Prince was an icon. A magnetic figure who managed to sell more than 100 million records in his lifetime. Yet, Prince’s music is, to some, unapproachable. The sheer amount of music he produced is an insurmountable wall, so comprehensive that it veers into the overwhelming. When he passed in 2016, many had hardly scratched the surface of his work. I admit to being part of this crowd. To this day, I struggle with getting in touch with who he was. So eclectic, so far out, yet oddly irresistible. I turned to Discogs to see what the most popular and expensive Prince albums are ahead of what would have been his 60th birthday.
By all accounts, he was an early master of his trade. On the album notes (available on many Discogs release pages) for his debut album, For You, he is listed as writing, producing, arranging, composing, and playing all 27 instruments on the recording, except for the song “Soft and Wet”, which he co-wrote. He was just 19 years old. He would go on to release 12 albums in the following 13 years.
His career spanned all the major format shifts of the last five decades and you can find rare Prince albums in all of them. Prince had an early affinity for physical music, going so far as to release limited edition records for birthdays. However, he also had the foresight to embrace the power of the internet. He was widely recognized for releasing Crystal Ball online in 1998, on a website that is an endearing relic to early website design.
A single person could spend months individually inspecting Prince’s discography on Discogs. I was curious what Discogs community interactions could tell me about the 299 releases, 1,450 appearances and nearly 2,200 credits Prince (not including his aliases) has notched on Discogs. For instance, what are the most popular Prince albums? How about the most wanted? And, of course, what are Prince’s most expensive albums?
Most Expensive Prince Albums
For the most expensive Prince albums, sales history on Discogs was used.
Highest Sale Price: $15,000
Notes: Perhaps the most famous rare vinyl record that exists, the original pressing of The Black Album is a whale that any collector would envy. The story is pure Prince. Initially scheduled for a release in 1987, Prince recalled all copies a week before distribution after having an epiphany about the album being “evil”. The original had no printed title, no artist name, no production credits nor photography printed; it was just a simple black sleeve accompanying the disc. Later on, Warner Bros. was allowed to sell the album on CD and cassette, but never again on vinyl. The hundred-or-so simple sleeves and discs that made it out as promos before the recall are now worth an astronomical amount, including a rare Canadian variant on sale for $27,500 in the Discogs Marketplace!
Highest Sale Price: $5,034
Notes: In an interesting trend, apparently the lighter your album color of The Black Album, the less value it caries. This grey release appears twice in the top-5 most expensive Prince albums sold on Discogs.
Highest Sale Price: $4,027.91
Notes: The only casette to even get close to Prince’s most expensive records list is this heavy hitter. The cassette was given to attendees of the Versace collection of Paris Fashion Week in 1995.
Highest Sale Price: $1,346
Notes: Someone got a good deal on this late last year according to the release sales history.
Highest Sale Price: $935.77
Notes: This Japanese CD release of Milk & Honey is hot! Definitely flies under most radars, this album was recorded at Paisley Park Studios where Prince produced, wrote, and composed it with Támar. This was technically unreleased. On a flyer attached to the European release of Prince’s 3121 the album was first titled Beautiful, Loved & Blessed. It was postponed from March 2006 to May 1st, then to August, before being canceled altogether. Only a few copies made it into the hands of the public.
Highest Sale Price: $919.50
Notes: Ah, the value of keeping that obi strip. This Japanese CD release has a median sale price of $135, but the one and only with an obi strip went for $935 last year. Not a Prince album you say? Think again! He wrote the track 100MPH.
Most Popular Prince Albums
Notes: Purple Rain is the most popular Prince album in the Discogs database. For those that are looking for this one, as of publishing there are more than 2,000 copies currently available in the Marketplace.
Notes: No surprises with this one – the album went quadrupule platinum. Interestingly enough, the 7” single of 1999 has a total of more than 8,000 added to a collection or wantlist. Not sure if that’s intentional, but it’s never a bad time for a reminder to make sure you have the right version of your record added to your Collection.
Notes: In true Prince style, he pushed for this album to be a triple LP release before compromising with record execs for just two. Sign O’ The Times is widely considered to be Prince’s most critically-acclaimed album.
Notes: The earliest-released of his top-5 albums, Prince’s self-titled release was a catalyst to his fame.
Notes: An album of firsts for Prince, Controversy helped establish his modern persona. Prince both tackled lofty political statements and associated himself with the color purple on this album.
The Method Behind The Most Popular
By adding the Haves and Wants of in the Statistics section of every Prince master page, I was able to get a rough idea of Prince’s most popular albums on Discogs. For those not in the know, the Collection feature is the source of the Haves and is one of the most useful aspects of Discogs. You can keep track of albums you own, organize releases in folders, search and filter items, and see how much your record collection is worth. We recently did a little redesign of this as well, so if you have fewer than 1,400 items in your Collection and haven’t visited in awhile stop by and check it out.
Interested in joining the passionate community of music lovers at Discogs? Sign up for an account to track your Collection, start a Wantlist and shop for thousands of music releases in the Marketplace!