“Introducing… The Beatles” was the first Beatles album released in the United States, on Jan. 1964. The songs were repeats from the 1963 British debut album, “Please Please Me”
“Meet the Beatles!” was also released in the United States in January of 1964. It had the same cover photo as the 1963 British album, “With the Beatles.”
I’m old and I can’t remember anything. So when my editor asked me to write about my very first collectible, I was shocked (and somewhat disturbed) to realize I remembered every single detail. And I was interested to see that this same collectible has had a surprising trajectory in value over the years—a whole story unto itself.
I was a typical ’tween in 1964, crazed by Beatlemania. I lived in a small university town in Oklahoma, not exactly a mecca for pop culture. There were no department stores and relatively few places to shop. But, amazingly enough, the locally owned grocery had a rotating display rack full of record albums placed next to a few cosmetics. You have to realize that this was a time when grocery stores only sold groceries (not even greeting cards), but I’m guessing the owner saw a way to cash in with the local (female) college students.
The Beatles’ real debut album, “Please Please Me,” was released in the U.K. in March 1963, more than a year before the first Beatles album appeared in the United States.
There were two Beatles albums in that wire rack (the first ones released in the United States) and they called to me like sirens to Odysseus. Vee-Jay’s “Introducing… the Beatles” was released on Jan. 10, 1964, while Capitol’s “Meet the Beatles!” followed 10 days later. It undoubtedly took a few weeks before they were distributed to this little burg in Oklahoma, but Beatle fever was at a high pitch and it didn’t take long for them to appear in my town, next to the two selections of lipstick (pink and red).
But we in the states were far behind the times. The Beatles had already released two other studio albums in the U.K. and one in Canada by the time these arrived. Their real debut album was “Please Please Me,” issued by Parlophone in March 1963. It was followed by “With the Beatles” in November 1963. Both soared to No. 1 on the British charts. Affiliates in the U.S. scrambled to jump on the bandwagon.
None of that was known (or mattered) then. We were just happy to finally have a Beatles album to buy. It took a lot of 50-cents-per-hour babysitting jobs to save up $3.50, the cost of one record. I bought “Meet the Beatles!” first, because the banner (incorrectly) claimed it was “the first album.” And I liked the cover better. But more money was earned and “Introducing… The Beatles” came home a few days later.
I wish I could tell you I was careful with my purchases, but they weren’t considered collectibles then; just records to enjoy. I started out playing them on my parents’ large console stereo in the living room, but my dad decided he didn’t want to listen to the same songs played nonstop, over and over, 100 times in a row, so I had to move to the plastic 45/33 RPM suitcase unit in my bedroom (with the door closed, please). And, no, I didn’t pick the records up by the edges with the very tips of my fingers and, yes, I might have lost the sleeves. I did not, however, draw a heart around Paul’s face with a pink ballpoint pen, a fact that would later make my copy worth way more than one of my girlfriend’s.
“The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons” was a 1964 double album that came with a fold-out poster. It was never popular and was merely a re-packaging of two other records.
Eventually, I moved into adulthood and those first two albums were shoved in the stacks with all the others. In those days, I collected early, obscure and hard-to-find Beatles albums, like “The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons,” a double-record set released by Vee-Jay in October 1964. It was never popular (and now fairly rare) because it was merely a repackaging of songs from “Introducing… The Beatles” and “The Golden Hits of the Four Seasons.” But I loved the campy cover (You Be the Judge and Jury!) and paid way too much for it in a dusty, used record store on the West Coast.
Another favorite is “The Beatles with Tony Sheridan”, a 1964 release that includes 1961 recordings of the Beatles in Hamburg, singing on stage as a back-up group for Tony Sheridan. These are some of the earliest recordings of the Beatles’ sound and they only appear in five songs on the album. I eventually ended up with a collection of 24 Beatles LPs, many of them British releases.
Valuing Beatles Albums
In the early 1990s, after I had become an antiques dealer and serious collector, I decided to buy a price guide and look up values.
The Beatles were only a back-up band when they recorded songs with Tony Sheridan in 1961. MGM released this album 1964, after they became a world sensation. Now “The Beatles” appear in big letters and “Tony Sheridan” is barely readable.
Because it was the first U.S. album, I figured “Introducing… The Beatles” might actually be worth something. Sure enough, a rare stereophonic copy, with an oval Vee-Jay logo on the label and advertising on the back cover was listed for $6,500. But Vee-Jay had been in litigation in early 1964, served often with restraining orders. Label designs and cover details changed frequently, as printing and pressing were stopped and started multiple times. Even the songs were changed. Finally, production of the album ceased altogether in October 1964. Just like book editions, the earliest issues of this complicated album are worth the most. As it turned out, my particular version was listed for $350 in excellent condition (and mine certainly wasn’t).
Fast forward 20 years. The Internet has drastically changed the collectible market. Items that were once considered rare are found to be much more accessible when considered across a global market, so many values have dropped. Most of those odd Beatles albums that were expensive in the 1980s and the 1990s are worth far less today.
But the reverse is also true: extremely scarce memorabilia now have a global audience, so their values have increased. My version of “Introducing… The Beatles” currently sells for $35. That’s an interesting journey over 50 years—from $3.50 to $350 to $35. It’s a textbook example of the way the Internet has affected prices.
But that very first issue of “Introducing… The Beatles,” the one with the oval logo and the ads on the back cover? It now sells for $15,000.
Liz Holderman is a Worthologist who specializes in collectible books, documents and autographs.
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