The so-called “butcher” cover of Yesterday and Today showed the Fab Four covered in raw meat and decapitated baby dolls and was withdrawn in 1966.
It was suggested the cover was a protest against the Vietnam War. The copy was sold at The Beatles Story Museum in their home city of Liverpool to an anonymous American collector. The “butcher” cover shot, taken by Australian photographer Robert Whitaker, sparked outrage upon the album’s US release. It was quickly replaced by a cover showing the band standing around an old-fashioned steamer trunk and was reportedly the only Beatles album to lose money for their record label, Capitol. Albums with the original “butcher” cover had become highly collectable, a spokesman for The Beatles Story said.
Lennon had his personal copy of the album on the wall of his New York apartment until he gave it to Dave Morrell, a Beatles fan and bootleg collector. Signed by Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the copy is believed to be the only “butcher” album bearing three Beatles’ signatures. On the back, a sketch by Lennon shows a man holding a shovel with his dog in front of a setting sun.
In a statement, a spokesman for Julien’s Auctions said the anonymous buyer “bought the record as an investment believing it will increase in value in the years to come”.
Darren Julien, president of the firm, said: “The market is still developing so we anticipate in the next five years this same record could bring $500,000-plus (£385,000)”.He added: “This was a world record for a Beatles butcher cover and the third-highest price paid for a vinyl.”
Ringo Starr’s copy of The White Album became the most expensive vinyl record when it sold for $790,000 (£525,000) in 2015 shortly after a copy of My Happiness, the first song recorded by Elvis Presley, sold for $300,000 (£198,000).
Among other items sold at the Liverpool auction was a baseball signed by four Beatles at their final live performance in the US for £57,600 ($75,000).