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Specially Designed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP jacket discovery – “The Holy Grail” is going on sale!

If you are thinking about getting into the big-time with your vinyl Beatles collection then here is an opportunity for you to talk with your bank account about. Tony Gillespie, owner of Gillespie Records in Columbus, Indiana recently got in touch with me and shared his story about how he now has in his possession what Record Collector magazine named in November of 2011 as the most valuable record cover in existence. Notice I did not say the most valuable “Beatles” record cover, but the most valuable cover “period.”

During the Christmas season of 1967, to celebrate the success of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, Capitol Records held a company party where they handed out a special edition of the album to some of the attendees. A specially designed jacket had been prepared that doctored up the original cover design by Peter Blake, replacing the original faces on the jacket with those of U.S. label executives from Capitol. The majority of faces of famous people on the jacket were replaced (however two that remained were Bob Dylan and Sonny Liston – see photo below). There were only about 40-50 copies of this jacket made and only 3 are currently known to have survived and are currently in the hands of collectors. Record Collector magazine’s estimated worth of this album as of Nov. 2011 is £70,000 (U.K.), or $106,560 (U.S.). Tony is having Dallas-based Heritage Auctions of Texas handle the first public sale of this record. Heritage, claims to be the largest collectibles auctioneer in the world and is the same auction house that recently sold another cover for the Sgt. Pepper album with all 4 Beatles’ autographs in the gatefold for $290,500.

Highly collectible specially modified jacket for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band goes up for auction in August 2013.

Highly collectible specially modified jacket for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band goes up for auction in August 2013.

Tony received a message earlier this year (2013) from a friend that was in the business of buying and selling antiques, who found the record among a box of other albums by The Beatles he had recently purchased. Knowing nothing about the record, he called Tony and described it to him as a “weird Sgt. Pepper’s cover with different faces on it.” Tony recalled an article about the jacket in Record Collector and reviewed it after asking his friend to send a photo of it. By the time he received the photo he knew they had stumbled upon what he calls “The Holy Grail.” Tony formed a partnership with his friend to find the best home for this record and they contacted Perry Cox, a leading authority on Beatles collectibles who immediately arranged to personally authenticate the album and prepare a Letter of Authenticity.

Among the rarest and most interesting artifacts produced during the original era of the Beatles classic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, was an extremely rare U.S. stereo album cover version prepared exclusively for a Capitol Records party in honor of the landmark album in late 1967. The front cover of the album featured photos of noted Capitol Records employees amongst the many noted famous images we’ve now become so familiar with. Today, this has become one of the most sought after albums by collectors and fans all over the world. With only about 40+ examples made, I rank it as one of the top 10 all-time collectible albums by the Beatles in the world.

—Perry Cox, April 2013

Tony Gillespie and Perry Cox hold Capitol's specially designed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band jacket - it could be yours for the right price in August 2013.

Tony Gillespie and Perry Cox hold Capitol’s specially designed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band jacket – it could be yours for the right price in August 2013.

Extra info: Watch a video on YouTube with Tony describing the record himself right here.


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

1) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 2009 remastered CD of original 1967 stereo LP, vinyl and download versions also available.

2) Any of your favorite Beatles-related music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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27 Comments

  • Clare Kuehn says:

    Neat! Funny, though, they don’t handle it with any kind of glove.

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    That’s one rare album I would sell in a heartbeat. It’s meaningless to me. I get the rare and official factors, but honestly, I’d rather take the money from the auction and buy other collectible Beatles things I want. If my father was a Capitol exec featured on it, I’d feel differently. lol

    I thought the exact thing when I saw the photo. “What, no white gloves?”

  • Hello all, i’m the guy in the photo with Perry. Thanks for the comments. Funny, I never thought to use white gloves when handling the record. As you can tell in the photo, we both are being careful to not touch the photo slick cover…that’s the important part. We’ve all held a thousand copies of Sgt Pepper’s, right? Just never one with a valuable slick cover on the front! ha ha. Trust me, with it being that rare,I didn’t want to touch it at all for fear of harming it (so, you’re right, gloves would have made sense!)

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      I never thought of it but that was when slicks were still used. When did they stop using those? Was this actually pasted over a real Sgt. pepper cover? If so, then my mind may change in what I would want to have as collectible. A butcher is already famous for being pasted over, but this album – I have never heard a rumor of any paste overs. So, this may actually be something I WOULD NOT sell. It’s getting cooler to me. ;-)

      (This was written after that longer one which comes later).

  • Also wanted to add this: The cover, while not done by the Beatles themselves, WAS done by the art department of the record label who provided the band with their musical outlet at the time, Capitol Records. So it IS important historically. This isn’t me photoshopping my face onto a copy of Introducting the Beatles over McCartney’s face, this is the people who paid the band (most of who were old at the time and probably were more into Sinatra and Glen Miller)recognizing how important the band was to not only their jobs, but also to the world as a whole. Now THAT’S some respect that collectors WOULD pay for on a historic level, if not on a “Beatles Record” level. Of course, Perry called it in the Top 10 of Beatles collectibles in the WORLD, so I tend to defer to his expertise. :)

    • Happy Nat says:

      Good points indeed Tony, thanks!

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      Tony,

      My comments were aimed solely at my collecting Beatles. I certainly would like to see one of these up close or own one even. But, as selling such items can bring in loads of cash, I’d opt to sell and buy things that mattered more to what I want to collect. I assume you are selling this for similar reasons. If you loved it that much, you wouldn’t even think of it. No disrespect intended. I understand its “importance” if you will as being a serious piece of Capitol Records history. Certainly it’s odd in that just 4 years prior to them honoring this historical album with high praise they passed on even wanting to sell Beatles records.

      My comment was just that I would like to have something that would be worth that much cash as a collectible and that sought after it would afford me to be able to buy the things I want in my collection. That’s all. It’s the ONE thing I would actually part with which was collectible and connected to the Beatles in such a rare way. It’s even more rare than a butcher cover which I would rather have. lol

      But that’s just me! I am sure Nat would love to own this since I am sure he already has butcher covers. lol I don’t!

      BTW if I haven’t already said so, it’s a really unique and cool item. Thank you for sharing it with us before it gets sold and we never see one again! It also makes me wonder what else is out there? I recently found out via this site that Frank Sinatra has the first Apple single number issued with a song for Ringo’s wife on their wedding day. Oh, to have won the Megabucks or Powerball lottery!! I’d own them both! lol Yes, if money were no object, I’d be buying this item, but since it is, I’ll have to hope there is a decent scan made so I can at least look at it from time to time and tell the story that goes with it to others. Neat story too! Reminds me of Mad Men! lol

  • Hey, YouKnowMyName…

    Thanks for your comments, friend! I didn’t take any of them as disrespect, I appreciate you taking the time to give your opinion. In fact, I agree with you…but for a slightly different reason. For me, I don’t want it on my shelf because I don’t want the stress of having a record on the shelf that I would be nervous about getting stolen, burnt in a fire, flood, etc. If you have an album worth a few hundred dollars, you can deal with loss…if it’s worth the amount of a car or a house and you loose it?? Yikes!! ha ha…

    To your question, here’s how the record is constructed in this case: The Capitol art department took an actual Sgt Pepper’s cover and pasted the faces of the executives onto a cover, THEN they took a photograph of the “new” cover and had 40-50 12×12 photo “slicks” made. These “slicks” are basically photograph paper that is heavier than a regular slick (more like the thickness of a picture). This “slick” was then pasted over an actual Sgt Pepper’s cover.

    So, to the point, it’s not like a Butcher, where you see Ringo’s turtleneck underneath. This is a thick photo paper, that could be easily removed by yanking it off (of course, the Sgt Pepper’s cover below would be ruined I assume because it was, after all, glued on.)

    Thanks again for the response, I appreciate it!!

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      Hey Tony,

      First, I’m happy you didn’t take my comments in a bad way. I know it can happen easily when written and not spoken.

      Second, your description was spot on! I totally can imagine what that album cover is like. Boy, wouldn’t photoshop have changed every album cover back in the day? Now, I guess if this is the holy grail of covers, what would you call having a slick of this cover discovered from someone like Alan Livingston’s desk at Capitol Records? He was the source of the perfect mint copies of Yesterday & Today! Was his image on the cover or had he left by then? I think he was still there.

      Third, I can totally relate to not wanting to have that cover in my house. Although, since I am a BIG Beatles fanatic and I just even heard about the existence of such a cover, I’d say if you didn’t frame it or make it “special” theft would be the least likely harm to it. Until this week, I’d pass it over as being just another parody cover or mock up with no apparent reason for the cover. So fire, flood, total destruction would be my fear and yes, when it can cover your mortgage, you SELL SELL SELL!!! lol Which was sort of my point. I could sell it, buy some really cool collectibles AND still have money left over for part of the mortgage. rofl

      Now you said (or Perry said) 40-50 were made. I guess that explains the photo paper and not the regular litho slick style of print. With Y&T they were printing up like 1,000,000 slicks at a time? Whereas they were only going to make enough to give out at their xmas party. lol So maybe the negative would be what’s next to covet? You could potentially make more “photos” from that negative, if of course, it still exists.

      It’s certainly a great find! Worth your investment and really nice to have a copy of even if just for a while. Good luck in the auction! I hope someone whose relative is in the photo has a boat load of money they feel like parting with for you. Or maybe you find a former Beatle wants this in their collection?

      • Alan Livingston wasn’t on the cover, and Perry was wondering that as well, but then we remembered that this was for the SALES execs, so Alan, being the CEO or president, was probably not at that meeting. Bruce Spizer’s book The Beatles Story on Capitol Records, Part 2 has a page devoted to the cover, and he lists a handful of people on the cover (the Beatles in the middle are: Oris Beauclay, special products, Rocky Calena, marketing, Stan Gortikov, general manager of sales, and Bill Tallent, vice president of sales.)

        I only refered to this as the Holy Grail because of it’s rarity…EVERYONE’S seen a Butcher cover, and (Happy Nat correct me if I’m wrong) there are probably nearly as many First State butcher copies KNOWN to currently exist then there were copies of the Executive Cover Sgt Pepper’s album EVEN MADE. Only 3 or 4 have been reported to still exist at all, making the original used for the slicks probably long, long gone. Couple that with the fact this is the: 1. FIRST time this cover has ever sold on the public market, 2. Probably the last time one will ever be discovered, and 3. The first time Perry Cox had ever personally held one (how many Butchers do you think have passed Perry’s desk??) and I felt it ok to make the bold claim. :)

        Thanks for your support and follow ups, I love being able to get the story out there, because it really is a facsinating tale that most Beatles (and record) people have never really heard. I’m excited by the fact that there are people out there interested, and I’m proud to be linked to the history of the greatest band of all-time, if even just a tiny bit!

        • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

          The rarity of this cover is not lost on me. It truly is a great find. And yes, I never knew it even existed and I consider myself rather versed in Beatles lore and collectibles. I don’t claim to be an expert, although, not one of my friends or acquaintances comes even close. I haven’t bought Beatles Trivial Pursuit for that very reason. Nobody would play me! lol (I bet they ask some rather obscure things though that Macca wouldn’t even know. lol). So thank you for sharing the story and the image of the cover! Yet another fun story about an obscure album by my favorite band. You learn something new every day! Of course we aren’t talking about the Something New album. ;-)

  • bobbysdad says:

    This is just silly. It’s literally got nothing to do with The Beatles, with regards to The Beatles.
    I mean no disrespect to anyone except the people that put a price on it.
    If you didn’t have one of these in your collection, then you’re not missing anything that’s actual Beatles’ collectable.
    It’s becoming famous for all the wrong reasons.
    My apologies to the seller, and I do wish you all the best of luck in getting the best possible price, but it’s just not Beatles…..
    …. and I’m sure many would agree, but would rather remain silent.
    There, I’ve said it, so let the sale begin.

    Cheers to all of you.

    • Happy Nat says:

      Historical considerations are often separate from “love of Beatles” considerations. Beatles collecting is a lot like coin collecting that way. A pre-Civil War silver dollar is likely worth more than a dollar now regardless of who may have been President or who was running the mint at the time. I agree that the significance of this has nothing to do with The Beatles directly, but its valuable still as an historical artifact.

      • Chris Hampton says:

        Re that supposed most valuable record cover – american tackiness at it’s worse. give me out-take shoots of the real pepper cover anyday instead of some execs who probably were responsible for ‘butchering’ the other Beatles album to make extra albums of filler.

    • Hey guys…Thanks for the imput, I appreciate the feedback. Just wondering if you found this album, how would you market it? Would you say, ah it’s just a gimmick cover! and throw it in the trash? Or would you try to put it in the Record collector’s guides, Beatles websites, and anyone who will hear your word so you could capitilize on what someone else called the world’s most valuable record cover (that wasn’t me, btw)?

      I’m not attacking or upset, i’m just asking for help, because I was just doing what I thought would gain some publicity for our album, that’s all. Perry Cox thought it was a Beatles piece, Happy Nat thinks it has historical significance, Heritage Auctions loves it…I don’t want to start a verbal war, not my intent…just curious.

      Thanks again!!
      Tony Gillespie

      • bobbysdad says:

        My objection is to using the term “Holy Grail” in the same sentence as “The Beatles”.
        It’s a pure marketing exercise by those whose only interest is to make ridiculous amounts of money from those gullible to swallow it.
        Regardless of it’s heritage or promotion, it really has nothing to do with The Beatles no matter how you try to spin it.
        It doesn’t even have a Beatle on the cover. I’d be interested to see if the back of the cover has been sacrilegiously been dealt with in the same manner.
        I respect the opinions of others, but I just can’t accept it as fact that this can be worth more than a few dollars as a novelty.
        People are putting more importance on some glorified office workers, and THIS is supposed to be worth thousands?
        Sorry, just can’t accept that.

        My apologies….

        • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

          The reason it’s a “holy grail” in quotations is because it’s NOT really the grail, but it’s been something known to exist by some like Bruce Spizer who writes books about collecting Beatles records and it’s mentioned in his books about collecting albums. The comparison is to the rarity and also for some how sought after it is and the quality of this particular collectible, not because it’s a holy relic.

          There have been stupid things like Beatles wigs and bubble gum and little dolls that have garnered much more press than they should have. There were also many more of those produced! It IS Beatles related because without that album in 1967, that party would not have been so much fun! lol

          Now imagine if this had been signed by all four Beatles? lol

      • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

        Tony, you already heard from me, and although I like it, I’d sell it in a heartbeat which you plan to do! And if some rich album collector wants to shell out a small fortune (or large fortune) to own this, then that’s awesome! It’s certainly rare. The significance is beyond the scope of just Beatles collecting as this has to do with Capitol Records sales department! The fact that they “Capitol-ized” on the Beatles’ success not only 1967 but from 1964 and had a little fun with this album cover makes this a rather official albeit quirky collectible.

        I already said I don’t personally care for it. I’d take photos, scans etc then sell it for all it was worth then buy some Butcher covers and a house! lol But, I am happy to know it exists and that such a rare item will find a happy home to someone who can afford to keep it in their home. As you mentioned before, it’s the kind of thing you can’t just throw into the milk crate and hope nobody spills anything on it and let it rub the cover away with time and gravity always pulling upon it.

        To Bobbysdad,

        I already said it’s a weird collectible I (as a Beatles fans) and barely interested in in my earlier posts. So you aren’t voicing some Emperor has no clothes kind of opinion here. You do however agree with me that it’s not something we would hang on our wall or take out insurance on. lol What I think you miss is that it IS a rare item that has the blessing (not of the Beatles) but of the record company itself! It was meant as a silly gag gift for a party. (Imagine a party from Mad Men and I think we get the picture). It wasn’t meant to be distributed or a pirated copy or some kind of strange parallel universe album cover.

        So what this means to me (and probably you too) is that we would do what Tony is doing – SELL SELL SELL IT! lol You can’t deny it’s official-ness nor the great backstory. You also can’t deny its rarity! Given the condition, you can’t deny the value it could and should bring at auction.

        Frankly, if I were rich, I’d be buying it. What else do you do with a load of cash? You buy things that are rare and create their own value over time. But since I am not, I’d sell it and find the LP a happy home while I go look for a happy home for myself with that money. lol

      • bobbysdad says:

        I think it’s pro’ly due to the fact that I have no interest in Capitol Records…
        I grew up with (Australian) Parlophone records.
        My opinions, which I readily admit, are biased, to say the least.
        I cringe every time I hear of such capitalistic ventures, which just kills it for collectors such as myself, who just are in it for posterity and not the money.

    • Thanks, Youknowmyname…I think you understand where I’m coming from, and Bobbysdad, you and I aren’t too far off from our thought process here. I, like you, am a collector…I love my collection of music that no one has probably ever heard of, but it’s what I love. But here is the difference…this record WAS found, it IS rare and we (my friends and I) are going to sell it, where as you would, um…I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so I’m not sure.

      The story is great, and people pay for the story, the rarity, the chance to own something that no one else will probably ever get the chance to own. Why did the signed Sgt Pepper’s sell for $300K?? Cause no one will ever see one that nice again. I’m NOT comparing this album to that one, but realistically, why is a signed copy worth $300K? If you were in my friend’s shoes, and were fortunate enough to find a needle in the haystack, and you could change your family’s life, what would you do?

      In 1967, I promise you, the Capitol Execs did not make this cover to have someone 50 years later profit from it (NOT CAPITIALISTIC on their parts), and if you are saying by selling this record WE are being capitialistic or “killing it for collectors” then you couldn’t be father from the point. This sale, high or low, will not affect what you can buy a regular Sgt Pepper’s album for, no more than what the $300K signed one will. The hobby of collecting will not change because one person was able to sell one album. That’s not capitialistic, it’s not materialistic, it’s passing along something from one party to another more appreciating party.

      Do you own a Butcher Cover? If you found one at a yard sale, would you pass because you already have Yesterday and Today?

      Again, I value your opinion, and I’m not trying to argue or get anyone upset (I’m def not upset, or trying to speak in upset tones…I know it’s hard to tell on the internet, but I swear I’m not!!) I’m just wondering, what would you do??

    • Hey, Bobbysdad…Thanks for wishing us well, definitely appreciate that. I viewed your posts as an opinion, and I welcome all opinions without malice, and certainly with no ill will. I’m glad Nat has this site for Beatles fans to be able to speak opinions without getting attacked as Nat has on other mediums (thanks again to you, Nat for this site and for standing behind your opinion.)

      I see your point, but what does Perry Cox have to gain from putting his name behind this record? He gets no money from it, and if, by your theory, the record is worthless, he LOOSES credibility in the market that he is an expert in…which would only stand to LOOSE him money. Bruce Spizer has what to gain by adding it to his widely hearlded and respected book? Nothing, cause he doesn’t have one to sell. What does Nat have to gain? You guessed it…nothing.

      Of course I want it to do well, so no one should take my word on it, and I don’t expect them to. But you better believe I’m going to try to get the story out there for all to hear.

      Again, we’re good, I love this site and value it’s readers. I would never dream of malice to anyone, that’s not me at all. I wish you well, and thank you for the well wishes on the selling of this album!

      Cheers to you, as well!

  • bobbysdad says:

    Tony,

    As I mentioned in an earlier reply, I DO wish you all the very best with this, and do remarkably well. I wish you no malice as to what you are about to do, and I certainly envy your good fortune.
    My opinions about what I think of this in no way reflects in what I think of you or what you’re doing.
    It’s the fact that I can’t see this being of any importance at all, and yet some very capitalistic people under the guise of being experts have given this album any credibility or worth regardless of what’s been mentioned here by our good man Nat. (sorry Nat, but you just haven’t convinced me…. nothing personal.)
    Anyway, not being rude, but it’s almost 4.45am here in Oz, and I must go to bed.
    I’ll be interested to read follow ups once I’m up again in a few hours.

    Cheers all… :-)

    • Happy Nat says:

      Sleep well BD! I wasn’t trying to convince you of anything. I see your opinion well, in fact it is partly mine. But I see another side to it as well. This is a rarity and yes, this is a Beatles record. This is Capitol Records history (and to a much lesser extent Beatles history). Fundamentally maybe it shouldn’t be worth a hill of beans and it probably is safe to say it doesn’t DESERVE to be worth a hill of beans. Funny how collectibility works. But it is a valuable commodity, like it or not.

  • Have the Sergent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967-who knows the worth of the album and who I can contact to find information on this LP. Thank You and God Bless eortiz616@comcast.net

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