Must-Have Collectible Christmas Vinyl Records
The Beatles Fan Club Issue: “Season’s Greeting from the Beatles”
If I were a songwriter, I’d make a special effort to compose a catchy Christmas tune.
Think about it: they get played year after year, some for decades. Every popular artist in virtually every genre—at some point in their career—feels obligated to record a Christmas album. They’ll record the songs that everyone knows and loves, and do their best to make each one “their own.”
One popular must-do is “The Little Drummer Boy:” versions of this song can be found by Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Joan Jett and the Dandy Warhols, among others. Even nonagenarian Christopher Lee (Saruman of Lord of the Rings fame) recorded a Heavy Metal version of the song as a follow-up to his previous Christmas hit “Jingle Hell.” Just thinking about the royalties that a single good Christmas tune could throw off over the course of a lifetime makes my head spin. I wouldn’t have to compose the next “White Christmas” or “Little Drummer Boy,” either; not me; I’d settle for the next “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
Christopher Lee (Saruman of Lord of the Rings fame) recorded a Heavy Metal version of “The Little Drummer Boy.”
The broad availability of Christmas music means you can find something obscure and collectible for everyone on your list. Let’s have a look at a few scarce but still popular vintage Christmas records:
The Beatles Fan Club Issue
From 1963 through 1969, The Beatles issued a 45 RPM acetate (flexible disc) in their fan club magazine. The recording contained various song snippets and a lot of silly banter to entertain fan club members. A gatefold sleeve/acetate combination in good condition typically sells for around $200. In 1970, the Beatles’ Apple Records issued a vinyl compilation of the seven fan club Christmas recordings that sells for around $350 in good condition.
Eartha Kitt: “Santa Baby”
Eartha Kitt: Santa Baby
This 1953 song by Joan Javits and Philip Springer has become a Christmas standard. Kitt’s version on the RCA label is the original. Issued as a 45 RPM single, the record in good condition in the original picture sleeve sells for less than $50.
Frank Sinatra: “A Jolly Christmas” and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”
Frank Sinatra: A Jolly Christmas
This collection by Old Blue Eyes, released in 1957 by Capitol Records, sits atop the Christmas Music Album pantheon along with Bing Crosby’s White Christmas (Decca compilation, 1986) and Andy Williams’ 1963 Columbia Records release, “Christmas Album.” All of these can be purchased for $25-$50, depending on condition.
“Elvis’ Christmas Album”
Elvis’ Christmas Album
The King’s first Christmas album was issued in 1957 on the RCA Victor label. At that time, rock ’n’ roll was very controversial in mainstream America, and Elvis was its poster boy. So, he limited himself to recording a set of holiday standards that was conservatively arranged. Vintage offerings of this album in near-mint condition sell for around $400; 2016 vinyl re-issues can be found for $50 or so.
The Rolling Stones: “Cosmic Christmas”
The Rolling Stones: Cosmic Christmas
Yes, the Rolling Stones released a Christmas record. Not much of one, frankly, but for Stones fans, it’s a real find. The brief track was originally hidden at the end of side one of the Stones’ 1967 album “Their Satanic Majesty’s Request.” The track is discoverable only when played at 78 RPM; the rest of the album is at 33 RPM, so few listeners even knew of its existence. The song is “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” played by bassist Bill Wyman on a synthesizer. It was later issued as a 7-inch 45 RPM single. It sells for between $50-$75.
Phil Spector: “A Christmas Gift for You”
Phil Spector: A Christmas Gift for You
Most lists of must-have Christmas albums place Spector’s 1963 offering right squarely on the top. Like the other albums mentioned here, the tunes are standard Christmas fare. Two things make this album special: Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production and his wonderful Phillies Records stable of artists: The Ronettes, The Crystals, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and Darlene Love. Great stuff! Sealed, original monaural albums sell for $100-$150; re-issues can be had for about $25.
The Ventures Christmas Album
The Ventures Christmas Album
This 1965 offering on the Dolton label has been called “the greatest instrumental rock ’n’ roll Christmas album ever made.” On it you’ll find an assortment of Christmas standards, all played with an easy rock ’n’ roll beat. A perfect musical background for your nostalgic ’60s holiday get-together: you can listen to The Ventures while you eat fondue, sip Riunite on ice, and play Twister.
Willie Nelson: Pretty Paper
If you’re looking for a bargain in vintage Christmas vinyl, this would be it. The title tune, written by Nelson, was a hit for Roy Orbison in 1963. In 1979, the artist assembled a collection of laid-back, smooth Christmas tunes for CBS. A large quantity was released, and there are still plenty of them around; most can be had for under $10.
Of course, most of the above music can be found on CDs or downloaded as MP3 files. Neither of those options are as much fun as collecting the vintage vinyl versions, but you’ll still get to hear your favorite Christmas music performed by some of the greats.
Wayne Jordan is a Virginia-licensed auctioneer, Certified Personal Property Appraiser and Accredited Business Broker. He has held the professional designations of Certified Estate Specialist; Accredited Auctioneer of Real Estate; Certified Auction Specialist, Residential Real Estate and Accredited Business Broker. He also has held state licenses in Real Estate and Insurance. Wayne is a regular columnist for Antique Trader Magazine, a WorthPoint Worthologist (appraiser) and the author of two books. For more info, visit Wayne Jordan Auctions or Resale Retailing with Wayne Jordan.
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