What’s the most money you’ve forked over for a CD? These lovable silver discs can go for as much as $20 for a new album, but some collectors are dropping a lot more than that on desirable CDs and treasured box sets. And by “a lot,” we mean over $1,000.
Below is a ranking of the 100 most expensive CDs ever sold on Discogs. All prices have been converted to USD (United States Dollar); some prices may fluctuate with the exchange rate.
We did not exclude box sets, so you’ll find a mix of singular releases and various CD compilations. However, the latter will dominate the list because box sets are a popular colletor’s item due to fluffy extras like exclusive recordings, DVDs of live performances, or maybe an extra 7-inch thrown in the mix. To put it more simply: CD box sets offer the most bang for your buck.
You will notice duplicates of certain records; that’s because some of these rarities have consistently sold for high prices. For example, Bob Dylan’s The 50th Anniversary Collection and the collector’s edition of The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 both make multiple appearances, as do releases from other classic acts like The Grateful Dead, Wings, Pet Shop Boys, and the stars of the original Woodstock festival.
The value of these coveted CDs — and others that have yet to break into the top 100 — continue to rise. Unlike our rankings of the most expensive records and cassettes, the CD list consists of a lot of newer box sets from the 2000s. In fact, most of these sales happened within the last three years, and about one-quarter are from 2020 alone. Overall CD sales are also on the up, experiencing a 37% increase in 2020 over the previous year.
Please note that some of these CD box sets will include a record. If the set included more than one piece of vinyl, we excluded it from the ranking.
Here’s a closer look at the three most expensive items on the list.
There’s nothing quite like Coil. Add founder John Balance, partner Peter Christopherson, one part magic, one part alchemy, a sprinkle of industrial influence, a pinch of chaos, a whole lot of experimentation, and a changing cast of collaborators since its launch in 1984, and you get Coil.
The project’s artistry and live performances are probably best captured by this limited “Beast Edition” CD box set, which includes hand-drawn illustrations and unique monikers such as “extraterrestrial antelope” in addition to other goodies. Tragically, Balance passed away in 2004, a year after this collection’s release; Christopherson followed in 2010.
The Woodstock festival is an outstanding moment in music history. Even over 50 years after the event, fans are still pouring over the various recordings. This anniversary box set is, as the title claims, the definitive CD collection. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Ravi Shankar – even the stage announcements and crowd noises make an appearance.
Only 1,969 copies of Back to the Garden exist (an homage to the year of the fest). The original cost was $800, and that has only increased since its release in 2019. As of publication, the median price on Discogs is just over $2,400.
In 1995, Michael Jackson dropped HIStory: Past, Present And Future: Book I (spoiler alert: there was no Book II). The last track on this double-disc release was “Smile,” Jackson’s cover of the popular Charlie Chaplin tune. The song was composed by Chaplin for his film, Modern Times; a couple of folks named John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added lyrics; then Nat King Cole made it a hit with his own cover in the 1950s.
Jackson’s “Smile” was supposed to be a single off of his album, but plans were canceled at the very last minute. Most promotional CDs and 12-inch records and CDs were subsequentially destroyed, but a few escaped the slaughter, making them exceptionally rare. This particular copy is a promo from the Netherlands and features a few edits of “Is It Scary” in addition to “Smile.” It’s also the priciest of the different versions still floating around on Discogs.