by Peter Lindblad
There was something odd about the copy of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP John Tefteller was staring at.
The faces were different. Where John, Paul, George and Ringo were supposed to be, others had taken their place.
“At first look, I thought, ‘Okay, this is a standard Sgt. Pepper LP, but — hey, wait a minute, it’s still sealed. It’s not opened,’” relates Tefteller, owner of John Tefteller’s World’s Rarest Records. “And then as I look at it closely, I go, ‘Whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. There’s no Beatles on here. Who are all these people?’ ”
Those people worked for Capitol Records, and Tefteller was about to find out this particular Sgt. Pepper album was no ordinary Beatles record. In fact, it may be one of the rarest Fab Four LPs of all time, and at this writing, he is negotiating its sale to noted Beatles collector Stan “The Beatleman” Panenka.
According to Tefteller, while traveling earlier this year he received a call from a woman whose deceased husband was a Capitol Records executive who worked for the company in Los Angeles.
“He had a collection of mainly jazz and easy-listening LPs,” says Tefteller. “And I don’t normally go out to look at something like that because I’m not really into either of those categories, but I just thought, ‘Well, all right. Capitol Records? Maybe there’s something else in there.’ ”
So he made an appointment to see the records. The woman did say there was a bit of rock ’n’ roll in the collection, and “… as I’m going through the LPs, she says something about, ‘Well, there’s a Sgt. Pepper album in there,’” says Tefteller. “I’m like, yeah, okay. And I just figured, normal Sgt. Pepper album, no big deal, whatever. It’s cute to see one, but they’re not particularly rare unless they’re like factory-sealed in mono, or something. Or factory-sealed original stereo. They could have some value. Just in general I figured all these LPs look like they’re open and used. This is going to be just a standard Sgt. Pepper LP.”
But that was not the case. When Tefteller asked about the record, she replied, “This was one that was given to my husband. The other people on this cover are all Capitol Records executives.”
Tefteller admitted he’d never heard of this before, and he initially dismissed it. “I didn’t know what it was,” he says. “I thought, well, maybe it’s some kind of fake or repro, but it didn’t look like a fake and it didn’t look like a repro. So I just thought, ‘This is unique.’ So based on finding that in the collection, I bought the collection, ’cause she wanted to sell everything.”
When Tefteller got the records, including that strange version of Sgt. Pepper, home, he called Panenka to find out what he had. Panenka told him what he knew about it and said that there had been a couple like it that sold 20 or 30 years ago.
“None of these have turned up in the last 10 years or so,” says Tefteller. “And from what I understand, doing some further investigation, those copies were fairly well-used, whereas this one is factory-sealed in the original shrink and still in perfect condition.”
Tefteller and Panenka believe that only about 100 copies were ever made of this Sgt. Pepper rarity.
“We’re only speculating on that,” says Tefteller. ‘And the reason I say it’s a speculation and a guess is: One, there have only been three or four at most that have turned up over the last 30 years. That would lead you to think that there were very, very few of them made in the first place. Two, just in order to have one copy available to each of the people who are pictured on this front cover — and I would guess they would have more than one copy available to them, perhaps as many as two or three — you would be looking at a press run of around 100. In knowing what I know about how records are manufactured and the process that it takes to do that, it doesn’t make any sense for a record company, even one as large as Capitol, to go through all the trouble of making up a special cover, printing those covers and then factory sealing them and all that unless you’re going to do a minimum of a hundred.”
Since there is nothing really to compare it to at the present time, determining a value for this find is difficult. “I don’t even want to think about putting a specific dollar value on it,” says Tefteller.
As for selling it to Panenka, Tefteller thinks he should own it, and so does Panenka. “Of course I should! I’m the Beatle man,” laughs Panenka. Panenka (www.ultimatebeatlescollection.com) is reputed to have the best American Beatles record collection in the world. He has a photo of this Pepper LP, along with photos of most of the rarest and most valuable American Beatles records.