In 1957, an engineer at the RCA plant in New Jersey where "Elvis' Christmas Album" was being pressed made himself a very special souvenir. He used the red vinyl normally reserved for classical albums to press a copy of the new Elvis Presley record.
Four decades later, the red record made its way from that retiring engineer to a dealer, who auctioned it to the present owner for a record sum.
That album (and its documentation, including a signed affidavit from the original owner and his 1957 W-2s from the RCA plant) has been put on sale on eBay by the owner, the Rev. Steven Banas, with a buy-it-now price of $29,999.99. The sale is scheduled to end at 3:30 p.m. EST Thursday.
"I am simply selling off the majority of my rare collection in order to become debt-free and focus more time on ministry and mission work," said Banas, a Southern Baptist minister and a longtime collector from Reeds Spring, Mo.
Does this record command a $30,000 price tag? Banas' listing says this record's unique pedigree makes it the rarest record in the world.
"It's not one of a kind, it's not the rarest Elvis out there, and certainly not the rarest in the world," said John Tefteller, owner ofWorld's Rarest Records, who's been collecting for 40 years. Tefteller was offered the red vinyl Christmas album years back when it first surfaced on the market, and at the time he learned there was at least one, maybe two other copies. Later, Banas offered to sell him the record.
"I would consider paying $10,000," said Tefteller, "but he's not going to do that, [Banas] paid $15,000. I would guess there are people that are offering him $5,000 – $10,000 and that's where it's going to sit. I think he would be lucky to recoup his original investment."
The rarest Elvis record in Tefteller's estimation is the one-off acetate of the song "My Happiness" he cut for his mother in 1953.
While some of the Sun Records Elvis singles from 1954 and 1955 are going up in value, in general, "the market for Elvis has not gone up the last 20-30 years. It's gone down," Tefteller said. "Elvis was selling huge amounts of records, and there's just not enough buyers absorbing all the copies that are flooding the market as that generation is dying off or retiring and deciding to sell off their records."
Banas' other current Elvis auctions include a set of colored vinyl singles with a buy-it-now" price of $11,495, an "ultra rare" Elvis and Jaye P. Morgan double gatefold LP with a buy-it-now price of $9,999.95, and a Japanese CD offered at $899.99.
Banas declined to comment about how he arrived at his price. He said his sales over the past year have been fair, due to the economy. "I am just happy to break even on many of the items that I collected."