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.
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
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.