A household name since the 1960s, Aretha Franklin has paved her way as one of, if not the, most influential female voices in music history. Ms. Franklin’s discography contains a multitude of musical genres from soul, R&B, funk, to later experimental disco. The Queen of Soul has become a pop-culture staple and among the most celebrated women in music.
With accolades such as 20 Number #1 Billboard singles, Ms. Franklin’s vinyl records are sought out among enthusiasts and collectors. But in the library of Aretha Franklin’s music, which albums are among the most valuable? And what is it that makes these records valuable in the first place?
In this article, we will take a look at what exactly are the key factors that gives an Aretha Franklin vinyl record value, and ultimately help you figure out if you just might be sitting on an Aretha record that’s worth some money.
Determining an Aretha Franklin Vinyl Record’s Value
There are 38 studio albums and 6 live albums composing Aretha Franklin’s record catalog, making the search for valuable Aretha Franklin vinyl slightly more convoluted. But it gets easier from here.
Simply put, look out for first pressings, reissues, limited-edition releases, and promotional copies if you’re in search of a an Aretha Franklin record.
But how does this all factor into the potential worth of an Aretha album? Well, let’s dive deeper to find out.
The first pressing of a notable record will almost always hold value. A first pressing can go a long way, but not every original issue of Franklin’s discography has held its value over the trials of time.
Some important first edition vinyl to note are Aretha with the Ray Bryant Combo, I’ve Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You, Aretha Now, Aretha Arrives, Young, Gifted, and Black, and Aretha’s Gold. These records contain The Queen of Soul’s adored perennial hits- leaving these albums more desirable to the masses.
Another important footnote is that Aretha with the Ray Bryant Combo is Franklin’s first album ever and I’ve Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You is considered her “breakout” album, synonymously with Aretha Now– which followed the year after. These three albums signify the highlights of Aretha’s career which is an attractive feature for vinyl enthusiasts.
If the first pressing of one of these records remains anywhere from Good to Mint condition, they can surely hold value upwards of $75-$300.
A couple of Ms. Franklin’s records have been released as promotional copies for Disk Jockeys while reissued in mono sound. Aside from the D/J promo, monaural, and “not for sale” stickers on the vinyl cover, the record itself will have a sample Atlantic white label on the vinyl.
This label excerpts a simple white and black silhouette with the trademark Atlantic A and fan label. These records are extremely valuable due to their exclusive nature and have been released through the albums Aretha Now, Aretha Arrives, and Young, Gifted, and Black.
A “hype sticker” is commonly placed on a vinyl record’s cover to promote an album for a well-known single that the record contains. Just because a song may be a best-selling behemoth, doesn’t mean the record will sell as equally.
This is where record companies see it fit to advertise hit singles on the album cover. As in the case with I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You, this breakout record boasts Ms. Franklin’s most acclaimed hit “Respect”, which is indicated via a sticker on the record’s cover. Hype stickers can often signify that the record may be an original or among the first pressings of the album due to its strategic marketing, being another contributing factor for added value.
A signed copy is hard to come by. The Queen of Soul’s signature can exponentially mark up the value of one of her vinyl records. For example, in the latter half of her career, Franklin released Aretha, a more modern pop album with contributions from the likes of George Michael and Larry Graham.
Except for her number one hit “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”, this record failed to see much critical or commercial praise. Aside from the fact that Andy Warhol had done the artwork for the album cover just before he passed away in 1987, a signed copy of this album has been one of the highest-selling of Aretha Franklin’s vinyl records to this date with a sold value of nearly $400.
International pressings hold high value for specific records depending on which countries they come from. Japanese pressings are among the most valuable pieces of vinyl a collector should look out for.
Due to their heavyweight and immaculate sound quality, Japanese vinyl records are sought out by many. They can be most easily identified by a vertical strip of Japanese lettering running parallel to the spine of a record sleeve.
Many of the Queen of Soul’s live albums have been released for limited-time runs. Her original release of Live at the Fillmore West may not hold a steep price point but does double its average pricing—if kept above Very Good condition.
In contrast, Aretha’s 1968 live album Aretha In Paris ranks within the lower end of the value spectrum due to it being overshadowed by the success of both her surrounding albums Aretha Now and Soul ‘69.
A recent live album reissue to keep an eye out for is Oh Me, Oh My Live in Philly, 1972. This live performance was reissued for Record Store Day in July of 2021 with a limited run of 10,000 copies- assigned on yellow and orange vinyl coloring. The lucky bunch that got their hands on this album can surely look to gain some added value to their collection further down the line, as the record is currently selling for twice its original price point within the space of just one year.
Limited Edition Releases
Capitalizing on limited edition pressings is crucial in the world of record collecting. Limited Edition releases often mark record anniversaries of a specific artist. Most commonly will the record be released on a special vinyl coloring. Aretha Franklin has had several limited-edition releases to take note of.
I’ve Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You is considered Aretha Franklin’s breakout album especially noted for the song “Respect”. In 2019 this album was reissued in its original mono pressing, which has received acclaim for its quality.
The record in itself is a 180g vinyl with a white and purple haze coloration. Aretha’s Gold is another limited-edition release; with an original master recording of only 4000 copies being distributed in 2017, this collection of best hits retains an immense value for its collectors.
Colored Vinyl can be tricky in terms of determining a record’s value. Some collectors find them gimmicky and unoriginal to the source. What is important to note about these colored vinyl reissues is that they often are subject to limited releases and will be harder to find in further years.
In 2019, I’ve Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You was reissued in its original mono pressing and on 180g vinyl with a white and purple haze coloration. Young, Gifted, and Black, another recent reissue was released in February of 2021 on opaque yellow vinyl and is already showing a steady value increase just within the space of its one-year release.
The age-old debate of stereophonic versus monaural records is a road most tortuous. In between Aretha Franklin’s debut 1961 album Aretha with the Ray Bryant Combo and her best selling Aretha Now, record companies made the switch from vinyl records being distributed via mono to primarily stereophonically distributed.
This leads to Ms. Franklin’s monaural albums being more valuable than her stereo pressings. Collectors claim that these original mono pressings, or monaural reissues, are higher in quality and are heard in the way they originally intended to be.
Aretha Franklin posthumously continues to emulate the true spirit of the soul with the mezzo-soprano vocals and vibrant energy she left on her records. There’s no doubt that The Queen of Soul’s albums will always have value. That is to say, above all aforementioned attributes, record packaging and vinyl quality are the most important when determining Aretha Franklin vinyl record value.
Keep in mind that even the most aesthetically pleasing color vinyl may be obsolete if not properly cared for. Package quality remains equally as important as it does its vinyl counterpart. If an original record sleeve is missing or unsalvageable, the vinyl album may not always hold its value. Aretha Franklin has a fantastic discography so keep an eye out for any exciting reissues and don’t forget to keep that vibrant spirit alive.