Pricing: Black Sabbath LP

Black Sabbath 

Black Sabbathy front
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Black Sabbath, LP, Vertigo VO6 1970

side oneside two
1 Black Sabbath
(Iommi, Butler, Ward, Osbourne)
1 Evil Woman
(L. Weigand, D, Weigand, D. Wagner)
2 The Wizard
(Iommi, Butler, Ward, Osbourne)
2 Sleeping Village
(Iommi, Butler, Ward, Osbourne)
3 Behind The Wall of Sleep
(Iommi, Butler, Ward, Osbourne)
3 Warning
Ansley Dunbar, Alex Dmochowski, Victor Hickling, John Moorshead)
4 N.I.B.
(Iommi, Butler, Ward, Osbourne)
Black Sabbath: Black Sabbath, Vertigo, 1970

This article is on pricing, NOT a review of the album.

This is a dark tale of the esoteric and the arcane. That is, we’re in Devilishly difficult forensic valuing of LPs and the Ark of the Covenant of First Pressings.

I’ve chosen Black Sabbath which was released on Friday 13th 1970 (a deliberate choice of date).  It was recorded in 12 hours on just one day, 16 October 1969. I’m disappointed. They could have waited a fortnight for Halloween. Ozzy Osbourne has often stated that’s how albums should be made.

It’s here because there is an incredible amount of information available on pressings. It’s an early Vertigo label LP, and early Vertigo is one of the most collected labels, but having said that, this album and then Paranoid were among its very best sellers, so not rare. It was #8 in the UK and German LP charts, and #23 in the USA. It eventually sold a million plus in the USA.

Tony Iommi We just went in the studio and did it in a day, we played our live set and that was it. We actually thought a whole day was quite a long time, then off we went the next day to play for £20 in Switzerland.
Music Week, 2012

Tony Iommi had lost the tips of his middle fingers on hs fretting hand (he is left-handed, so fretted with his right hand) in an accident when he was a 17 year old sheet metal worker. He created plastic fingertips and detuned the guitar so that he could bend the strings.

Tonyy Iommi I’d play a load of chords and I’d have to play fifths because I couldn’t play fourths because of my fingers, That helped me develop my style of playing, bending the strings and hitting the open string at the same time just to make the sound wilder.
Mojo, 2013

It’s noted for its iconic cover photo, shot on location by ‘Keef’ aka Keith Macmillan, who did the first four Black Sabbath albums, as well as albums for David Bowie and Rod Stewart. He had just done Colosseum’s Valentyne Suit which has a similar colour balance. The model was Louisa Livingstone, on a freezing cold early morning at Mapledurham Watermill in Oxfordshire, now a tourist location sought after by Black Sabbath fans. His assistant wrote the poem on the inside sleeve, which was said to have upset the band as it cemented their Satanist / occult image. Ozzie Osborne can’t remember being upset about it. Why does that not surprise me?

Robert Christgau, the highly esteemed Village Voice critic called it Bullshit necromancy, the worst of the counterculture, with drug-impaired reaction time and long solos. The album is credited with inventing ‘Doom Metal.’

I chose the album because I had randomly picked up a 2013 copy of Record Collector on Black Sabbath. It valued a 1st pressing at £50 and a 2nd pressing at £30. I knew it had accelerated upwards in price dramatically from those figures. It also doesn’t equate to earlier Rare Record Guide values, but I guess those who compile the guide were not the authors of the article.

Forensics on value … starting in 2008, the big jump is the 1st with a “large” swirl label and black gatefold centre, and a 2nd with a “swirl” label and a white gatefold. That’s as much as I’d want to know, but I’m going to crawl into the catacombs and look further.

All Rare Record Guide values will be mint condition – as new, with a proper Vertigo inner sleeve, like this:

Screenshot 2020-08-09 at 12.18.13

This is from my Manfred Mann Chapter III album, but it will look the same

R-462466-1593136361-8882.jpeg

This is the other side of the LP, from Discogs.com

You can see why the inner sleeve is important.

Rare Record Guide 2008 lists 1st pressing at £50 / £60, 2nd pressing at £30 / £200. It mentions an “allegedly” laminated sleeve which may be the higher figure. ‘Allegedly’ means the compilers haven’t seen one.
Rare Record Guide 2010 lists 1st pressing at £70, 2nd pressing at £30 / £200 with the same allegation.

From then on they stress the black inner gatefold with its inverted cross and poem.

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From Discogs … I don’t have a copy

Rare Record Guide 2012 lists 1st pressing at £150 “black gatefold” /  2nd pressing at £40 “white gatefold” / 2nd with “Dunbar credit” £200.
Rare Record Guide 2014 is 1st pressing £400 / 2nd pressing £200
Rare Record Guide 2016 is is 1st pressing ‘large swirl label’  £400 / 2nd pressing swirl label £200Rare Record Guide 2018 is is 1st pressing ‘large swirl label’  £400 / 2nd pressing swirl label £200 + 3rd pressing ‘swirl’ £100

So I consulted Rare Record Guide 2020.

IMG_5520

Phew. A 2nd pressing is still worth only half.

This shows why dealers increasingly consult discogs.com for definitive information, because it is not as straightforward as that. This is one of their most exhaustive (and exhausting entries), so let us go journey into the dark side of OCD collectors.

DISCOGS – you may not wish to read every word, but you get the gist.

1st UK pressing:
First issue released on the ”swirl” Vertigo label with big logo above spindle hole and the wording ”Vertigo” below spindle hole and ‘A PHILIPS RECORD PRODUCT’ text.
Comes in a gatefold cover and with a ”swirl” inner bag. The gatefold cover is slightly textured compared to later issues and has different upper-case only credits on inner gatefold.

Vertigo inner sleeve reports: ‘MADE IN ENGLAND British Patent No. 800513 & 973939 – PLASTIC BAGS CAN BE DANGEROUS – TO AVOID SUFFOCATION KEEP THOS BAG AWAY FROM BABIES AND CHILDREN’

The first issue (this release) had an erroneous copyright warning stating that “Copyright subsists in all Stereo recordings…”. Subsequent ”swirl” Vertigo reissues corrected copyright warning to “Copyright subsists in all Vertigo recordings…”

The first (this release) and 2nd versions had band member and production credits in capital letters throughout. Subsequent ”swirl” Vertigo reissues changed all credits into upper and lower case and also adds in composition and publishing credits.
All issues released on the ”swirl” Vertigo misspell Ozzy Osbourne as Ossie Osborne.

2nd UK pressing
The 2nd UK press with ”swirl” Vertigo big logo above spindle hole and the wording ”Vertigo” below spindle hole but no ‘A PHILIPS RECORD PRODUCT’ text under.

Compared to the 3rd UK press in this issue ‘BLACK SABBATH’ it is slightly moved to the right than the wording ‘VERTIGO’. ‘VO6 847 903 VTY’ and below ‘847 903 2Y’ lines are farther from the edge and decentralized. The last line is moved farther to the right than the other two above.

As the first issue, this second issue comes in a gatefold cover and with classic Vertigo ”swirl” inner bag. The gatefold cover is slightly textured compared to later issues and the different upper-case only credits on inner gatefold.

Vertigo inner sleeve reports: ‘MADE IN ENGLAND British Patent No. 800513 & 973939 – PLASTIC BAGS CAN BE DANGEROUS – TO AVOID SUFFOCATION KEEP THOS BAG AWAY FROM BABIES AND CHILDREN’.

The second issue (this release) and subsequent ”swirl” Vertigo reissues has the corrected copyright warning “Copyright subsists in all Vertigo recordings…”, instead the first issue had the erroneous copyright warning “Copyright subsists in all Stereo recordings…”.

The second (this release) and first issue had band member and production credits in capital letters throughout. Subsequent ”swirl” Vertigo reissues changed all credits into upper and lower case and also adds in composition and publishing credits.
All issues released on the ”swirl” Vertigo all mis-spell Ozzy Osbourne as Ossie Osborne.

I will spare you the 3rd and 4th pressing details, but they’re up there.

So on to Discogs sales report on actual dealer’s realized prices on the site:

LOWEST:  £90.59
MEDIAN:  £200
HIGHEST: £400

Then there are the ones dealers are advertising on Discogs in August 2020. Someone in Russia has a “Near Mint” copy at £2500. Then Sweden £2156, Russia £1350, Poland £1087, Italy £905.

The highest price for a copy actually in the UK is £780 in “Very Good Plus” condition:

All Round Amazing condition. With Original inner Sleeve, Cover has slight edge wear. Good spine. Very nice and straight Copy. Media so close to NM, No Scratches. Play tested, and all there is is a couple of light pops and Very quiet in between tracks. Only a couple of VERY light hairlines. Some new records are worse than this. No Stickers Splits or Writing on Cover or labels.

MY STORY …

As with Case Study: My Generation this comes from one of my local shops. I used to go in every Tuesday morning when he had new stock. He also sold Record Collector. One Tuesday, he said, Have you seen this? It was the latest copy of Record Collector, and at that time they ran a section called eBay Watch or On the net or whatever. It reported that a first pressing of Black Sabbath had just sold for £650 on eBay. We discussed bidding wars and the way in which people get carried away. I remembered my wife desperately wanting a late 1930s jigsaw puzzle to frame. She knew it would go high and put a £50.01 ceiling on her auto bid. Three people were in a frantic race and it ended up fetching over £300. We agreed that was the kind of desperation to win that had fuelled a bidding war which had no relation to true value.

‘Haven’t you looked up there?’ he said, pointing to the albums displayed on the wall.
I looked, there it was Black Sabbath. First pressing £70.
‘Is it really a first pressing?’ I asked.
‘Yes. I checked. It is.’
‘Wow,’ I said, ‘So I suppose you’re going to change the price now.’
“No, I’m not. It’s been up there for eighteen months and do you know, not one person has asked me to take it down so they can examine it.’
He paused, ‘I’ve got two second pressings under the counter at £40 each, but I’m not going to put them up until I’ve sold that.’

CODA: He did sell it within a week … having shown everyone the Record Collector piece. Someone decided £70 was an investment, and indeed it was. I contemplated it myself for a moment, but I only ever buy LPs I want to hear. And I’m not fond of Black Sabbath.