Record geeks love Prince and his unconventional release methods. That was made obvious again by the predominant album-collectors website Discogs, which just issued a new list Monday of the “Top 100 Most Expensive Records,” culled from its 14 years in the business of buying and selling rare music items.
Prince's infamously shelved “Black Album” appears three times in the top 100, including the top spot, after a diehard fan of the late Minneapolis icon paid $15,000 for a 1987 promo version of the LP via the website. That's more than twice the price paid for the next-highest record on the list, a 78-rpm shellac record on the Vocalion label by blues pioneer Charley Patton.
Intended as the follow-up to the landmark "Sign o' the Times" album, the more subversive, oddball and ultra-funky "Black Album" was pulled off the Warner Bros. release schedule by Prince himself near the end of 1987. Supposedly only about 100 copies of it got out to the world, mostly in Europe. Prince did later agree to let the label issue the record in 1994, but the legend behind it built up so much in the meantime that bootleg versions of it became hotly sought by collectors.
Two other copies of the record made the list along with a couple other ultra-rare Prince items, including an original 1975 single by his ex-cousin-in-law Pepe Willie's band 94 East (featuring the teenager on guitar) and a cassette issued for Fashion Week goers in 1994 to help hype "The Gold Experience" album.
Here are all of Prince's entries on Discogs' "Top 100 Most Expensive Records:"
- No. 98: “The Black Album,” 1994 promo version, $2,250
- No. 33: “Fortune Teller / I Just Wanna Be” 7-inch by 94 East featuring Prince, $3,250.
- No. 21: “The Versace Experience: Prelude 2 Gold,” 1994 promo cassette (reissued for Record Store Day this past April), $4117.03
- No. 12: “Black Album,” another 1994 version, $5,203.47
- No. 1: "Black Album," original 1987 promo LP, $15,000
No other Minnesota artists appear on the Discogs list, which is also heavy with Sub Pop-era Nirvana releases, a lot of obscure '60s-'70s garage-rock and funk acts and a surprising number of ‘80s punk bands including Minor Threat, Agnostic Front, the Misfits and Bad Brains.