The controversial design has become a highly collectable and sought-after item. The ‘Butcher’ album – first released in the US and Canada – was so branded because of the cover photograph showing the Fab Four dressed in white smocks and covered with decapitated baby dolls and bits of raw meat.
Julien’s says this is “believed to be the only First State ‘Butcher’ album bearing three Beatles signatures” (also Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr) and the estimate was $160,000-180,000.
The original albums were recalled after the controversy and the photo replaced by another showing cover showing the Beatles standing around an old-fashioned steamer trunk. Copies that never had a replacement cover pasted on – ‘First State’ – are in high demand by collectors, as are stereo not mono versions.
It was offered at Julien’s Auctions’ Music Icons: The Beatles in Liverpool sale at The Beatles Story on May 9, along with nearly 300 pieces of band memorabilia.
This was the first-ever auction held by the Californian firm to take place in the Fab Four’s hometown, staged at the world’s largest permanent exhibition dedicated to the Beatles.
Displayed in Lennon's apartment
Adding to the value of the album was the fact it was owned by Lennon. It had been displayed on the wall of John’s Dakota apartment in New York City before being signed and given to Beatles fan Dave Morrell, in a trade to obtain the reel-to-reel recording of Yellow Matter Custard that Morrell owned. The back of the cover of the album features an original artwork by Lennon of a man holding a shovel with his dog next to him.
The buyer, who has asked to remain anonymous, is a US collector and bought the record as an investment believing it will increase in value in the years to come.
Darren Julien, CEO/President of Julien’s Auctions, said: “This was a world record for a Beatles Butcher cover. This is the third-highest price paid for a vinyl and the market is still developing so we anticipate in the next five years this same record could bring $500,000 plus.”
In 2015 Julien’s sold Ringo Starr’s number 1 White album for $790,000 and in January of that same year an acetate copy of My Happiness, the first song Elvis Presley ever recorded, made $300,000.
More Beatles memorabilia
Other highlights of the Liverpool sale included an interior door to Lennon and Starr’s Tittenhurst Park home which sold for £5760 ($7500); a black pen on paper cartoon drawing by Lennon depicting a man crawling out of a box sold for £12,800 ($16,700); a baseball signed by all four Beatles at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, during their final live performance sold for £57,600 ($75,000).
A poster from Liverpool Airport announcing the ‘Visit of The Beatles’ on July 10, 1964, signed by all four Beatles sold for £32,000 ($41,700); Brian Epstein’s black Samsonite briefcase used by the band’s manager during their 1966 tour of the Far East and their US tour of the same year sold for £3520 ($4600); an acoustic guitar with custom decoration signed by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Buddy Holly and more sold for £41,600 ($54,200); and a Paul McCartney signed Russian Balalaika sold for £8960 ($11,700).
Prices mentioned are premium-inclusive.