numbers):

  • The first 25 White Albums were numbered with an “A” prefix and then a series of zeros preceding the number (e.g. A0000009). There are always seven digits following the “A” so if it was a single digit number it would be preceded by six zeroes or if it was a two digit number it would be preceded by five zeroes. It is not known what the “A” was indicative of (it may mean “printed in America” or “Apple” but neither is confirmed).
  • Numbers 26-99 were three digit numbers preceded with a zero and no prefix.
  • Numbers 100 through approximately 209,999 were preceded with the correct number of zeroes to make them a seven digit number (no prefix).
  • Beginning around 210,000 up to near 590,000, they were preceded by a zero and had an “A” prefix.
  • Later copies up to about 1,350,000 remain at seven digits using a leading zero if necessary and are prefixed with a large dot.
  • The next batch from 1,350,000 up to some point past 2,000,000 are prefixed with an “A” but it is a thinner “A” than the one previously used.
  • From 2,000,000 to around 2,250,000 some are prefixed with a large dot and some with the “A.”
  • From 2,250,000 up to 3,000,000 the numbers are prefixed with the abbreviation for number (i.e. “No.”). On some of these the “o” in “No.” is raised with the period below it instead of beside it.
  • For the final numbers over 3,000,000 the numbers are prefixed with a wide “A.”

Worth

Be advised that this listing of various pressings of The White Album is not comprehensive. If you have further questions about a copy in your own possession, or for any additional information (especially valuations, as I will not estimate any further than what I have below on value myself) please consult with one of the reputable dealers I’ve listed below.

Values given are for NM (near mint) copies/VG+ (very good +) copies. Note: “Near mint” (NM) or “Very Good” (VG) conditions are in line with the standards of Goldmine magazine as defined here.

U.S. Apple labels, first pressings (catalog SWBO-101 unless otherwise noted):

  1. Contain all misspellings on label listed above and embossed jacket w/serial number $800/$320
  2. Contain some but not all, or no labels with misspellings listed above and embossed jacket w/serial number $600/$240

For above if serial number is low, it is worth more (the real 0000001 sold for $15,000 in 2009 in only VG condition). If serial number is between 2 and 9 add 2000%. For serial numbers under 10,000 add 50%. Add $15 if poster is included and $7 for each Beatles portrait.

If you have a sticker from jacket with track listing:
1) blue print sticker – add $200
2) red print – add $300
3) black with white print (pictured above) – add $1000
4) orange sticker with dark print (pictured above) – add $1000

Subsequent U.S. Apple pressings (catalog SWBO-101 unless otherwise noted):

  1. Apple second pressing: Contains no serial number/embossed jacket – $200/$80
    Add $10 if poster is included and $5 for each Beatles portrait.
  2. 1975 Apple pressing: Has “All Rights Reserved” on label. Double pocket cover. Embossed jacket, no serial number. $100/$40.
    Add $8 if poster is included and $3 for each Beatles portrait.
  3. 1995 Apple pressing (catalog Apple C1-46443). Embossed cover but no serial number. $50/$20
    Add $8 if poster is included and $3 for each Beatles portrait. Add $2 with sticker that reads “Limited Edition C1-46443″)

U.S. Capitol Labels (SWBO-101 unless otherwise noted):

  1. 1976-1978 pressings: Orange or Purple labels. Not embossed, no serial number. $40/$16
    Add $8 if poster is included and $3 for each Beatles portrait.
  2. 1978 White Vinyl Edition (catalog Capitol SEBX -11841) Not embossed, no serial number. $60/$24
    Add $8 if poster is included and $3 for each Beatles portrait. Add$10 if with purple sticker that reads “Limited Edition White Vinyl.”
  3. 1978 Not embossed, no serial number. Purple label with gray vinyl disc and black vinyl disc and no poster or photos $1100/$440
  4. 1983 Not embossed, no serial number. Black labels with color band. $50/$20
    Add $8 if poster is included and $3 for each Beatles portrait.
  5. 1988 Not embossed, no serial number. (Capitol C1-46443). Purple labels with color band. $50/$20
    Add $8 if poster is included and $3 for each Beatles portrait.

U.K. White Album (mono PMC 7067/7068 or stereo PCS 7067/7068):

It’s best to consult one of the dealers listed below for better details on U.K. pressings. For a ballpark idea on first pressings – near mint condition have a base price of around $1000. Very good plus condition has a base price around $400. Add $20 if poster is included and $10 for each Beatles portrait. Add 15% for the scarcer mono pressings. Add 50% for serial numbers below 10000.

Note: These estimates on worth are based on Stanley Panenka’s 2011 record price guide – Introducing The Beatles Record Price Guide. U.K. values are based on recent Ebay sales. Naturally these values can vary based on specific condition of the vinyl and it’s packaging and other physical attributes as well as immediate demand and availability, and many other factors, making this only a guideline. Again, for additional information please consult with one of the reputable dealers listed below.

Final info/acknowledgments

The subject of all photographs of album labels, jackets, inserts, etc., in this article are of actual items within my very own record collection. These items are listed as entries in my online vinyl inventory as linked below:

  1. The Beatles (U.K. mono)
  2. The Beatles (U.K. stereo)
  3. The Beatles (U.S.)
  4. The Beatles (U.S. white vinyl re-issue)
A few dealers in Beatles collectibles

Perry Cox: email to perrydcox@aol.com
Gary Hein: visit online at www.beatles4me.com
Rockaway Records: visit online at www.rockaway.com.

Happy Nat would like to credit the following people and resources for assistance with this article:

  • The Beatles On Apple Records by Bruce Spizer
  • The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia by Bill Harry
  • That Magic Feeling, The Beatles Recorded Legacy Volume 2 by John C. Winn
  • Introducing The Beatles Record Price Guide by Stanley Panenka
  • Price Guide For The Beatles American Records by Perry Cox & Frank Daniels
  • All Together Now – The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961-1975 by Harry Castleman & Walter J. Podrazik
  • www.mybeatlescollection.com
  • www.ebay.com
  • Heather for photography

 

Please let me hear from you if you have questions, comments, corrections or anything to add. The comments section is right here.


Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, Beatles music related to this post:

1) The White Album 2009 remastered 2-CD set of original 1968 double stereo LP. Includes video segment on making of the album and booklet.

2) The Beatles Stereo Box Set – 2009 remastered 16-CD set of all stereo Beatles albums and video segments for each. Includes singles tracks on 2-CD Past Masters compilation and the 2-CD stereo White Album.

3) The Beatles Mono Box Set – 2009 remastered 13-CD set of all U.K. mono albums in The Beatles catalog, including the 2-CD White Album with miniature replicas of original inserts. Also includes singles tracks on 2-CD Mono Masters compilation.

4) Magical Mystery Tour [Blu-ray] – 2012 Blu-Ray remaster of original full color stereo film with extras and deleted scenes (DVD available too) – pre-order only before Oct. 9, 2012.

5) More Amazon links for any of your favorite Beatles-related music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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110 Comments

  • Happy Nat says:

    Many people are landing on this page and without reading the article above which gives worth values and lists dealers for further info, ask me what their record is worth. I keep providing the same answer above in the comment thread to read the article and check with one of the dealers I’ve listed but this is getting very old and I am going to stop doing that now. Repeating myself over and over for people who won’t read the article gets to be a drag and makes the thread very long and it’s unnecessary since the info is already above. For this reason I will not continue to re-answer this question anymore. Thanks in advance for understanding and enjoy your White Albums!

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  • Jack says:

    I have an embossed copy of the White album it has 0025114 embossed in the front cover. How much is it worth????

    • Happy Nat says:

      Jack please read the article above. It tells you worth and a gives a list of dealers for further questions. If I only had a nickel for every time on this thread I’ve said the same thing over and over, lol.

  • Donna says:

    Hi Nat, Regarding “More details on the sequential numbering” (fourth bullet down)which says…Beginning around 210,000 up to near 590,000, they were preceded by a zero and had an “A” prefix… Just an FYI: I have the embossed White Album with the following serial number *0587069 (with the large dot in front)so the “A” prefix ended a bit prior to 590,000. Thank you for the great article though, I just got hung up with this one issue.

    • Happy Nat says:

      Thanks for sharing that Donna. When you get close to 590,000 I wouldn’t be surprised to see either the “A” or the dot. Glad you chimed in. If a few others do then maybe I can fine tune my list a little more.

  • Jeroen says:

    Hi Nat,

    Please let us also know something about the German Gema press I have one numbred No.001716; 1C 192-04 173/74

    Thank you ;)

  • joe says:

    hey stumbled on your very informative website. I have a white album but I think its an orig 12 vinyls no 2675595 its a green vinyl on left and a blackish blue color on right. England recording. swbo2-101 any info would be great the outer vinyl is rough but legible however vinyls are in perfect shape. Do you think this might be an orig 12 ? thanks.

  • Dan Ralston says:

    I don’t understand your comment “◾From 2,250,000 up to 3,000,000 the numbers are prefixed with the abbreviation for number (i.e. “No.”). On some of these the “o” in “No.” is raised with the period below it instead of beside it.”

    I have A2464388. It does not have the prefix. It is straight A2464388. It is an Apple album, has the 4 portraits plus 2 posters (lyrics poster and John on the piano poster). Rocky Racoon is missing a “c” on the album. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da is correct and The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill is correct.

    I don’t see this combination above. Did I mention that it is for sell? :-)

    I love your web site.

  • Georgie says:

    Hi All,
    I am confused as I have come across a beatles white album and rhe serial no. on the front is A57595 which doesn’t seem to fit any category above. Any help??
    Georgie

    • Happy Nat says:

      Georgie, You can see a few other cases above that don’t fit those general guidelines. There are exceptions unfortunately.

    • David Gurnett says:

      I also have an original album numbered A 51108. No initial zero(s). It’s as I bought it when it was released. Seems ‘exceptions’ are more common than thought, or maybe albums around the 50,000 mark were like this.

      I bought mine in Australia. I also have an unumbered but embossed version which came in the original LP boxed set, and a CD set as well!

      Regards

  • Georgie says:

    Thanks Happy Nat. I did read your very informative article but just felt confused as my copy only has 5 serial numbers, no 0′s or anything with the skinny A. With all your info above I just thought you may know or could point me in the right direction! Thanks for your response.

    • Happy Nat says:

      One thing you must have missed in the article is where I explain that if you need further information you should contact one of the three dealers I’ve listed above.

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