After Prince ordered that the entire run of the Black Album be destroyed, it was believed that no copies were left in existence. But after a recent surprise discovery, three are now up for sale.
Warner Bros. pressed approximately 500,000 copies of the album in late 1987, but after Prince decided it was “evil” and should never see release, he demanded that they all be destroyed.
The label worked extremely hard to ensure that every copy was destroyed, executives even had to bring back advance CDs so they could be crushed. In late 1994, Prince briefly allowed his label to sell it on CD and cassette, but no vinyl copies were created.
A genuine copy of Prince’s Black Album on vinyl is one of the most sought after records in the world, so collectors have been waiting a long time to get their hands on one.
They are the only three American copies from the original 1987 vinyl pressing to surface in the past 30 years.
Jeff Gold, a former Warner Bros. Executive Vice President who now runs the music memorabilia store Record Mecca, says that, “it is easily one of the rarest records in the world, if not the rarest.”
Given the rarity, Gold was very sceptical earlier this month when he got an email inquiry asking about the value of a sealed Black Album.
“I naturally assumed it was a fake, but wrote a polite response back that one really couldn’t tell if it was genuine unless you opened up the record and inspected it, and that almost all of them were unfortunately not authentic.”
It wasn’t until he realised he was corresponding with someone he remembered from his days at Warner Bros. that he knew they probably had a genuine item.
“I couldn’t believe it. In a few minutes we were talking on the phone for the first time in many years.”
Gold’s former colleague’s daughter had recently bought her first turntable and asked him to send her some records. After looking through some boxes that had been in a closet for 25 years he came across two sealed Warner Bros. mailers. Inside were five copies of Prince’s Black Album in pristine condition.
Three of them were sent to Gold to sell for close to $20,000 each.
“I sold the first one with a single phone call to a client. I’m guessing the others will sell very quickly.”
The executive is keeping one and is contemplating selling another one at auction next year.
Now that Gold has his hands on multiple copies of the Black Album, his thoughts have turned to a Prince record that’s even harder to track down.
“Recently two test pressings of another never-released Prince album, titled Camille, have surfaced and sold for huge amounts.
“Not much is known about it – I think it was probably something Prince pressed up himself, not made by Warner Bros, his label at the time. None of my former WB co-workers know anything about it. But if you’re looking at actual finished records, The Black Album is right at the top of the list of rarest records in the world.”
So there you go, if you’ve got 20 grand to spare you can pick yourself up your very own copy.