Note: another copy has just surfaced, which we have for sale here.
The original “Freewheelin’.” One of–if not the–rarest and most valuable records in the world. A stereo copy sold for $35,000, and a mint mono copy would likely bring $15,000. So it’s big news when a previously unknown copy surfaces. And I’m happy to report one just did.
“The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” is Dylan’s second album, released in late May, 1963. While his self-titled debut featured only two original compositions, eleven of the thirteen tracks on “Freewheelin” were written by Dylan. For reasons still not completely clear, just prior to the album’s release four of the songs were replaced with four newly recorded tracks. Some speculate that because CBS television’s censors wouldn’t let Dylan perform “Talkin’ John Birch Blues” on the Ed Sullivan Show, the CBS-owned Columbia Records pulled it from the album. Others note that the four “replacement” tracks were recorded after the album was completed, and were simply too good to be left off (they included Dylan classics Masters of War and Girl From The North Country.)
In any case, replacement masters featuring the new songs were made, the artwork was changed, and Columbia released the revised album. Except–and this later turned out to be a very big deal–someone at one of the pressing plant didn’t get the message, and a small number of copies were pressed using the old stampers. In the 49 years since the release of “Freewheelin’,” a very few copies have surfaced that play the four “withdrawn” tracks–only two stereo copies are known, and fewer than 20 mono copies. No one has yet solved the mystery of why so few copies escaped Columbia’s pressing plants.
I searched for a copy for nearly 10 years, finally buying one in the early 80’s for $1000–a huge amount for a record at the time. Last month I finally found a second copy–or it found me. An Arizona woman, Lori, emailed to say she had an original “Freewheelin'” for sale, wondering if I’d be interested. I replied that I was extremely interested, and a few hours later Lori and her husband Ray arrived with the album.
Lori told me that she’d been given a box of old albums by her uncle in 1980, and in 1994, while pricing them for a garage sale, she discovered this was no ordinary Bob Dylan album. She was using a “Goldmine” price guide, and saw notations on the back of the album cover suggesting the songs on the album differed from those on the album cover. She noticed that there was a very rare version of “Freewheelin'” and checked the matrix number and confirmed that, incredibly, this was indeed the ultra rare original. In the years since her discovery, she’d made a few half-hearted attempts to sell it, but never followed through–she lived in a rural area, and figured it would just keep increasing in value. She packed it away in a box from a cake tin, and figured some day she’d cash in. But now she was moving to a different state, and decided it was time. She’d found Recordmecca online, was coming to LA for a family visit, and decided to bring the album along, and see if she could find a buyer. Happily, I was her first stop, and we quickly made a deal. And now, the newly discovered “Freewheelin'” is for sale on the Recordmecca site.
In the last 40 years, I’ve checked thousands of copies of “Freewheelin'”–but have never found an original. If you want to check yours, here’s what to look for:
Original copies have matrix numbers ending in -1A on both side (see photo below,) and include these four songs: Rocks and Gravel/Let Me Die In My Footsteps/Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand/Talkin’ John Birch Blues. Stereo copies list the rare tracks on the labels; mono copies list the replacement tracks. In either case, the record must play these four songs, not just list them on the cover or labels.
Regular copies have matrix numbers ending in -2 or a higher number, and include these four songs: Girl From The North Country/Masters of War/Bob Dylan’s Dream/Talkin World War III Blues. The labels list the correct tracks and the disc plays these four songs.
(Note: Original Canadian copies and some promo copies of “Freewheelin'” list the rare tracks on the cover or labels but play the regular tracks. For more details, check the excellent Dylan discography site “Searching For a Gem” – scroll down 1/3 of the page.) If you find one, let me know !
I have a Canadian copy with the 4 rare tracks listed on the front cover, but the regular LP inside. It’s a “360 Stereo” copy, CS8786. Unfortunately, the seller of the record store I found it at put a price sticker in the top right corner that won’t come off without tearing the photo. Other than that, it’s kinda cool to have. Is it worth anything?
Canadian Columbia used covers with the tracks listed on the front cover for a long time. Your copy is worth something, but exactly what depends on the condition and label variation–but not much more than a few hundred dollars if mint and original. Bye the way, most price stickers can be removed using a hair dryer to heat up the sticker (without the disc inside) or by saturating them with lighter fluid (be careful when doing this–stay away from a flame and use in a well ventilated place.)
I also have the Canadian original copy, With the the same as the person above, the list on the cover is not the same as on the record, Its in excellent condition and wondering how much I would get for it if I sold it, And where can I contact someone that might be interested in it? Please email me with more information, Iam interested in how much its worth.
Thanks and exactly right. I don’t own the copyright here, Bob does–it’s his decision as to whether to release this, not mine. When I discovered the unreleased concert from Brandies in 1963, I sold it to Dylan’s office, and it was their decision to release it. I love Bob’s music and think Jeff Rosen does a great job with the catalog. I was blown away by Another Self Portrait and since it covers most of the same ground here, I don’t imagine this stuff will be released–but it’s not my call. FYI I got an offer from a bootlegger as soon as I posted this, but I’m not in that business. Best Jeff