Beatles sleeve is world's most valuable record cover
A Beatles sleeve featuring the faces of music executives in place of the Fab Four has been declared the world's most valuable record cover.
The adapted artwork for their Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album is valued at around £70,000, according to a new study by Record Collector magazine.
It is one of five Beatles albums in the top 10 of releases which are prized primarily for the collectability of their sleeves.
It also includes the famous banned "butcher" sleeve which was briefly issued in the US, and some of the numbered copies of their 1968 self-titled release, often known as the "white album".
The heftily-priced limited edition Sgt Pepper sleeve was created for Christmas 1967 to celebrate the success of the album.
Sir Peter Blake's original collage image was revamped to insert the faces of US label bosses from Capitol Records, replacing the band and many of the other notable figures who had originally featured, although Bob Dylan and Sonny Liston were among those who were retained.
Only around 100 are thought to have been made, with just three known copies in the hands of collectors.
The Beatles are also runners-up in the list, with the first 10 numbered and embossed copies of the white album valued at around £7,000.
The plain cover was designed by pop artist Richard Hamilton, who died in the summer.
Ian Shirley, editor of the Rare Record Price Guide 2012, who compiled the list, said: "While pristine records and inserts are vital to securing a top price, the numbered sleeve is the main attraction. The hunger to collect low numbers remains undiminished amongst Beatles fans."
The band also feature at number four with US album Introducing The Beatles on Vee-Jay records fetching up to £3,000, while an odd and rare US compilation of Beatles and Frank Ifield tunes released by the same label is fifth and valued at a similar level.
The butcher sleeve of US release Yesterday And Today is in eighth position, and estimated at around £2,000.
The cover was shot in 1966 by the band's then official photographer Robert Whitaker - who died six weeks ago - featuring the band in white coats and draped with fresh meat and dismembered toy dolls. It was quickly replaced when Capitol executives decided it was too distasteful, and a new shot was simply glued on top.
In third position, according to Record Collector, are a pair of sleeves designed by Andy Warhol, although less celebrated than his covers for the Velvet Underground & Nico and the Rolling Stones' Some Girls and Sticky Fingers.
He had been a freelance illustrator before finding huge fame in the 1960s and provided images for a number of LPs, including a language tutorial, Madrigal's Magic Key To Spanish Volumes 1 and 2, and a bizarre spoken-word anti-crime lecture called The Nation's Nightmare.
Record Collector editor Ian McCann said: Every so often I get asked why vinyl persists as a music medium despite it being archaic and inconvenient compared to MP3.
"One of the answers is the artwork: people like to hold a vinyl record, look at the sleeve, take in the information and the photo on the cover. That is something that an MP3 will never be able to compete with."
Also in the list at 21 is a release by cult Manchester act The Durutti Column. The Return Of The Durutti Column is noted for its sleeve made of sandpaper, which ruined the cover of any other albums when it was slipped out of a record rack.
The full list is published in the December Record Collector, on sale tomorrow. The top 10 is as follows:
1. The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [limited edition Capitol version] (1967) £70,000.
2. The Beatles - The Beatles (1968). Numbers 1-10 £7,000.
3. Madrigals - Magic Key To Spanish Volumes 1 and 2 (1953) £3,500; The Nation's Nightmare (1951),£3,000.
4. The Beatles - Introducing The Beatles (1964) £3,000.
5. The Beatles/Frank Ifield - England's Greatest Recording Stars: The Beatles & Frank Ifield On Stage (1964) £3,000.
6. Tinkerbell's Fairydust - Tinkerbell's Fairydust (1969) £3,000.
7. AC/DC - 12 Of The Best (1978) £3,000.
8. The Beatles - Yesterday And Today (1966) £2,000.
9. Dark - Dark Round The Edges (1972) £2,000.
10. Hank Mobley - Hank Mobley (1957) £2,000